The Times of India doesn’t usually run obituaries of its staffers. But the paper makes an exception today, June 22, to mark the demise of its first Indian employee who passed away on June 1:
“Veteran journalist, historian and author Alfred D’Cruz died in Bandra after a brief illness. He is believed to be the first Indian to have been employed by the editorial department of The Times of India way back in 1947. D’Cruz was 91. D’Cruz is survived by his son and three daughters, one of whom was also employed at TOI.
“D’Cruz was handpicked for the job by the then British editor, Sir Francis Low. “There were no Indians as part of the editorial team at the time. My father often recalled working till 4am, struggling with the hot metal press to prepare the blocks for photographs because computers were yet to arrive on the scene,” his son Sunil said from Muscat.
“In 1982, D’Cruz retired as editor of TOI‘s ‘Who’s Who’ yearbook but remained active for years after that. At the age of 69, he joined a newspaper in the Gulf and worked there until the Gulf War.”
Let the record state that the news of D’Cruz’s death was reported by the Bombay-based Afternoon Despatch & Courier on June 7 and the Oman Observer on June 14 and The Times of India on June 22.
The obituary in the Oman Observer records:
Writing under the pseudonym Afie, Alfred D’Cruz was the only scribe to write the Round & About column in the Evening News of India [the now-defunct evening newspaper from The Times of India group] for some time when the late ‘Busybee’ [Behram Contractor] was on leave.
Also read: Tarun Sehrwat, 22 and killed in the line of duty
Chari, a lens legend at The Hindu
Harishchandra Lachke: A pioneering cartoonist
T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos
Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers
Jyoti Sanyal: The language terrorist and teacher
Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor
Sabina Sehgal Saikia: The resident food writer
M.G. Moinuddin: The self-taught newspaper designer
Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa: Journo who broke Dalai Lama story
J. Dey: When eagles are silent, parrots jabber
E. Raghavan: Ex-ET, TOI, Vijaya Karnataka editor
Prakash Kardaley: When god cries when the best arrive
Pratima Puri: India’s first TV news reader passes away
Tejeshwar Singh: A baritone falls silent watching the cacophony
N.S. Jagannathan: Ex-editor of Indian Express
K.M. Mathew: chief of editor of Malayala Manorama
Amita Malik: the ‘first lady of Indian media’
K.R. Prahlad: In the end, death becomes a one-liner
M.R. Shivanna: A 24×7 journalist is no more
C.P. Chinnappa: A song for an unsung hero
Khalid Mohamed, longtime film critic of The Times of India and sometime editor of Filmfare—who hopped over to DNA and then to Hindustan Times in Bombay after making four films in the interim—talks about his 32 years in journalism and the stars he met along the way, in the January issue of Society magazine.
# “Of course, I had to do all escort service. If Shah Rukh Khan had to address a meeting, I would be an escort. ToI were always demanding. Bring this one and that one. DNA was releasing a supplement and I was asked to get Urmila Matondkar. That’s not the job of a journalist. I found the whole thing demeaning. I gave up for that reason.”
# “This era is all about marketing. Suppose I was reviewing a film and the evening before I was asked, ‘How many stars are you giving it? If you are giving it three or four stars, we can get ads.’ I said: ‘I am not interested.” It is peculiar and happens everywhere. ToI does in the form of Medianet, but other papers do it in other forms. In fact, journalists don’t know that stars say things like ‘Usko teen lakh mein kharid liya‘ (that journalist was bought for three lakh rupees).”
#”Pradeep Guha was the only guy who I like to call boss. I really looked up to him and he is a marketing genius. Even at the Filmfare awards, I was a bystander while he was the showman. Having said that, I haven’t been much in touch.”
# “I always saw myself as a ToI person and not a Filmfare person. I don’t think there has been an editor like Sham Lal. Today, do you know who the editor of The Times of India is?
# “At DNA, I was asked to take Isha Koppikar out to lunch. Later I asked marketing guys, ‘Did you get the ad?’ They said no. They had got dinner coupons on which they will take their clients out. I said, ‘Not happening’.”
# “Everyone wants to be ToI. They all end up going that way. If ToI did a story which DNA didn’t do, there would be a lot of hulchul. I never understood that. No one had a distinct vision though DNA was supposed to have one. I felt downsized. Maybe the editor didn’t like me. Even if I did a hard hitting story, it would land up on the 14th page instead of the first. However, I got the highest money.”
# “I like being in a startup operation. Pradeep Guha and I had reformulated Filmfare. Dina Vakil and I had started the Sunday Review. [At Hindustan Times] We needed a competitor to Bombay Times so we thought of starting the HT Cafe. The resident editor Samar Halarnkar didn’t like my face from the very beginning. We had verbal slanging matches.”
# People I really looked up to were Behram Contractor, Sham Lal, Bikram Singh and Khushwant Singh. I liked what Shobhaa De wrote in Stardust and Society. Where are the journalists of that time? It may sound a bit academic. I am not a perfectionist but I’ll see every comma, every heading and caption in place. If I have become outdated because of that, too bad for me.”
Also read: Khalid Mohamed‘s blog
Indian cinema’s biggest star—the BBC’s star of the millennium—Amitabh Bachchan has had a more-hate-than-love relationship with the media, except when the demands of public relations on the eve of a movie release weighed heavy on him.
But in a surprising intervention, Bachchan has spoken out in favour of the beleaguered CEO of Bombay’s Afternoon Despatch & Courier, Farzana Contractor, and commended the way the widow of Behram Contractor conducted herself during her clash with the company’s chairman, Kamal Morarka.
“Despite all the severe criticism and adverse reactions you had to face, you walked with your head held high. One of the most important lessons in life is to just continue walking and do what you have been doing. This puts the opposition and rivals in complete disarray,” Bachchan said, at a food and wine event organised by Upper Crust, the magazine Contractor edits. “Do not get bothered by the questions posed to you. If they are asking questions about you, it is fine. Because it indicates they fear you.”
Sales of ADC, founded 22 years ago by Behram Contractor, who wrote “Round & About”, the paper’s popular column on Bombay life, under the pseudonym Busybee, declined after Behram’s death in 2001. The paper stopped printing on September 27, a few days after Morarka, the larger shareholder, objected to Farzana describing herself as “editor” in a photo caption. Officially, she was chief executive officer of Courier Publications. The company board later removed her.
Also read: Vinod Mehta on the ADC saga