The sad news always comes in the morning, though the columns of The Times of India. News of one more Times man being dead. So it was this morning, the death of Joaquim Filomeno da Costa, late of the Evening News, known to everybody as Jock.
I remember him distinctly, every morning the first to arrive (I would come second, R. K. Laxman third), making his personal telephone calls, talking in Portuguese. He was one of the most harmless persons I have known, very gentle, very unassuming, letting the world go past him. You could tell him anything, he would just smile.
His chief sub was Dara Meherjomji, also dead, the last of the Times of India Parsis, also Englishmen. He used to wear a khaki sola hat, be very fussy about punctuation's.
The Evening News was for retired people, people who had put in several years on the Times desk, mainly the night-duty desk (all newspapers work in the nights, after the general managers and managing directors have gone home, shutting-off the central air conditioning). Then, when the became too old and on the verge of retirement, when they produced a certificate from the office doctor, they would be moved to the Evening News, the 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. shift. Come to think of it, even the doctor, Cawas Cama is dead.
Most of them are dead. A little paragraph on the third page of the Times to announce their death ("He was known to all his friends as "Jock"), probably written by a new batch of reporters and subs who never knew him.
And not only in the Evening News have they died, though there, being already semi-retired, the fatality has been higher. But the advertisement department has also taken its toll. First, Mohansingh Ahluwallia, the ad manager, then Thirumalai, his successor, who fancied himself as a writer and wrote like our Nirmal Goswami and Kersey Katrak. Them, my friend, K. K. Nagrath, then Madhu Holkar.
At the other end of the corridor in the editorial department also they have died, first a news editor, then a chief sub, then several reporters, their reporting days over, then a chief reporter who almost died twice and recovered.
The Times of India has been very generous about its dead. It takes care of them by giving them a paragraph and letting other members of the staff know about their death. Sometimes, when the dead man has been big enough, it even puts his photograph.
Jock da Costa did not rate a photograph. Just a small announcement of his death ("to his friends he was known as Jock"). RIP