Indian journalist and Guardian news assistant Kakoli Bhattacharya dies from Covid-19 | India

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Kakoli Bhattacharya, an Indian journalist who was a researcher, translator, news assistant and friend to Guardian correspondents for more than a decade, has died from Covid-19 in Delhi.

She died on 23 April after being admitted to hospital earlier in the week during a catastrophic second wave of the virus in India that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since it took off in March.

Bhattacharya, 51, worked with every Guardian correspondent in south Asia since 2009. Her daily contributions to Guardian journalism ranged from obtaining the phone numbers of sources with remarkable speed, translating one of the several languages she spoke fluently, accompanying correspondents in the field, and beyond.

Her work took her to the world’s largest religious festivals, on midnight patrols with “cow protection” vigilantes and on the trail of campaigning roadshows for successive Indian elections, among countless other places and stories. Unflappable and warm, blessed with a power to persuade that few could resist, she was invaluable to the journalists she worked with closely as a right-hand woman and friend.

“Kakoli was a brilliant journalist and indispensable part of the Guardian’s India coverage for over a decade,” said Hannah Ellis-Petersen, the Guardian’s south Asia correspondent. “She had the best contact book in the business and reporting with her was always a joy. She will be so greatly missed.”

Michael Safi, a former Delhi correspondent for the Guardian, said: “There was barely a story we produced from India that didn’t have Kakoli’s fingerprints on it. She was a brilliant journalist who was extraordinarily resourceful and could talk her way past anyone. More than that, she was a truly decent person – humble, kind and loyal.”

Bhattacharya was born in Delhi on 16 May 1969, to a professor father and homemaker mother. She graduated from Delhi University with a bachelor of arts degree and started working in journalism in the 1990s with reporters from international publications and TV channels including the BBC.

She worked for the French daily Le Monde for a decade before moving to the Guardian to assist the south Asia correspondent at the time, Randeep Ramesh. Her passion for India, especially for the welfare and education of girls, as well as her instinctive talent for journalism and steady temperament made her indispensable to the correspondents that followed, who also included Jason Burke and Rebecca Ratcliffe.

Bhattacharya was married to the celebrated Indian environmentalist Himanshu Thakkar, who she met in 1994 during protests against the building of large dams. They have two children, Hriday, 24, who has just graduated in computer science, and Khushi, 18.

Alongside her work as a journalist, Bhattacharya devoted much of the final years of her life to Khushi’s prodigious talent at badminton, accompanying her to training and state level tournaments across India. She dreamed of watching her daughter compete at the Olympics.

She once tried to quit to focus on her daughter’s badminton full-time, but was talked out of it. Correspondents simply worked around training sessions, sometimes conducting editorial meetings with Bhattacharya at courtside while she watched Khushi play.

If she was at a training camp in the hills of Uttarakhand with her daughter, and news broke in Delhi that required help with translation on the ground, it was never a problem: Bhattacharya simply dispatched her son or a friend. Correspondents never complained – “Make sure Kakoli is happy” was the advice passed down between generations of Guardian reporters in the city.

Bhattacharya fell ill with Covid-19 last week and was moved to hospital when her oxygen levels worsened, one of more than 2,000 deaths from the virus to be officially recorded last Friday. The real figure is thought to be much higher.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Indian journalist and Guardian news assistant Kakoli Bhattacharya dies from Covid-19 | India

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