Visionary who spurred and led the growth and expansion of The Hindu
G. Kasturi, the former Editor of The Hindu who steered the newspaper through the turbulent decades of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, died early on Friday at his home here. He was 87.
The end came peacefully at 2 a.m. on September 21. He had been unwell for some time, but was alert and active till the last. The cremation took place on Friday afternoon at the Mylapore crematorium.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Kamala, sons K. Balaji and K. Venugopal, daughter Lakshmi Srinath, and five granddaughters and two great-grandchildren. Mr. Balaji, Mr. Venugopal and Ms. Lakshmi Srinath are Directors of Kasturi & Sons Limited, proprietors of The Hindu Group of publications.
Politics is not the best metric to measure the tenure of an Editor but it gives some indication of the changes Mr. Kasturi witnessed from his vantage point: He became Editor when Lal Bahadur Shastri was the Prime Minister. When he stepped down in 1991, Chandra Shekhar was still in office, a few months away from being voted out. In the intervening years came the devaluation crisis, the 1971 war, the nuclear test of 1974, the Emergency, the Punjab crisis and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the Rajiv Gandhi years and his defeat over Bofors.
Mr. Kasturi, who was also a former Managing Director of KSL, oversaw the newspaper’s coverage of this tumultuous period even as he presided over a phase of rapid technological and editorial transformation at The Hindu. He led from the front the newspaper’s expansion and modernisation, cementing its position as a national newspaper with editions not just in the south but also in New Delhi.
The news of his passing was received with shock and anguish at The Hindu’s offices in Chennai and other centres. All morning, hundreds of people gathered at his home to pay their respects. A steady stream of mourners, including well-wishers, professional associates, and former and present employees of The Hindu Group of publications, paid tributes.
They paid their last respects to him in the study of his home — the room where he spent most of his time, virtually till the end, working on his iMac on technical aspects of newspaper production or having freewheeling conversations with younger colleagues on topics that ranged from politics and foreign policy to sports writing, photography, layout and typography.
The second son of Kasturi Gopalan, Mr. Kasturi was Editor of The Hindu from September 1965 to January 1991 — for more than 25 years, a period that saw the newspaper take important steps towards modernisation on the editorial, technological and production fronts. His was the longest tenure for an Editor of the newspaper, which turned 134 years on September 20, 2012.
Born on December 17, 1924, he studied at Chennai’s P.S. High School, after which he joined Presidency College. Armed with an M.A. degree in Economics from Madras University, he joined The Hindu in 1944. In 1959, he was designated Joint Editor.
President Pranab Mukherjee condoled the death of Mr. Kasturi and said his contribution to journalism would long be remembered.
Mr. Mukherjee termed him the doyen among post-independent journalists and said that in his death, a vacuum had been created in the industry. Being the longest serving Editor of The Hindu, he had played a stellar role in the technological advancement of the newspaper, he said.
One of the first leaders to call in with his personal condolences was Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is currently visiting India.
The Hindu was his life, says N. Ram
In a tribute, N. Ram, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu and other group publications and Director of Kasturi & Sons Limited, said:
“My uncle, Shri G. Kasturi was a major figure in the post-independence history of Indian journalism and the newspaper industry. Along with his uncle, Shri Kasturi Srinivasan, under whom he trained as a newspaperman, he was the longest serving Editor of The Hindu. Earlier and more clearly and determinedly than most of his media contemporaries and fellow Editors, he saw the need for the newspaper industry and journalism to embrace new and state-of-the-art technology and adapt it to our conditions while preserving the core values of journalism. Many a leap in newspaper technology — offset printing, facsimile transmission of whole newspaper pages, photocomposition, full-page pagination, colour scanning — found its first Indian champion in Shri Kasturi, who was always hands-on, side by side with the technical experts. He was enthusiastic about internet journalism and digital technology and almost till the end was regularly on his iMac working on page design and photographs and savouring the best of international newspaper websites. He believed that Indian newspapers had to raise their game in terms of production values and must not take their readers for granted. Significantly, he lived to see the 134th anniversary of the founding of The Hindu on September 20 and passed away a couple of hours into September 21. The Hindu was his life.”