The last time I met Pramod was a couple of years ago in his news website’s office in Ahmedabad. As usual, he wore an expression of amiability and offered a firm handshake. When I asked him how he was he picked up his electrolarynx and said, “If you can understand this, I am doing well.”
Pramod had just returned from his doctor’s office that afternoon after a chemotherapy session. “If you see me next time at all, I may not have much hair. I may not need a comb for a while,” he joked in his electronic voice with surprising clarity. He had just begun using his electrolarynx.
He was remarkably matter of fact about his throat cancer and the potential risk to his life. “People feel compelled to be sympathetic and I find it awkward,” he said even as his electrolarynx trailed off. He moved it a bit along his throat and and completed the thought, “I understand that.”
I joked with him that perhaps we should do a Facebook chat across the desk. He laughed so loud that he started coughing.
For as long as I remember, Parmod, a fine friend, a terrific journalist and a wonderful human being, had that gruffness to his voice. I asked him once in the mid 1980s if he felt uncomfortable with that condition. He said he did not but those who interacted with him did. It was only a couple of decades later that it was discovered to be cancerous. It was surprising that doctors did not detect it much earlier.
After he took over as the editor of that news website Pramod was excited about reporting on the state of Gujarat with the dispassionate eye of a true journalist. “I want to make this the most reliable news source about Gujarat,” he said. Of course, he rued the fact that it was hard to find local journalists with a flair for writing in English. But he said he had made his peace with it and instead decided to handle all copy himself. “With my voice failing, I cannot do much field work anyway,” he said. For some reason though his voice sounded clearer on the phone than in person, he said, adding that he could always do phone interviews.
Pramod was one of those journalists who took both his craft and responsibility seriously. He detested the growing trend among youngsters to breach and fracture the English language while communicating on the Net or mobile phone. Even on Facebook chat he and I communicated using full sentences, right uppercasing and all the punctuation marks. Whenever we exchanged emails, they were fully fleshed out and properly paragraphed.
The last time I communicated with him was in August last year, asking him how he was doing. Here is what wrote back:
“I am better health wise than what I was in June. I spent most of my time during the last couple of months resting, meditating and reading spiritual stuff. I didn’t really feel like using the Net or checking out newspapers or news TV as it is full of noise and garbage. Last week we shifted residence to a small bungalow in Gandhinagar, one of India’s greenest, cleanest and most peaceful cities. The new environment suits me and the family perfectly.”
Pramod reported on everything but at his core he was a sound political observer. Since his grounding, like mine, was in print journalism he approached news with the eye of a daily journalist. Whenever we covered any event together in Bombay, be it a corporate one or a political one, the default mood was one of doubt and mild cynicism. It was probably true earlier as well but I noticed that in recent years Pramod’s personal politics had shifted a bit right of center. However, it was never in sympathy with any particular ideology. He said half in jest and half seriously that he could not tell where my politics lay. I told him my politics operated at the quantum level and it was impossible to tell their position and momentum simultaneously.
In Pramod’s passing I have lost a quietly self-assured, refined and no non-sense journalist friend.