sans serif records the passing away of Sabina Sehgal Saikia, the resident food writer of The Times of India, in the terror attack on The Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay. She was 45 years old.
Her body was among the 100 recovered on Saturday, almost 60 hours after the hostage drama began, on the sixth floor of the iconic landmark opposite the Gateway of India. Sabina is the only known journalist-casualty so far.
Sabina had been associated with The Times of India for 19 years and had authored “The Times Good Eating Guide, a comprehensive evaluation of 600 restaurants in the City.”
Sabina is survived by her husband Santanu Saikia, the former Financial Express journalist who now runs the petroleum industry vertical petrowatch, and two children.
A brief profile published on the paper’s site two years ago noted:
“She visits restaurants anonymously, picks up the tab at the end of the meal and writes, without hesitation, about the entire dining experience.
Sunil Sethi, the former India Today journalist who is now the books editor of NDTV, wrote in Business Standard:
“At 12.34 past midnight on Wednesday I received the following text message from Sabina: “There is firing going on. My room in darkness. TV off. Phone on silent. They are inside. I’m scared and totally alone.”
“At 12.45 am another: “This is desperate. There are terrorists inside.” After that the messages petered out. There was no further response to my texts asking if she was safe, or if she could possibly make contact with staff or other guests.”
In her last restaurant review, published in the Delhi Times lifestyle supplement of ToI on Friday, Sabina looked at the American diner-style restaurant Route 04 that has come up in the capital’s fashionable Khan Market:
“The American Diner remains an enduring iconic aphorism of popular American culture. Through the various images in celluloid—complete with counters, private booths, jukeboxes easy-going waitresses serving home-style food—the Diner has in many ways come to symbolise the democratisation of taste in the US, both in a subterranean and subaltern sense.
“It’s an idea which was born on the streets of America, based on necessity and utility, in the midst of the industrial revlution—with its first incarnation in the form of carriages, pushcarts and railroad cars making an appearance in the late 1800s… and etymologically too, the Diner is a derivative of the dining car….”
Kishore Singh, a friend and fellow-epicurean of Sabina’s, wrote in Business Standard:
“On any number of occasions, we’d asked what we should eat at the banquets where we met often. And Sabina would tell you what she had liked. Unlike her weekly restaurant review columns where she often said what was awful about the food, at parties she never told you wht wasn’t nice, she only recommended what she thought was good. Invariably, she was right.”