Veteran journalist Palakunnathu Mathai passes away

Veteran journalist Palakunnathu Mathai passes away

He was laid to rest on 16 May and leaves behind many a memory for several scribes.


Mumbai: It was on 12 Mary 2024 that Palakunnathu George Mathai (PGM) breathed his last at a hospital in Kottayam, Kerala. With that, another fabulous journalistic life was snuffed out. For all those unfamiliar with him, the soft-spoken yet tough-as-nails Mathai belonged to a school of scribes who are meticulous to the T; who prefer to work late into the night, but not let one error get through to the press or online.

He was my boss for a while at BusinessWorld - whenever the editor Parthasarathi Swami (he also passed on a couple of years ago; a talent gone too soon and young) or later the venerable TN Ninan, decided to go on leave or were caught up with more important issues. I was the chief sub-editor and later, the assistant editor.

And he was a special boss, always ready to take a second and third opinion from his colleagues and his juniors, but he would finally decide the way forward. His talent lay in copy editing, but he took up other challenges as well, like banging away at his keyboard for a cover story or a corporate feature.

At times, he appeared muddled, holding on to the back of his near-bald pate, with one hand, while the other held a story printout which had devoured his attention, unclear about the grammar construct or some fact that was mentioned. He would then pick up the dictionary or thesaurus, browse through it until he found the right turn of phrase or got the right info from the reporter. Then a large grin would break out on his face and his tense shoulders would ease back a bit.

There were times when we would imitate him, and burst into laughter amongst ourselves. He did not mind that.

He was a kind soul, appearing concerned, and willing to go the extra mile even for colleagues on the desk.

A man of varied experience, he worked for India Today, The Telegraph, Business Standard BusinessWorld and The Economic Times during various phases of his journalistic career. Mathai was ailing for the past few years with a weak kidney and had to undergo dialysis at regular intervals. Then he had to get himself stented in one of his legs as he had a blockage which made walking difficult. Finally, his gastric canal too ended up getting impacted with excessive bleeding.

Mathai was only 78 when he passed on and he was laid to rest on 16 May.

RIP PGM! You will be missed. 

(The picture credit goes to Francis Souza who sketched Mathai’s portrait in 1976.)