FJK was an affable person: Gujral

NEW DELHI, MAY 20. The former Prime Minister, Mr. I. K. Gujral, has expressed grief over the death due to cancer of F. J. Khergamvala, East Asia bureau chief of The Hindu, in Tokyo on May 17.

In his condolence message, Mr. Gujral said, ``I had the privilege of knowing him for many years and had benefited a great deal from his despatches from the Gulf and later from Tokyo. His affability as a person and as an intellectual was very impressive. We met last in Tokyo when there was no sign of the cursed cancer. He looked so bright.''

His wit stood out

Kesava Menon writes from Manama, Bahrain:

Dozens of fellow journalists, friends and acquaintances of the late F. J. Khergamvala contacted the West Asia bureau of The Hindu to express sorrow at his demise. FJK was the West Asia correspondent of this newspaper from 1984 till July 1994 when he went to Tokyo to take over the East Asia bureau.

What stood out in most memories was his boldness and wit. ``For a person who felt that he always had to walk on egg- shells because of the different sensibilities in West Asia, Firdous was not in the least bit afraid to speak his mind,'' remembered one veteran correspondent. His wit could be biting another noted. FJK was a very active sportsman and also took keen interest in a wide range of activities. His participation in the various competitions that take place fairly regularly in this part of the world - tennis and scrabble competitions, quizzes etc. - made for a wide circle of friends beyond the range or acquaintances and sources he cultivated in the course of his professional duties.

A Lebanese journalist remembered one of the last moments of FJK's journalistic glory. When Lebanon's Prime Minister, Mr. Rafik Hariri, visited Japan earlier this year, FJK, then on a momentary break from treatment, asked this question.

``Mr. Prime Minister, are you going to take Israel's Prime Minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon, before the international court for war crimes because what he did he did in your country?'' The reference was of course to Mr. Sharon's complicity in the massacres in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps and needless to state, the Lebanese journalists accompanying Mr. Hariri were delighted with the question.

A senior Pakistani diplomat, now on assignment with the United Nations in Kenya, had drawn attention to one of the lesser known but remarkable aspects of FJK's journalistic career. Mr. Khergamvala, he noted, was probably the foremost chronicler of the development and activities of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference during the decade when he was the West Asia correspondent of The Hindu.

FJK's background as a soldier and diplomat had also endowed him with administrative skills and leadership qualities of a high order. The condition of the West Asia bureau was impeccable when FJK handed over charge to this correspondent.