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July 1, 2019

Anil Datta laid to rest

Karachi

July 1, 2019

As the funeral service for The News International senior staffer Anil Datta, fondly called Datta sahib, ended at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Saddar on a calm and cloudy Sunday evening, a couple, apparently in their 50s, sitting on the benches at one entrance of the Gora Qabristan was already waiting for the procession to arrive.

They were talking about Datta sahib to a family sitting next to them who had come to visit the grave of their loved one. “He was such a nice man,” the woman said to the family. The woman knew Datta sahib from the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology in Clifton where he used to go to cover events. She is a receptionist there. “He would always talk so politely. Like a real gentleman.”

Then one day she met him at a Sunday mass at the cathedral where he was a regular. She also introduced him to her husband. “It was then that I came to know he was a Christian. I used to think that he was a Hindu.” She smiled. “He was usually quiet, but revealing when you to talked to him. He had great knowledge. Of course, journalists do.”

The veteran journalist passed away due to heart failure on Friday evening. As the casket carrier entered from the other gate, Datta sahib’s mourners followed the carrier that followed two priests in white robes.

The couple already knew where the grave was. So they were convinced of not missing it. “My great grandfather is also buried here,” the man said pointing towards the section of the graveyard where Datta sahib was buried.

The casket was taken out of the vehicle. The man with the other mourners carried it and placed it over the grave on two planks. The priests called for the people who wanted to catch the last glimpse of Datta sahib. People flocked towards him.

They took turns to see Datta sahib through the casket glass and gathered around for the prayers. The priests started reading verses from the Bible. They ended the prayers with an Amen.

Then the planks were removed and the casket lowered in the grave. The priests tossed a handful of mud in the grave first and then with shovels. Other people followed suit. A large number of people from the journalist community attended the funeral of Datta sahib. The News Senior Editor Talat Aslam said on the occasion that Datta sahib had full command over his work.

“His death is a big loss for Pakistan and for Karachi. The way he has covered arts, music and culture here is rare. Our city pages will always miss his magnificent stories.”

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