Among the characters I have met in journalism, one of the biggest I met was on my very first day in the profession. His name was M.P. Lyer and he was crime reporter of the Free Press Journal. The chief reporter asked me to accompany Iyer on his crime bear and learnthe job. In those days, especially for the evening papers, crime was considered as a senior assignment and the stories provided by the crime reporter were most of th etime the lead stories of the day.
M.P. Iyer a dark, round-faced man, quite untutored, without any formal training, and just thrown into the job, as most journalists were. There was no St. Xavier's Institure of Mass Communications then, and, if there was, it would have been laughted at, as it still is by some of the older journalists.
In fact, at the time of joining the paper, when I told the editor (S. Natarajan) that I was a B.A., LL.B., he told me: "That's fine, but don't tell anybody here. Otherwise, if you make a mistake, they will say - look at his, he is a graduate and he can't write." So much for a Bombay University degree and wasting six years over it.
To return to M.P. Iyer, that morning he put up his best show for me. First, we went to ther coroner's court and collected details of all the unnatural deaths, then we went to the emergency ward of the J.J. Hospital.
Then, from a telephone at the petrol pump near the J.J. Hospital, on Mohammedali Raod, Iyer decided ring up the emergency ward of St. George Hospital to find our what was happeing there. He told me: "We are reporters, we can ask for the use of any telephone and they will give it to us." Unfortunately, the owner of the petrol pump refused him the use of the telephone. So he came out and told me, sometimes there are people like that also, you must understand."
But at the police headquarters at Crawford Market, there was no doubt about M.P. Iyer's contacts and his position as the No.1 crime reporter of Bombay. In an assistant commissioner's office, he sat with his feet casually folded on the commissioner's table and made notes of an exclusive crime story.
Back at the office by 1 p.m., to type out the stories for the at day's Bulletin, he asked me: "Do you think you could do the job on your own?"
"I think so," I said. That was a mistake, because he turned around and told me; "You can't. It takes years to learn the job and establish all the contacts."
There was one more job I had to perform for M.P. Iyer before the day was out. I had to go to the Band-Box laundry and hand in his clothes. "Just say Iyer has sent them," he told me.
So I took them to Band-Box, gave them across the counter, and said: "Iyer has sent them."
"Oh, M.P. of the police," the laundry man said and took them.