Saturday, January 9, 2010

Vimsey Passes: Memories of a Legend Among Kozhikode's Media Veterans

VETERAN JOURNALSIT Vimsey, V M Balachandran, died this morning at his home in Kozhikode.

I was there at his house to pay my homage to Vimsey in the morning and there were many veterans of journalism in this city, like T Venugopal and P A Sreedharan Nair, both had served Mathrubhumi a long time with Vimsey, and many others like N P Rajendran and Vijyakrishnan who are still working there.

I have known Vimsey from late seventies when I used to be a student activist in this city. Mathrubhumi was the pinnacle of journalistic excellence in those days and the paper was still a place where you will come across people in khadi dress. People like T Venugopal and C Uthama Kurup and the late lamented V M Korath and R M Manakkalath belonged to this khadi group, while Vimsey was one person who came in his immaculate bush shirt and pants, with sharp eyes burning behind his thick glasses.

He was news editor and he was lord of all things at the main desk. I remember one day going to meet him in 1980 or 81, with a very interesting representation. T A Ushakumari, a fiery student activist from Azhiyur near Vatakara, who was then a PhD scholar at the history department of Calicut University, had been elected to the university syndicate as an SFI nominee and Mathrubhumi had published a photograph of hers.

I must say Usha was not a traffic-stopper as a girl but this particular photograph they had printed made even hardened cynics like me feel bitter. It appeared they had taken special efforts to make her look ugly and she was really much upset finding herself thus tarnished in the paper.

My errand was to request him to publish a fresh news photograph and he appeared in two minds. He spent a long time studying the picture they had published and he knew they could have applied a little more sense in selecting the photograph. But it would look silly to publish another picture simply because their photographers or library were not intelligent and sensitive enough in judging a picture.

He just cut some jokes about the way the ancient printing presses worked those days (when people had to ask which was the monkey and which one the minister if a photo of a minister visiting a zoo was published) and then moved on to other things. It was clear he would not budge.

Vimsey as an editor was sharp and quick, two qualities you need to survive in this dog-eat- dog-world. He had an abundance of both and perhaps that is why he survived for so long in Mathrubhumi. Still, he had to leave and then he worked at Calicut Times, an eveninger, where he worked with equal enthusiasm. The paper was not a big hit but he could build a young crop of good reporters and writers who are still active in the profession in various papers.

He was an excellent sports writer. He played with words and he made words bring the game back to you so vibrant: whether it be a direct shot into the goalpost or a scissor cut or the gallery's response to the players they loved...I loved reading him and when I read the insipid prose in our mainstream papers today, I do long for the days when Vimsey, K Koya and P A Muhammed Koya(Mushtaq), Abu and others were writing sports, just as I look back nostalgically at the days when Rajan Bala and Harsha Bogle were making magic with their words in the Indian English press.


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Chovakaran Azeez said...

Dear Chekutty

Thanks for writing this piece. As you mentioned he used to be very sharp and agressive. At least until his beloved Ammini's demise. I just recalled the Calicut times days.
While he lead the eveninger in late 80's it got best lay out prize instituted by the small and medium newspaper socity of India.