Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Taher Shaikh, editor and a guru to reporters in Pune, is no more


The late Taher Shaikh (1941-2004) was one of the three senior-most reporters, along with Harry David and Y.V. Krishnamurthy, who personified Maharashtra Herald (MH), the local daily English newspaper, published in Pune during 1963-2003.

Taher passed away in Pune on 21 May 2014. He leaves behind his wife Saeeda, daughter Farheen and son Suhail and four grand-children. With my colleagues at MH and other papers in Pune, I share in the grief of his family.

When I joined MH in 1983 as a sub-editor, Taher was at the peak of his reporting career. One of my gurus, Taher held my hand as I learned editing.

In the piece that follows, Babu Kalyanpur, my colleague at the MH Desk, pays tribute to Taher, the story-teller.

*****

By Babu Kalyanpur

A great journalist and a thorough gentleman has passed into the Blue Yonder, now sharing his vast repertoire of tales with the gods.

Taher was endearing. No airs, despite his decades-old experience as a newsman. Young or old, you could count on him, any time.

So many young cubs, ensnared by the glamour and the glitter, were taught the grim realities of, what they thought was, a romantic profession. Taher gave it straight as it comes: a story here and an anecdote there. If you were quick on the draw you picked it up.

No egos involved; no “I am better than you” attitude. Taher understood that every budding scribe needs help, not sniggering comments.

It wasn't just the young hopefuls. He was also the man to go to, whenever there was a crisis. And there were many during the old days. Nothing illustrates his attitude better than the Tale of the Power Cut.

Back in the 1980s, a major grid failure caused darkness in many parts of Maharashtra. Pune city was almost in total darkness. Most newspapers gave up hope and scrapped their editions. There was no option but for MH to follow suit.

This writer, on duty, was still waiting, eternally hopeful. And Taher, as was his wont, was among the last man standing at work. It was getting to nearly 1am. Time was running out.

Just a casual question, about whether there was any hope at all, turned into action. A few phone calls and Taher had information that there was only one newspaper, which had electricity and was printing. There was no stopping after that. Taher called the owners and within minutes we went there and got the issue out.

The point here is that Taher knew everybody. Like a good journalist, he made his contacts and kept in touch with them regularly. It could be an office clerk or a minister, Taher knew them.

He was literally 'King' when it came to the Pune Municipal Corporation. He had inside stories which nobody would get.

That extended to court cases too. He was thorough and accurate when reporting these. His easy style and economy of wordage made the job easier for us, at the desk. Like good journalists, he wrote simple and to the point.

MH was lucky to have such top-shot pioneers – Harry David, Y.V. Krishnamurthy and Taher Shaikh – at the same time: a combined experience of more than 100 years.

Taher was a great fan of cricket and, in his middle-age, even played the game for MH. His only drawback in later life was the “Yes, no, maybe” while running between the wickets, which once earned the ire of this writer. But then …

Back on 15 March this year, a get-together was arranged, for which Taher also came. It was heart-breaking to hold this frail man by the hand and help him to the Food Court at Dorabjee's. Age and disease had their say on this fit and sprightly man. However, his spirit, slightly dimmed, was still there.

This was the last time this writer saw him. And was honoured to give him a helping hand. Must put that picture away now.

And remember Taher Shaikh, smoking incessantly, holding court with tales of yore at the MH office!

*****

Please add your tribute to Taher in the comments.

1 comment:

Ashok Gopal said...

Wonderful piece. Would have added just one item of information--the trademark Safari suit.