Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Indian obits

As Factiva has added more Indian and Pakistani news sources I've been glancing at their obits. The subcontinent is a huge source of English-language journalism and other writing. What I particularly like about it, beyond the details of lives abroad, is the stylistic differences to American and modern England English.

Check out the first graf here for vocabulary: "is no more" stedda "died." Also "doyen," "breathed his last" and "last remains." Later: "broked," "condoled,"

The attention to the manner of death reminds me of 19th century obits, which frequently included dramatic accounts of the deceased's last moments. You almost never see that nowadays.

Tea doyen Hemen Barooah passes away
580 words
31 July 2013
Assam Tribune
Copyright 2013. Assam Tribune (P) Ltd.

GUWAHATI, July 31 -- Hemendra Prasad Barooah, the doyen of the State's tea industry is no more. According to senior journalist Wasbir Hussain, who authored the biography of Barooah, the tea planter had gone to Bangkok on July 27 for a medical check-up. Today around 2 pm Bangkok time, he returned to his hotel from the hospital and when he was taking his lunch he suddenly felt uncomfortable and despite the best efforts of the doctors of the hospital which was conducting the medical check-up, Barooah breathed his last around 3-30 pm Bangkok time. Hussain said the senior executives of Barooah's company will rush to Bangkok tonight and after consulting the members of his family, would arrive at a decision on where to bring the last remains of Barooah. Abhijit Sarma, a former chairman of the Assam Tea Planters' Association (ATPA) said Barooah was 86. According to Sarma, Barooah was accompanied by one of his nieces in his journey to Bangkok.

Barooah leaves behind two daughters and a host of relatives. 

A Harvard University alumnus, Barooah set up a corporate house Barooah and Associates with its headquarter in Kolkata. He was a chairman of the Indian Tea Association (ITA). The ITA got itself involved in the construction of the Pragjyoti ITA Centre for Performing Arts at Machkhowa in the city during his tenure as its chairman. Barooah was also a founder of the Assam Tea Brokers Pvt Ltd, the first tea broking house of the State. He was also a chairman of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and founder and chairman of the Kaziranga Golf Resort. 

Barooah is also known for his involvement in cultural activities and as an art connoisseur. He produced the Hindi feature film Ek Pal directed by Kalpana Lajmi. Dr Bhupen Hazarika scored the music for the film, Sarma said. Wasbir Hussain said Barooah also collected 600 paintings of doyens like M F Hussain. Barooah was honoured by the Central Government with the Padmashree this year. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi while condoling the death of Barooah, described him as a distinguished industrialist. 

His death is an irreparable loss to society, said the Chief Minister. Asom Gana Parishad president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has condoled the death of Barooah as a great loss to the society. State BJP president Sarbananda Sonowal also mourned the death of Barooah. North Eastern Tea Association chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty mourned the death of Barooah. Barooah will, however, continue to inspire those involved in State's tea industry and would remain icon of the industry.

 Abhijit Sarma, past chairman of the ATPA deeply mourned the death of Barooah and said the State's tea industry has lost a leader with his death. Wasbir Hussain described Barooah as a multi-faceted personality and for him the tea business was not the only passion. He was a social and cultural ambassador of Assam, because of his immense interest in art, culture and music of the State. It will be difficult to fill the void, he added. 

Gautam Prasad Barooah, retired tea executive and a close associate of Barooah described his demise as a big loss to Assam. He said that Barooah worked silently for development of the State in various spheres like industry, culture and films.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Assam Tribune.
For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at
The Assam Tribune Pvt Ltd

Friday, July 26, 2013

Death and the obit writer's life

Enjoyed this chance to talk about what we do, at least my experience of it, for this online magazine. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Can Eliot Spitzer improve his obit with a stellar comeback?

My name is Joe Coscarelli and I'm a reporter for New York magazine. I'm writing to with hopes of gaining some (potentially light-hearted) insight about obituaries from professionals, specifically in reference to Eliot Spitzer's -- a long time from now, God willing.

When his prostitution scandal first broke in 2008, there was a mention from a friend in the Times about how the scandal did not have to lead his obituary:

“I told him that I think, in the end, this incident will be a footnote to a great life lived greatly, and that he still has the ability to make enormous contributions,” said Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, who once counted Mr. Spitzer as a student and now counts him as a friend. “One of his goals has to be to make this a footnote in his obituary, and not make it the lead.”

A year later, a similar subject was touched upon in Spitzer's interview with Vanity Fair:

“Do you think the scandal will ever go away?,” I asked.
“No. My obituary’s written,” [Spitzer] replied with shocking finality. “And that is a very hard thing to live with.”

My question is, in light of his comeback and campaign for NYC comptroller: What would Spitzer have to do to not have his misdeeds lead his obit? Would he have to win this seat? Become mayor? President? Is there any hope for him?

I'd love to chat with any obit writers or editors you might be able to connect me with, whether via email or by phone at 212 508 0593.

Any help would be much appreciated!