Journalism and Music is what KPK Kutty loves to deal with...
He turned 85 today!

By S Kumar

Veteran Journalist KPK Kutty is 85 today! He is the founder director of Indo-Asian News Services (IANS), a newswire agency. When I met him at Uttara Guruvayoorappan Temple in Mayur Vihar; New Delhi, he shared his views on journalism trends of the day. IANS is based in Noida and has a staff strength of 140 people working on developing content for print, web and television media.

KPK Kutty's passion for music made him move to Palghat, his hometown in Kerala to devote most of his time as a music teacher! It is amazing to see more than 500 school children from over a dozen village temples in a radius of 30 kilometres around Kavasseri are his students. Almost all days; he wakes up at four in the morning, performs pooja and moves to various temples to teach music to children in the age group of 5-10 years.

"I started learning the Veena at a tender age of five. I was inspired by my elder sister Parvathi Ammal, who had been taken to Thiruvananthapuram by my father to learn Veena under Travancore Palace Aasthaana Vainika Mannapra Anantharama Bhagavathar. My father used to advise me to give up Veena and learn English. And I obeyed him. But I kept Veena by my side. And now, I am teaching the new generation...", narrated KPK Kutty.

After his Matriculation in 1949, Kutty joined Indian Air Force (IAF) and worked for nine years as a member of the Non-combatant Accounts staff. Since he had considerable free time at hand, he focused on his music study, devoting a lot of energy and time to surveying the contribution of Malayalee composers such as Irayimman Thampi, his daughter Kutty Kunju Thankachi, Mahakavi K C Kesava Pillai, Kuttamathu and Thulaseevanam, besides Swati Thirunal. He had already acquainted himself with the Carnatic music trinity during his school days in Kavasseri.

Life at the Air force station in Delhi was quite rewarding for him. The working hours being only from 7.30 am to 1.30 pm, he had ample time to not only practice the Veena but also pursue his higher education. Studying privately, he did MA in English literature in 1958.

His interest and knowledge in Carnatic music were already known to friends in Tamilian and Malayalee circles in Delhi.  His first vocal concert in front of a discerning audience took place in Sarojini Nagar in 1956. Among the audience was a violinist, Gayatri Sastri, who spoke to him soon after the concert. On learning that Kutty was a Veena player, she offered him an unused Veena lying in her home. Kutty insisted he wouldn't want it gratis. She then asked for just Rs. 20 and Kutty paid her Rs.30 in a liberal deal. Kutty has been playing the same Veena past 55 years!

Along with his passion for music, Kutty was also fond of writing short articles, a hobby which changed the course of his life and made him leave an accountant’s job to become a Journalist. One such piece that he wrote was on the metamorphosis of a girl student of Kavasseri who he ran into on a Delhi road in 1958 while still in the IAF. The one-time shy, an orthodox village girl, his senior by about four years, was attired in modern city clothes, wearing goggles and riding a cycle. Kutty interviewed her and wrote a piece which he sent to D.R.Mankekar, then editor-in-chief of The Indian Express. Though the piece was not published, the editor offered him a trainee sub editor's job.

After working with The Indian Express until April 1961, Kutty joined the United News of India (UNI) and became a chief sub editor in just two years. He served UNI for 32 years and retired in 1993 after he had headed the news agency as the Chief Editor and General Manager for more than five years.

The 40 years of Kutty's Delhi stay was marked by journalistic assignments to more than 40 countries. Even while he worked as a journalist in a national news agency, accompanying Prime Ministers on their foreign visits, Kutty kept live contact with his village folks, visiting them once a year on his annual leave. On such annual visits, Kutty would spend time with the village children, teaching them the rudimentary of classical Carnatic music.

After his retirement from UNI, Kutty joined Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), a news agency set up in 1994 as Director and Chief Mentor, a position he holds even today.

In 2005, Kutty survived cancer, a variety is known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). “It was Veena which helped me recover from the trauma that I went through because of chemotherapy which had caused the loss of my hair. I used to remain confined to my home to avoid embarrassment due to loss of hair. I utilized the time to play the Veena,” he recalls.

Besides music, Kutty also had a tryst with the film industry. Film producer Joy Thomas' 1987 Malayalam feature film "New Delhi" saw Kutty playing the role of Chief  Editor of a newspaper with hero Mammootty working under him as a reporter. The film, which was a hit, was then made in Hindi, Kannada and Telugu, with Kutty doing the same role in all the three versions.

Kutty Sir, as we all call him with love is 85 today. We wish him many many happy returns of the day. Happy birthday Sir!

Thank you NACHIKETA DESAI for the inspiring Blog you wrote on KPK Kutty.
We share some information from your Blog too.







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