Tiger Pataudi and I were colleagues: In the sense that an editor and a junior hack working for the same publishing house could call themselves colleagues. Pataudi was for long years the Editor of Sportsworld, a publication of the ABP Group. And I worked during different times for New Delhi magazine, Sunday magazine and The Telegraph, all publications of the same publishing house.
This was during the heyday of ABP in the early Eighties when each publication of the group was a highly regarded market leader. What was more remarkable was that each publication was brought out by a bunch of very bright and very young journalists and editors. Those were heady days for hacks. To paraphrase Wordsworth, bliss was it in that dawn to be a journalist, but to be young was very heaven. There was very little compartmentalization between the publications and a lot more camaraderie between the editorial teams than can be imagined today. Which is perhaps why, even though I never worked for Pataudi, in his passing it seems to me as if I have lost a former editor.
Years later, in the early Nineties, we did become direct colleagues, when we both worked for Kapil Dev’s Dev Features in Delhi. We were part of the team that brought out the video magazine Sports Channel. Tiger Pataudi was the anchor of the video magazine and I was Executive Producer of the production house, in which slot I had succeeded the legendary SP Singh, who went on to found Aaj Tak.
In between these two stints, I had watched Pataudi somewhat closely in another editorial avatar: He was Editor of the Wills Book of Excellence-Cricket, a collector’s volume of text and pictures. Friends and colleagues from ABP and Orient Longman, the publishing firm, were involved in bringing out the Wills Books of Excellence series and I would get regular reports of the ups and downs of the very ambitious project sponsored by ITC.
How was Pataudi as an editor? By all accounts he was an exceptional leader, who preferred to inspire rather than control or micro manage. He was a man who led with a light hand and who, by his sheer gentility and understatement, made himself unforgettable. A man of very few words, he had a terrific sense of humour and an ability to connect with people on the strength of his easygoing manner.
He was the very opposite of the typical hands-on editor of today. In fact, the legendary newspaper editors of the pre-Sameer Jain era, who were interested only in the editorial page and little else in their newspaper, were perhaps more hands-on than Tiger was! It seemed as though he was content to add star value to the editor’s job. As Editor of Sportsworld, he worked out of Delhi, while the editorial team of the magazine worked out of Calcutta. He did like to have a say in the planning of editions. But he had little interest in putting them together. In other words, he was the epitome of the hands-off editor. The Associate Editor, the No. 2, was really the editor in that sense. It was he who commissioned the articles, oversaw the subbing of copy and the production of pages, grappling in turns with the Ad Department, the PTS (Phototypesetting) Department, the Art Department and the Printing Press. Tiger did not have to bother with any of that.
But it was said that he read every word of what had gone into the magazine and always gave feedback. And in one key respect, Tiger was very much the Editor. The Editorial always came from him, written in impeccable Queen’s English. Not surprising when you consider that the Nawab of Pataudi went to public school in England and thereafter to Oxford. Come to think of it, he had also captained the Oxford University cricket team!
Vivek Sengupta is Founder and Chief Executive of the consulting firm Moving Finger Communications