Vet­eran jour­nal­ist Ni­hal Singh no more

The Asian Age - - Front Page - ANAND K. SAHAY

New Delhi: Vet­eran jour­nal­ist and The Asian Age columnist S. Ni­hal Singh passed away here Mon­day. Singh, 88, breathed his last at the Na­tional Heart In­sti­tute due to kid­ney- re­lated ail­ments. His last rites will be at 12 noon on Tues­day at the Lodhi Road cre­ma­to­rium.

Iwrite this with a sense of loss and — not hav­ing worked with him

— also with a mea­sure of de­tach­ment, the qual­ity for which the in­sight­ful com­men­taries of

Suren­dra Ni­hal Singh, who passed away in New

Delhi on Mon­day, were widely ad­mired. On April

30, he would have been 89.

“Ni­hal”, as many much younger jour­nal­ists could take the lib­erty to call him with­out caus­ing any of­fence to this cos­mopoli­tan, wrote till the end. He was a dis­tin­guished columnist of this news­pa­per and of some oth­ers to­ward the lat­ter part of his very dis­tin­guished ca­reer.

Ni­hal Singh grew up as a jour­nal­ist in the Statesman, in those days viewed as the high wa­ter­mark of English jour­nal­ism in In­dia and the pointed qual­ity of its po­lit­i­cal cov­er­age, and rose to be its edi­tor.

Along the way he had been the news­pa­per’s po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent whom ev­ery­body loved to read, and its cor­re­spon­dent in Rawalpindi ( then Pak­istan’s cap­i­tal), Kuala Lumpur and Moscow, where he wasn’t a favourite of Com­mu­nist Rus­sia.

Nor did his des­patches en­dear him to In­dian Com­mu­nists, al­though af­ter the end of the Cold War Ni­hal grew crit­i­cal of the role of the sole re­main­ing su­per­power and its al­lies. This brought democrats of all stripes flock­ing to read him.

Af­ter the Statesman, Ni­hal Singh edited the In­dian Ex­press, the short­lived In­dian Post, and sub­se­quently Khaleej Times in Dubai. Es­pe­cially at the old Statesman, his col­leagues — old and young — re­mem­bered him as an ideal team leader. Many mar­velled at the speed with which he ren­dered his el­e­gant ed­i­to­ri­als. No one saw him talk­ing down to ju­nior col­leagues. These are the rea­sons why the news of his pass­ing deeply sad­dened all those who knew him.

In his dis­po­si­tion, Ni­hal Singh was a thor­ough­go­ing lib­eral and a demo­crat of the old Bri­tish school, which ba­si­cally meant he wasn’t gar­ru­lous, did not hold forth, and was ex­tremely fair- minded.

H. K. Dua, who worked with Ni­hal at In­dian Ex­press and later edited a num­ber of fa­mous pub­li­ca­tions be­fore his nom­i­na­tion to the Ra­jya Sabha, says this fine edi­tor and gen­tle­man had a hor­ror of be­friend­ing those in au­thor­ity and he “knew the value of dis­sent in a democ­racy”.

As a young po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist, once when I was out on a limb, I showed the gump­tion to phone the ven­er­a­ble Mr Ni­hal Singh, a com­plete stranger, for a job.

He was then edit­ing In­dian Post. Gra­cious as al­ways, he called me over for tea. I said to him straight out that if he had any hes­i­ta­tions hir­ing peo­ple well- dis­posed to­ward the Left, then I had bet­ter not waste his time.

He laughed gen­tly and as­sured me he had got many Naxal rad­i­cals to write for the Statesman, and hired some in his time! They were all first class, he didn’t fail to add. The job was mine. He was kind to say that he’d seen some of my sto­ries in my last news­pa­per. It’s an­other mat­ter I did not even­tu­ally join.

Many years later, when for a time I was as­so­ci­ated with the South Asia Free Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion, I saw Ni­hal as an au­thor­i­ta­tive pres­ence, though he held no of­fice. I spe­cially re­call a ses­sion in La­hore, at­tended by many em­i­nent In­di­ans and Pak­ista­nis, which he chaired. The acute­ness of his ob­ser­va­tions, and the non- or­na­men­tal charm of his speak­ing style, won him many ad­mir­ers, and fur­thered the cause of nor­mal re­la­tions be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan.

This former pipe- smoker and hand­somely at­tired gen­tle­man had op­er­ated on one lung for many years. He had be­gun to look pale for some time and his vis­its to the In­dia In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre be­came less fre­quent. But his mem­ory will re­main strong for those who had the good for­tune to know him. Ni­hal, Adieu!

Suren­dra Ni­hal Singh ( 1929- 2018)


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