Among all the editors I have worked under, I have liked Mr. Shamlal best. He was a most non-interfering editor, living in his own world of books on political philosophy and sociology and literary books written by odd scholars in Mexico and Peru. After some five years of working under him, he did become aware that I was one of his staffers. Most of his other staffers, he never knew.
Actually, Mr. Shamlal was typical of most of my editors. Almost all of them concentrated on the editorial page and their assistant editors; very took interest in the day-to-day running of the paper. Mr. Girilal Jain, who succeeded Mr. Shamlal, showed a little more interest, but only a little more. He also lived in his own ivory tower, and most of the time he lived in Delhi, though the paper's flagship was in Bombay.
Mr. Nanporia, who preceded both of them, was also typical. Not only did he not know most of his staff but most of his staff did not know him. Once, a watchman at the Times gate stopped him, thinking he was an undesirable visitor. In those days, people used to think Mr. J.C. Jain was the editor, and Mr. Jain did little to correct that impression.
My very first editor was S. Natarajan. He looked like an older (a much older) version of Mr. Anil Dharkar, always dressed in churidars, sherwanis, long hair. He also used to smoke strong cigars, possibly made in Tiruchirapalli (then known as Trichinopolu) and, twice a day, as he would pass through the Free Press corridors, he would leave a trail of smoke behind him. His professional concerns were also limited to writing editorials, and every once in a while he wrote editorials on the front page.
When Mr. Khalid Ansari was my editor, he also used to write editorials on the front page. And he would sign his editorials. He hwas the first of the editors I had worked under who used to take interest in the rest of the paper also and not just in the editorials.
Present day editors take interest in the total paper and consider its production their responsibility. I understand. Mr. Vinod Mehta stands behind his reporters as they are trying their copy. This could be, if not intimidating, at least annoying.
Mr. Pritish Nandy does more than take a day-to-day interest in the runningof the paper. In fact, he is the paper and the paper is him. If you have noticed the latest advertisements about the Observer, they announce that Mr. Nandy has brought along with him his popular column, Edior's Choice. It is actually a listing of the main events of the week. In our paper, we call it Time Out, and it is prepared by a peon who has learnt typing.