By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | August 28, 2021

I have been reading tributes to the late Mr Pradeep Guha from the day I received the news of his demise on August 21. I have been wondering about my interaction with him and did not think much of what I could post. But when Prakash D’Souza, my ex-colleague from the Response, and currently Senior VP at the Times Group, posted on Linkedin on August 23, a full two days later, it got me thinking.

Prakash spoke of the impact PG, as he was fondly called, had on a young 24-year-old and his long association with him. It was a goose-bump moment reading the deep insight, man-to-man. Knowing Prakash closely and how careful he is with his accolades, I instantly connected with both men.

Suddenly, I remembered May 1998, and my direct interaction with PG in his office. I narrated the incident to my wife and told her I too should write something. I was impressed by that memory, long forgotten, which came to light with Prakash’s Linkedin post. Till that day, I had thought nothing about it. It was just an incident. Today, I felt the impact of that meeting 21 years ago. I also understood the man better.

Three days later I tell the wife that I have to write it. She says it’s too late now. I tell her, it’s not late. I should.

So on a Saturday morning, I sit on my computer, typing out the memory that spells out the greatness of the man.

October 24, 1994, saw the birth of the Bombay Times. The Independent, which primarily was given life to kill The Indian Post, had done its duty and outlived its purpose. Most of the journalists from The Indian Post were already in The Independent, me included. How long could we have done Halla Bol in the Lower Parel office of Shreyans Shah, who owned Gujarat Samachar and now also The Indian Post?

Overnight, all my colleagues from the Sports Department at The Independent were transferred to the Times of India Sports Department. I was left alone to fend for myself in Bombay Times. I hated it. For a year, I hung around the office, pestering our Editor, Bachi Karkaria, for a Sports Page. Nothing happened. BT was then just once a week. Bachi was sensing my discomfort on the Fifth floor with all my colleagues now on the Third floor. 

A year later, Bachi calls me into her cabin and tells me, “I have news for you that will warm the cockles of your heart.” She knew how miserable I was. Finally, I thought I was going to the TOI Sports Department. She then says, “PG has agreed to start a Sports Page in Bombay Times, will you handle it?” It was the news of the century for me. A Sports Page in the most sought after publication in Mumbai! 

We slowly went from one day a week to seven days a week!

But this is not the story with PG.

Four years later, in 1998, Fawzia Madni who headed Samrat Properties of which BT was a part, calls me into her cabin and tells me that I have been transferred to the TOI Sports Department. I was aghast. I told her that I was comfortable here and I was not interested in moving anywhere. Seeing my reluctance she told me that I would have to speak with PG. I agreed.

Pradeep Guha Boss Mentor
A promotion and a 100 per cent hike for refusing to budge from Bombay Times. That is how Pradeep Guha rewarded me.

PG gives me an afternoon slot and is very accommodating and friendly. He tells me how the sports department in the TOI needs a good sports journalist like me. I tell him that I wanted to go there four years ago, but no one listened. “You have the chance now,” he smiled. “I don’t want it,” I shoot back, bindaas. He is a little taken aback. He tells me that I have to move there because there is an opening and they need somebody. I tell him that I have grown out of sports. Bombay Times has allowed me to look beyond it and I am enjoying beats across the board that I am doing. “There’s Bollywood, Business, Politics, Education… the reach is endless,” I tell him.

He is now adamant, “Martin, you have to move to the TOI,” he says. Without blinking, I shoot back, “Mr Guha, if you want me to move out of BT, give me a month. I will look out for another job and leave this organisation.”

I could see him go back in his seat. He smiled. He said, “Ok, let me see.”

Two days later, BT Editor, Malavika Sangghvi calls me into her cabin and hands over a letter to me. I ask her, “What is it?” She says, “Read.” I find a promotion letter and a 100 per cent hike in salary, okayed by PG!

At that time, I made nothing of this. After I read Prakash’s post, it got me thinking about the greatness of the man. He could have taken offence to my response and sacked me. On the contrary, he took my ‘arrogance with honesty’ if I may call it, with all humility. 

I can safely say that the Times of India has given me everything that I have and continue to give me even today. All my ‘action years’ in journalism, I owe to the Times Group.

Who knows what would have happened if PG had asked me to take a walk!

Take a bow, Sir!

Rest In Peace.

Also Read: Malavika Sangghvi’s tribute to PG

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