Eighteen years and more ago, I used to meet a well turned-out gentleman (white cuffs with gold links shooting out of black sleeves) called the Count at the Society Bar of the Ambassador. He was not a real count, he was not even French or Italian, he was English, but that is how we knew him. We did not know his real name, we did not know what he was doing in Bombay, we did not know where he came from.
Then one day we he was to become the editor of a magazine that was to be brought out on the lines of Playboy or Esquire. It was to be called Debonair.
The count did become the editor; he used to bring proofs of articles for the magazine to the Society Bar and edit them with a gold ballpoint pen. And he used to complain softly about the lack of knowledge of England of his Indian contributors.
He himself used to write: on what to wear, how to mix drinks, what after-shave lotions to use, etc. The readers did not much care and Debonair almost closed down. In those days also magazines used to close donw, though not magazins of the reputation of the Illustrated Weekly and Filmfare. The count was sacked. In those days also editor got sacked, though not editors of the calibre of Vinod Mehta.
And it was this same Vinod Mehta that Proprietor Sushil Somani picked on as his new editor. Mr. Mehta made it more Playboy and less Esquire. Which was clever: because Debonair started acquiring an ever widering readership among males in little towns in Punjab, Haryana, UP and Bihar, and in Delhi, Monthly, the letters column would be filed with debates among readers on whether the semi-dressed girl on the centrefold in, August was better than the one in July or worse than the one in June.
Mr. Mehta's office was in the middle of Claridges Press on Mint Road, next to Sacru's City Kitchen, and he wat in it with walls covered with five years of his centrefolds. That was the nearest Mr. Mehta got to his pin-ups, though everybody thought he was having a ball of a time.
Mr. Mehta's successor, young Anil Dharkar, got somewhat nearer the models. Occassionally he would pose with them. And sometimes his pictures would appear without the models.
His successor, Dilip Thakore, took himself, his job, and the magazine too seriously. He tried to put Debonair in a slot between Business India and Business World. In doing so, he not only lost his job but poor Sushil Somani lost his magazine.
Now, after 18 years, there is a new proprietor and an editor who was the de facto editor all these years. The circle has been complete, from the count to Adil Jussawalla.