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Meeting Yateendra Joshi

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Photographer: Kaushik Shah

Yateendra Joshi is the doyen of Indian academic copyeditors. He and I are long-standing members of Copyediting-L, the email discussion list for copyeditors. It is there that we first "met" and exchanged the occasional message. When Vivek Kumar founded ICF (Indian Copyeditors Forum), we became members, and I have attended a seminar given by Yateendra under the auspices of ICF.

Therefore, when I came to know that Yateendra would come to Kerala to give a lecture at Amala Institute of Medical Sciences in Trichur, I wondered if we could meet. I got in touch with him, and there was indeed a narrow window of opportunity. After his lecture, he would take a taxi from Trichur to catch the 8 pm flight to Pune from Cochin airport. A quick back-of-the envelope calculation told me that if his taxi started from Trichur at 5 pm, it should reach the airport by 6:30 pm. In the worst-case scenario, if the check-in commenced an hour before the flight, I would get 30 minutes with him. I requested him to text me after boarding the taxi.

As luck would have it, I reached the airport late (the airport is an hour's journey from my home), at 6:50 pm. In fact, at 6:41 pm, I despairingly sent the following text: "Hopefully, I'll get there before you have to check in. If not, it was a valiant try." Fortunately, his flight was delayed. We had plenty of time! I asked Yateen (he gave my "sir" short shrift in the first few minutes) if this was his first visit to Kerala. It turned out that he had stayed in Kasaragode district for a few years early in his career when he was a scientist with the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute. Kasaragode is still one of the most underdeveloped parts of Kerala, and Yateen had a couple of juicy anecdotes from his stint there.

We exchanged notes on our editing experiences. Both of us had worked for Cactus Communications, albeit in different capacities. I learned about his love for audiobooks, and I was even able to sample one of them on his audiobook device. I've always been skeptical about audiobooks, but I immediately understood one benefit: for someone who spends all his working life staring at a screen, listening to books instead of reading them will give the eyes some much-needed rest. Yateen's enthusiasm for audiobooks is infectious, and I will try out my first audiobook soon.

Yateen has written a book on copyediting (Communicating in Style), but when I looked for it online, it was out of print. I asked him about it. He said he wrote it twenty years ago and was planning to update it soon. I was pleased to hear that. My jaw had dropped when I saw a glowing tribute by none other than John le Carré on his book's cover: "A gem. Courteous, unfrightening and essential. A pocket companion to Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage." Yateen is a big fan of John le Carré's books.

Soon an hour had passed, and I rose to take my leave. Soft-spoken, ever-smiling Yateen is an easy person to like. I was glad I had made the time to meet him. In the photos, I am holding Discover the Editor in You, the book that was recently released by ICF.

Photographer: Kaushik Shah


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