Long before Mr Pradeep Guha came on the scene in the Times of India group, the advertising department was headed
by a very lively tall graceful youthful man V.S. Thirumalai. Very different from Guha. In fact, Thirumalai also used to
occasionally write what were called middles, nice articles in the middle of the edit pages in TOI, light but meaningful.
These no longer have any space on the page, another indicator of the times we have fallen in.
He always used to mix around in a very friendly way with journalists, have good drinks with the likes of Busybee,
the well known humourist (Behram Contractor) and our jovial chief reporter B Sheshagiri Rao. He had no hang ups, he would walk into the editorial section in an amiable, never intrusive way. Even other top management figures always respected editors , they came to meet editors, did not call them The Guha period ethos meant life was turned upside down when they sought to turn editors into stenographets and page make up layout figures. No disrespect meant by me to these professions.
In the older days The TOI editorial department and the advertising department were on the same floor, the third floor, divided by a foyer. There was of course no dominance of the advertising department and one could not imagine the intense destruction of all values that followed in later years. Later, the advertisement department shifted to the second floor with very expensive décor which impressed some and seemed vulgar to others.
Mr Guha succumbed to cancer recently and all respects to his memory. The malady also claimed a few days later the life of a prominent / senior journalist of the Times group, Jayant Pawar, playwright, critic and who worked in Maharashtra Times .
We also sadly lost in the last few days Gail Omvedt, the noted scholar, whose work I had followed fairly closely in the seventies. . I tried to get her invited to deliver a lecture at the Asiatic library a few years ago but it did not materialise. I doubt if Guha ever met Jayant Pawar . Pawar led a far more meaningful life When Nayantara Sehgal, the noted writer, was dropped as chief guest at the 92nd Marathi Sahitya Sammelan due to political pressure, a separate meeting was held later to felicitate her in Shivaji Mandir, Dadar . Jayant Pawar made a memorable speech on the occasion, he was there but due to his illness, it was read out by talented actor Atul Pethe and perhaps that added to the impact. Pawar made an interesting point about superstar Amitabh Bachhan. When someone asked the star why he did not support democratic struggles, Bachhan said he cannot bother himself with these things, that would spoil his day, the next day he has to appear before the camera and look fresh. Pawar said so the star chooses to remain quiet in the face of injustice. That is how injustice grows, freedom is curbed when people fail to speak out. Although there has always been an adversarial relationship in general between advertising and journalism, in Mumbai advertising had gained quite a positive connotation with the likes of Alyque Padamsee and Gerson D’cunha, tall figures both in the world of advertising and theatre. Theatre was perhaps more of a passion for them and one remembers many of their plays. Since we are on the theme of theatre it could be said that certain sections in the advertising world could inspire a Macbeth like play on the triumph and tragedy of certain values. The glamour girls dominating the department could play the modern day witches who pronounce that foul is fair and fair is foul in this world where profit , more profit, maximisation of profit is all that matters.Here I do not mean to use the word witch in a disrespectful way at all, Shakespeare too did not also portray the witches as evil, they were more apparition, phantom kind of figures who set the tone of the play in which the main character completely loses sight of the difference between good and evil in pursuit of his vaulting ambition. We could perhaps have an ombudsman like character as a chorus as in Greek theatre and in a Brechtian way who could comment on the goings on. There could also be a strong element of black comedy. It could be a modern day cautionary tale, a morality play since Guha later took over a company formerly run by the likes of alleged murderers Peter Mukherjee and Indrani in the Sheena Bora case.
( senior journalist – Vidyadhar date Point of view )
Just read in today’s Guardian about how England recently, rescued, brought in a planeload of dogs from Kabul, leaving refugees behind. Dogs are treated much better. In the last few days I have been noticing that in Mumbai too dogs are being treated far better than poor human beings. During my morning walk daily I find very pompous people getting down from their cars carrying freshly cooked packed food searching for dogs, calling them out, then feeding them.
Some dogs just don’t care, perhaps someone has already fed them. Some men and women are accompanied by their servants on the feeding mission. In contrast, poor people are left looking for free food,, a result of growing job losses. I see a lot of people standing in a queue outside a church supported centre collecting lunch packets and sitting on the footpath outside a school to eat..
On the Carter road seafront promenade there is a big park enclosure exclusively for dogs. Then there are people taking out their dogs for a walk. Some are very nice. But some others are very status conscious, are out there just to display their expensive pediggree possessions. In their arrogance, they do not even realise they are scaring other walkers, taking away so much territory, it is not that only dogs are assertive about territory, it helps the owners keep ordinary folks away from themselves.
( senior journalist – Vidyadhar date Point of view )