This is not in defence of Anant Rao Kanangi. This is in order to inform those who do not seem to know him.
I have know him, man and journalist, friend and colleague, for nearly 3 years. When I joined the Free Press as a cub reporter on month's trail, he was, with Sitaram Kolpe, the senior-most reporter on the staff. T. Gopalkrishan, who shares the edit page with him now, was the chief reporter.
Among the reporters, he was already a legend. He could reel off reports, columns and columns of them, with his eyes closed and his hands tied. And he was never fazed by any assignment; he treated the prime minister (Jawaharlal Nehru was the prime minister then, not some non-entity) with the same indifference as a Rotary President.
I remember one occasion distinctly. He was marked to cover Nehru's public meeting at Chowpatty at the height of the Samyukta Maharashtra agitation, Nehru was expected to announce his decision on the future of the state. I was on night duty. When I came in at 9 p.m. there was a note from Kanangi: "Please, pick up some thing on PM's meeting and issue, I had some other work. Thanks." It took me half the night to pick up the report on the phone from another paper and give.
Nobody grudged doing his work. There was touch of class about him. He was always in a suit, the only reporter in town to be so, hair neatly pomaded on his head (not one of that hair has turned grey after 30 years). He was also the only reporter in town to own a car. One day he had to go to the Tata Institute of Social Sciences at Trombay to cover a meeting. The institute range up to say that it was providing transport. Mr. Kanangi replied: "Thank you, I have my own transport."
Kanangi became an assistant editor while I was still in the Free Press. He wrote all the editorials in double-fast time, of the Journal and the Bulletin, looked after the Bulletin (in those days it sold 40,000 copies famous Dada's Column (started by another illustrious editor Ė M. V. Kamath), did the art reviews, and had time left to work out his own handicaps and follow horse racing all over the country.
He left Free Press on a matter of policy, worked for a brief period as the PRO of Mazagon Docks. There was a senior officer there, who tended to make use of his staff. One of the tasks of the previous PRO was to cut out the Times crossword every morning, stick it on a paper and give it to the officer. Kanangi ignored this practice, and when the officer demanded, he handed him the Times, a pair of scissors, a piece of plain paper, gum, and told him to do it himself in future.
For a long time he subsisted on horse-racing alone, he is the only man I know who managed to make a living out of it. And, in between, he worked on several papers, always leaving his stamp behind. Now that stamp belongs to this paper.