On our 36th anniversary, mid-day's former editors look back at their most memorable moments
Role of Honour
Aakar Patel 2000-2005
ONE day, I think it was July 2000, I met the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai.
The incumbent was a short and dark man, very bright and of course quite accomplished. I cannot remember what our conversation was about but at one point I remember him telling me he had the best job in the country. No, I said to him, he had the second best, because the best job was the one I had: running this newspaper. I meant that then and I still do.
So let me briefly introduce to you some of the men who have held this fabulous responsibility.
Behram Contractor: One of the finest composers of a sentence and a paragraph. I don’t mean just in India, I don’t mean just in journalism, and I don’t mean just in English. A true master.
Nikhil Lakshman: A prodigy. One of the three men who defined the modern English paper in India, along with MJ Akbar and Vinod Mehta. Remember Shobhaa De and Malavika Sangghvi in sunday mid-day? That’s him.
Ayaz Memon: I repeat here what Contractor wrote about Memon’s writing talents: that he was like the North Star. Luminous and distinct.
Yours truly: About myself I can say that I was here for six magical (for me) years starting in February, 2000.
Avirook Sen, Shishir Joshi and Abhijit Majumder: Three bright young fellows who came and left in the last few years.
Sachin Kalbag: The incumbent. An old mid-day hand (though a young man himself) and the first of the new generation of mid-day editors, familiar with social media and other things that would have flabbergasted the men who went before him.
I have omitted to mention the paper’s founder and mastermind Khalid A-H Ansari, without whom this publication would not exist.
It is a fine list. I dare the current commissioner to draw up one better.
Ayaz Memon 1993-2000
WHAT do I remember most about my tenure? The anniversary editions, of course.
The first under my stewardship was the 15th for the paper, 1994, an unforgettable experience. That was the first time we had a ‘bumper’ edition, running into almost 100 pages. We also relaunched the paper, with a new design and fresh editorial profile to take mid-day notches higher than just an eveninger.
Wider, more robust and investigative city reporting were to be the hallmark of the paper. More points of view, more sport, more entertainment were included to add greater heft, give readers Value For Money.
Everybody in the newsroom subscribed to this quest with passion and commitment, as the current editor of the paper — then starting out in the profession — would perhaps recall. The aim was to make mid-day the voice of Mumbai rather than just another paper.
It delights me that this remains the credo still.
Shishir Joshi 2007-2009
mid-day was as much popular/notorious for its (mid-day) Mate images in the editorial pages, as for the the ‘Escort’ services promotions in the classifieds.
As its Group Editorial Director (and more perilously as the head on the block, since my name appeared on the print line — thus legally responsible for any publishing misdemeanours), the admin /legal team was often in my room, ushering in some legal notice or the other.
One such reaction to the escort advertisements was in the form of a nasty call to our press, late one Sunday night, demanding my mobile number and threatening to shatter the glass facade. The ‘shakhapramukh’ was demanding that these ads should be banned as they demeaned ‘Marathi Asmita (identity)’.
I used my chaste(est) Marathi when I spoke to the thug voice at the other end the next morning. “They are fronts for prostitution! Stop them or else,” he shrieked. No sooner had I finished empathising, than ‘Asmita’s Champion’ changed his tone and popped out a request.
“Can you please give me details of last Sunday’s escort service ad, page xxx column xxx. I need to contact them’, he pleaded. “I paid them through my credit card but when I reached the hotel there was no one there,” he admitted sheepishly.
Anil Dharker 1988-1990
IF I had to choose one incident, it would be of an impecunious young foreigner landing at my office one day. “I am an Australian writer,” he said. “I live in Mumbai’s slums and write stories.” He showed me one, handwritten on scruffy paper. I ignored all that because it was brilliant. “Do you have more?” I asked him. “Many more!” he said excitedly, “I’ll bring them tomorrow.”
He arrived next day with a bundle of them, all handwritten. “Can’t you type them!” I asked with some irritation. “I had to sell my typewriter, sorry,” he said, looking really embarrassed. I asked the office to give him a table and chair and a typewriter. “Now sit there and don’t leave till you have typed them all,” I told him as sternly as I could.
We printed them, in SUNDAY mid-day if I remember, on successive Sundays for a few weeks. They later formed part of a book. The writer’s name was Gregory Roberts, and the book was called Shantaram.
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