Mr. D. F. Thomas, who passed away last night in Pune, was among the last of the old style newspapermen. He was many things in and to the Times of India and at one stage it looked like he would never retire from the Times nor die. In his days, he had been a news-editior, one of the founders of the Calcutta Times, which folded up, Hong Kong correspondent, chief of news bureau, executive editor of the Evening News, and a bully.
We all used to work the news bureau at one end passing through the desk, the sports and commercial departments, the reporters, the Evening News, the Sunday Times and the Navbharat Times. Mr. Thomas would roar from one end of the room, from his special chair in the bureau, pouncing on some hapless reporter, and the entire hall would tremble.
In due time, we all came to know that his bark was several times worse than his bite, but that did not make things any easier.
He was a sergeant-major of a man, large and bluff and bald and red of face and blustery, an Anglo-Indian, the last reminants of the old British Times. When we were recruited to the Times, old hands would tell us to look out for Thomas.
But as we grew familiar with the Times, we relised that this was all a front. Inside, he was a kind and caring man. He would stand up against the management encrements for us.
I had personal experience of this. Continuous drinking through Mr. Morarji Desai's prohibition era had ruined my liver and eaten up all the calcium in my bones. I was about to fade away, when Mr. Thomas noticed my condition, took me to his personal doctor (Dr. Baretto) in Mazagaon and helped me to recover.
In away, I though I was repaying my debt to him, when Mr. Thomas came to see me in my office some three weeks back, sat opposite me in a chair and had a stroke right there. The left side, as we later discovered, was paralysed, but he still tried to get up and walk home.
We carried him by chair and taxi to Bombay Hospital. He was thoroughtly embarrassed and kept apologisiong fol all the fuss. He was in the hospital for a couple of weeks, made rapid recovery (mind overbody), and went home. And I thought I had paid back my debt.
It was not to be. This morning, his daughter rang up and said Mr. Thomas was dead. No, there was going to be no funeral, that was her father's wish, just a simple cremation.