05 August, 2021

Editors Then, Editors Now

Simple yet profound. Sham Lal wasn't seen or heard, he was read.

Editors Then, Editors Now
They don't make editors like Sham Lal anymore. He was part of a cultural, intellectual and social tradition which died as market forces massacred journalism. True, Sham Lal lived and worked in more innocent times of (mostly) gentleman editors and (mostly) gentleman proprietors. N.J. Nanporia, Sham Lal's distinguished contemporary and happily still with us, remembers one of the Jains of The Times of India ringing him seeking an appointment. "When are you free?" asked Nanporia. "When are you free?" replied the proprietor explaining that while he had time on his hands, he knew editors were busy.

In 1974 when I became editor of Debonair, Sham Lal was the reigning deity at Bori Bunder, where the Times was located. I had written a trivial book and it was my vain ambition to have it reviewed in Sham Lal's paper. I was warned the Times only reviewed Kafka and Camus. Nevertheless, it was suggested that if I personally presented the book to Sham Lal, he might relent. Just knock on his door and try your luck, I was told....

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