Allen J. Mendonca: Here’s looking at you, kid

29 September 2009

allensandhya

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes from Bangalore: Allen Mendonca slunk away in sleep, gently tip-toeing into the darkness never to return.

This time, his flamboyance was missing.

The swagger was not there.

There were none of the histrionics either.

49 is no age to exit out. Yet, he chose to do it his way. He never did believe in giving tortuous explanations to people.

The inexplicable emotions of the heart ruled over his mind most of the time. The unmistakable lilt in his voice and freewheeling gait was proof.

Anyway, he probably had his reasons to leave early.

***

For me, Allen was a friend and a supporter. For a million others, perhaps a hundred million, Allen was a friend and a supporter. His friends, like the stories he sourced, were diverse.

They included a broad swath of shallow socialites, dodgy journalists and plain beer-swilling louts. He bear-hugged  them all unmindful of their forked-tongues and crooked agenda.

Allen chose not to differentiate, not to be judgemental of people and that was his true strength, and perhaps his failing too. He practiced his vocation with the same sense of   ‘openness’ – writing on every conceivable subject with a freshness in perspective and prose.

On a good day, Allen’s writing was a piece of poetry.

On an ‘exceptionally good day’  it was deliciously defamatory. Bureaucrats and businessmen got slammed on their pompous backsides.

While some called it whimsical writing others swore by it and religiously began their day with Allen’s byline.

Everybody read it. Everybody spoke about it. And Allen, like the true showman,  loved the adulation, the applause.

On one occasion, he wrote a controversial piece on Vijay Mallya, and was forced to tender a written apology. I remember calling him that morning, expressing my disgust and railing against the world at large. Confronted by my shrill journalistic fervor, misplaced perhaps (?),  early in the morning, he merely  guffawed.

In 2002, as the visiting faculty of a journalism school, I had invited Allen, then Times of India’s metro chief, to share his experiences with the students.  Despite a late night, he was there at the Times’ office at the crack of dawn to ride in my bumpy car to the school that was located on the outskirts.

Needless to say, he won the kids over with his disarming charm and simple home-truths.

No profundities, no lofty ideological bluster, the challenges a reporter confronts are real.

The fun-part was after the interaction, when I drove the affectionate father to meet his son Aditya at the BGS International School nearby.

Much earlier, when I began my career with the Frontline magazine, Allen’s Christmas party was a turning-point for me. M.D. Riti, who had just quit The Week magazine, suggested that I apply for the position and pursue the opportunity. Allen and his wife Sandhya prodded me on to embark on this new adventure.

There are innumerable memories associated with Allen and recounting them all would be impossible. More recently, during his recent stint as editor of a city-based magazine, I would often run into him at Koshy’s.

The friendly wink and handshake remained unchanged, thankfully.

***

The last time I met him was on September 16 at friend Jessie Paul’s  book-launch. Sandhya did the author’s introduction.

Even as Sujit John of the Times, Darlington Jose Hector of Financial Chronicle, Benedict Parmanand of Rishabh Media Network and I bantered around in a group, Allen accompanied by a lanky Aditya made a quick entry,  shook hands with us and vamoosed.

He seemed in an obvious hurry that evening and we couldn’t spend much time.

A few days later, on the night of September  27, I called Madras-based journalist and friend Daniel P. George on his cell phone for a general catch-up session. Danny yelled over the din of a rambunctious party and told me that he was at the Leela Palace in Bangalore with Allen and his family.

I said, “have fun” and disconnected.

That night Allen, the friend, the supporter, went to sleep.

Photograph: courtesy Chandana Vasistha Aiyar via Facebook

Also read: Allen J. Mendonca, rest in peace

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20 Responses to “Allen J. Mendonca: Here’s looking at you, kid”

  1. V Anand Says:

    Chetan,thanks for a wonderful and touching tribute..

  2. Ravi Menon Says:

    Dear Chetan,

    Knowing both you and Allen as friends and colleagues, I happy that you wrote this excellent tribute. God bless you.

    Regards,
    Ravi Menon

  3. sameer Says:

    I didnt know Allen but feels like I know him well after this nice tribute chetan.

  4. Varun Says:

    Dear all,

    As a colleague of Allen’s, it feels comforting to read this post and the comments. Allen truly amazed, inspired and encouraged all of us at several occasions. He will be missed tremendously.

    We at Explocity, (where Allen was working) have set-up a Blog as a tribute / memorial / condolence register for everyone who wishes to leave a message for Allen’s friends and family. The link is: http://inmemoryofallenmendonca.wordpress.com/

    Thank you all again.

  5. sudhir Says:

    “His friends, like the stories he sourced, were diverse.

    They included a broad swath of shallow socialites, dodgy journalists and plain beer-swilling louts. He bear-hugged them all unmindful of their forked-tongues and crooked agenda.

    Allen chose not to differentiate, not to be judgemental of people and that was his true strength, and perhaps his failing too. He practiced his vocation with the same sense of ‘openness’ – writing on every conceivable subject with a freshness in perspective and prose.

    On a good day, Allen’s writing was a piece of poetry.

    On an ‘exceptionally good day’ it was deliciously defamatory. Bureaucrats and businessmen got slammed on their pompous backsides”.

    That’s 24 carat Allen. Great tribute Chetan

  6. Mavis Smith Says:

    Chetan, I am Allen’s younger sister. This piece is tremendous and describes my brother to a T. Thank you for doing this – I am so proud to be his lil sis!

  7. Jessie Paul Says:

    Chetan: Beautifully written tribute.

  8. Chandrika Says:

    Allen was someone who brought a smile on the face of anyone he met. The absence of any guile and acceptance without any judgment was something that made him a man you could never get angry with. There was never any reason to. Gentle, friendly and concerned. He was the one person who could make life lighter, easier and happier by just being in it.
    You will be missed, Allen.

  9. Rizwan Khan Says:

    Bangalore and Karnataka have had just a handful of precious and rare journalists as frank, yet friendly and open as Allen J. Mendonca.
    While his stint at TOI was the most notable for great insights, especially on the IT industry, let us pray that he finds bliss in heaven and his soul rests in peace, while the many thousands who knew him in person will forever miss him.
    Well, it is sad to note that the Govt. never recognized his great contributions to press and society. One can only hope the politicians award what was due long ago, posthumously.

  10. B S ARUN Says:

    Hi Chetan,

    It was down the memory lane as I read your piece on Allen. It was a wonderful write up.

    We, Delhi journalists who knew the great human being that Allen was, met a few hours ago to pay him condolence and recall his contribution to journalism.

    Needless to say , there was a lot to talk about Allen from several of his Delhi friends. It was almost endless.

    B S Arun, Deccan Herald

  11. Dharma Says:

    Chetan,

    Well written tribute.! Allen was my landlord and grew into a good friend over time. Some of his opinions and comments (I’ve taken them as pieces of advice) will ring in my ears forever…


  12. [...] Allen J. Mendonca: Here’s looking at you, kid [...]


  13. [...] Allen J. Mendonca: Here’s looking at you, kid [...]

  14. Chaitra Says:

    A heart-wrenching piece of tribute…

  15. U M Mahesh Says:

    Hi Chetan,

    It is really a wonderful tribute to a friend like Allen.

    U M Mahesh.

  16. Vijaydev Says:

    Chetan,
    That was a nice tribute. I came in contact with
    Allen in the early eighties when he was working
    with Southern Speaker.
    Whenever I bumped in to him he used to enquire
    how i was doing.
    Last time I met him at the airport a year or so
    back. I asked him what he was doing after his stint with TOI he gave me his business card.
    That was the last contact with him.
    Sure will miss him around.

  17. Kedar Shirali Says:

    Nice tribute. I grew up reading Allen’s stories on varied topics but mainly on local politics and Bangalore’s development in Indian Express and was a huge fan.

    In the early nineties, while in college, I’d strayed into freelance journalism and when a friend – Danny George who’d joined IE – offered to introduce me to him, I jumped.

    His unruly hair and plump joviality was hardly what I’d expected of a hard-hitting journalist, but there he was – friendly and incredibly patient.

    I must have met him only a couple of times but what I made of him from those brief interactions matches your much longer association with him. RIP Allen and thank your for the kindness and encouragement 18 years ago.

  18. Deepanjali Says:

    That was a very touching piece, Chetan. Yes, Allen had a persona like none other, and having grown up reading him and finally working with him, to me, his passing is like the end of an era. There will clearly, be nobody like him again.

  19. Kanak Says:

    That was wonderful, Chetan. Loved the style. Actually reminded me of Allen :)


  20. Hey CHetan :)
    Thank you so much .
    There’s a lot i can sit here , and type for day’s to come .
    BUT thank you

    Join us for the launch of Sentinel House
    Bangalore, Dec 16, Wednesday, 06.30 at Ranga Shankara
    Book release by Arundhati Nag as a part of ‘Bengaluru Habba’

    Bangalore, Dec 17, Thursday, 6.30 pm at Reliance Time Out
    Dramatized reading by Jagdish and Arundhati Raja of Artists Repertory Theatre
    Critique of the book by brand consultant, Mr. Harish Bijoor

    Gurgaon, Dec 19, Saturday, 6.30 pm at Reliance Time Out, Ambience Mall
    Book release by Ms. Pratibha Prahlad, renowned Classical dancer
    Reading by Mr. Sunit Tandon, Director, Indian Institute of Mass Communication

    Cochin, Dec 20, Sunday, 6.30 pm at Reliance Time Out, Oberon Mall
    Book release by Mr. T. Jayakumar, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Government of Kerala
    Introduction and Reading by Mr. Manoj Das, Resident Editor, Asianet News, Kerala


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