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The irreplaceable

"Haven't you been told never to use his full name in the byline?" As a rookie sub on the MiD DAY newsdesk, you invariably went through that initiation. 

You wondered if the decree against expanding ‘J Dey’ to ‘Jyotirmoy Dey’, or even ‘Joy Dey’, had anything more to it than maintaining a crisp byline. (You would learn later, after the daytime shootout which killed him while he was on his way home on his bike, that it was to obscure his identity from the underworld.

A byline whose concise character was an antithesis to the sophisticated crime stories it was appended to: plots that took multiple reads to figure out. 


Manavi Deopura, Sub editor

Every name had a backstory, every episode a host of actors, most from sinister-sounding setups in the city’s substructure.

So, on the job, you called him up at the most ungodly hour. And he’d answer — patiently iron out the kinks, point out the connections that eluded you, put the statement you thought most out-of-place in context.

You couldn’t understand, as a greenhorn, that a man could — willingly — have so much contact with what an everyman would have no truck with.

As you hung up, you’d regret why you didn’t research more, couldn’t figure it out for yourself, and wonder how he knew this stuff that belonged in crime fiction books. And you got back to work, a little more electrified


And then, one rainy Saturday, you hear of the "cowards gunning down a reporting giant".

‘Reprehensible, shocking, horrifying, contemptible’ — you hear these words. One can employ only so many publicly to describe the imponderable that happened to him.

But you are thinking in baser terms, of the scumbags who did it.

You hear of demands for resignation, of compensation and condemnation, of safety of journalists, attack on the freedom of press. Bromides are always spot on, always warranted.

As are the reactions. Proprietary. Quick to come. Quicker forgotten. You begin to think of his family, but decide against it.

You read countless accounts of the man's interaction with and influence on colleagues and friends, interns and subs all riddled with superlatives.
You hear of the exhaustive work he has done, of his import, incongruous with his modesty. But you already know all that.


And then, more selfishly, you think of the only thing you'll allow yourself to think. Who will report the things no one knew how to, but him? What of the big hard interesting crime stories?

But then you don't want to think of the answer. His shoes are too big to fill. 

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