By Deepak Parvatiyar
Shocked by the news of demise of my first editor, Darryl d’Monte. His tips and guidance immensely helped me in my writings during my formative years as a journalist -1989-90. A thorough professional, his daily post mortems of published reports in the newspaper (Times of India, Bombay) were incisive and unbiased. I remain to him grateful for his support to me when after my interviews of VP Singh soon after he became the prime minister and before that his half brother a day earlier, when I was still a trainee journalist, became an eyesore to many seniors in the TOI. They had gheraoed Darryl and accused him of favouring me…That how a fresher can get such a prestigious assignment! The protest had resulted in Union-sponsored ban on my entry to the newspaper’s office premises for many days. He stood by me and also ensured I was made comfortable by sending seniors Anupam Goswami (who later became the editor of Business India) and Prof Hasnain Naqvi to my hostel room of St. Xavier’s College, Bombay where I was still a student. Darryl had given me my first byline for my report “Shastri Influenced VP, says his kin”. I clearly remember I had not mentioned my name in the report and had just made it “By a staff reporter”.
Another instance was when my report on veteran journalist and my professor MV Kamath (who later became the Chairman of Prasar Bharti) being hooted out of an international symposium was published but after omitting the paragraphs on the reasons why he was hooted out. That made an angry Kamath write an article titled “Inefficient Scribe” in Mid Day newspaper making an issue of why the report did not carry those reasons. Such an attack by a veteran heavyweight could have killed any budding journalist’s career. It was then again that Darryl stood by me along with my teacher late Fr.Macia, the dean of Xavier’s.
Yet another instance was when I rubbed the great RK Laxman the wrong way by honestly reporting how he had to tell the audience including ladies that “this is not a joke at all” after they burst into laughter after his certain remarks during his talk about his recent visit to Japan. The heading of the report too was catchy — “Laxman has a yen for the Japanese”. Laxman first came to me asking when he had said these words. “When did I say these words?” he asked me. My reply ruffled him further. My answer was a counter question :”Mr. Laxman, are you serious.?” This led the great cartoonist to charge to Darryl’s cabin and I too followed him with all nervousness. Darryl was cool. Looking at Laxman he asked, “So you saw your report? How was that?” As Laxman replied “It was well written but when did I say these…” Darryl burst into laughter and a confused Laxman retreated. All that I could hear was Darryl saying “Deepak has clipped him”. And I thought my job is saved! (Later much to my surprise Laxman’s son Srinivas told me Laxman was telling everyone that that was the best report ever he had read on himself).
I still remember his remark -“(Arun) Sinha (then Asst. Editor of FPJ ) is my friend. You are in safe hands and will learn a lot”, when I broke the news to him of my decision to join Free Press Journal newspaper in December 1990.
The last time that I had met Darryl was sometimes in early 1994 when TOI had sent me a telegram asking me to meet the editor. He had then asked me about my best stories and I told him all my stories were best stories as I had made equal efforts for each one of them. He wanted me to join the TOI. I told him give me a house and I shall join you. You can’t expect someone to remain homeless and do stories for you. Real estate prices in Bombay were very high and indeed unaffordable for someone like me. Darryl said TOI had not provided a house even to him.(True, but he did inherit huge ancestral property in Bandra!). I was determined that I shall work only for an organisation that gives me a house. Finally Hyderabad based publishers of Eenadu and Newstime who later also launched ETV agreed to give me a house not in Bombay but only if I agreed to set up their bureau in Ahmedabad. And then I shifted to Ahmedabad.
A few people make a lasting impression in one’s life. Darryl, my first editor, was one of them. He actually taught me not to use difficult words as news reports are meant to be read by all. May his soul rest in peace.