Remembering Peter Prufert

It was way back in 1990. The great wall had only just fallen and it was chaos every where in Berlin. I was there for the first workshop on Environmental journalism conducted by The International Institute of Journalism, Berlin.. Landing in Berlin airport alone, nervous and ‘mark’less I had to beg kindness of a shopkeeper to make a free call to Peter Pruefert.” You wait there for some time” was the command over phone. I started waiting. Within an hour this man came stretching his hand to hold mine with a loud ‘Hello Mr Rajendran’ as if he had known me for decades.

He was with us for the next 45 days- friend, guide and philosopher. Always helpful, giving pieces of advice whenever asked for and caring for all. It was during that time that unified Germany had its first general election. Their percentage and proportional system was a bit confusing, difficult to understand. When I asked Pruefert for help he conducted a special class to explain it all and I could report the election for my paper Mathrubhumi.

Returning to Kerala I remained in touch and twice International Institute for Journalism cooperated to hold workshops for journalists in Kerala at my request, one was in Kochi. Pruefert himself came to Kochi. I remember we strolling the Kochi beaches along with the guest lecturer from Financial times, I forgot his name. Then next time time he sent Mr Peter Saunders to Kozhikode for another workshop. And when the world climate summit was held in Delhi we had another get together but that was the last we saw.

Once in Kochi I asked him how many countries he had gone altogether, he said he had lost count. An hour with him over cups of beer was like reading several books, so informative and amusing also. I had always asked him why he was not writing any thing- he just smiled and shrugged. I once heard him describing a night he spent in the boat house in Alappuzha. That was a thrilling description- the still lake, full moon in the sky, nice food and beer on the table, birds chirpping in the trees. It was poetic. I but had not been to Alappuzha at that time though it was just 200 kilometres from my home!

I had written a travelogue in Malayalam- In the Germany without the wall- in it Peter comes in every now and then….He had contributed a lot in my career. And when we all met as IIJ alumni in Delhi just recently, I had referred to his big influence in all of our life and career…
This is really sad……he is no more.


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