It was the worst interview I had transcribed. I was a cub reporter-cum-bureau chief at a trade media portal and had interviewed a major magazine publisher in the South. I sought to get a week’s extension but was denied. The editor said, “I did not expect this from you.” I sent in the copy. It was reproduced almost as is, with all the typos intact. He did not expect those errors from me. After all, we had combined magically to crack Khushboo vs Maxim, among other stories, in our short journey together.
A dear friend with whom I have had many a fight, many a drink, from whom I have unhesitatingly sought advice, Anant was mostly popular, and to some unpopular, because he chose to be that way. Love him or hate him, he was not one anyone could ignore.
This is personal and I have no qualms in admitting it. I had a brief chat with the managing editor of Campaign India on whether this might be seen as self-promotion. He encouraged me to write what I felt. Neither of us would be where we are but for Anant.
I would be ungrateful if I did not pen this tribute, for it is he who first told me that I had an eye for good work (advertising). He put me alongside someone who would turn out to be an adored mutual friend, Deepti Khanna Bose. He was also the one to call me to inform of her passing. Anant , Deepti and the team told the world that the much-touted DNA ‘Did not meet expectations’ way ahead of time.
He had his favourites and he backed them with all his clout. That perhaps explains how and why I followed in his footsteps; I was judged to be more than the sum of my parts, thanks in no small part to his ability to upsell anything and anyone.
I became an editor while yet to cross 30, which Anant promptly pointed out as being in the seat ‘too soon’ after yet another drunken debate. At that point in life, we spent almost every evening together. During which time, he would nonchalantly give me an input about a beanbag maker who advertised only the company’s contact number on OOH in Mumbai. The story made it to the cover of my (then) weekly. He would shut me up when the argument about new paths for a ‘Person of the Year’ award he started got too heated at Janata Bar. He would hug me and say ‘Too good’ on the inaugural WOW Awards show. We would call each other unapologetically at the end of the month. You know why. The seemingly unmovable gent would cave in when I pleaded with him to have some MTR Pongal at the end of a long evening.
He was editor of Impact when I reported from the South. After about six months of his exit, I took over. He conceived Eventfaqs.com. I attended the launch party as executive editor of Impact. And took over as its founding editor. A year and one week or so after he quit Campaign India, I moved in as editor. The joke at one point between us was when he would quit Storyboard.
We had more than our fair share of differences. But I knew that he respected the fact that I had a different point of view. Because it is he, who showed us in the trade media world and those connected to it, that it is indeed necessary to have a POV, whatever that may be. He could also defend any point of view, making him an invaluable ally.
Opinionated as he was, he had the integrity of standing by his stance. I believe that beyond all else, it is for that reason he is remembered fondly. The sharpest of minds and seemingly cold when viewed from a distance, he had the warmest of hearts and would go out on a limb for friends. That is what made him endearing.
He never once fed my turtle in the few years he visited my bachelor pad. Yet he was so full of praise, in acknowledging the good heart it takes to take care of such a pet.
He unapologetically declared that he doesn’t like handling babies. I have seen him in tough phases of life seeing his own kids through their higher education. I have also shared his pride when he revealed their achievements.
I know what will make him happy where he is right now. To acknowledge that here was a human with a point of view, and unafraid to make it heard.
Tonight’s first large of Old Monk is for you, Sir. Thank you, for everything.
(The author is an independent content consultant, marketing columnist and founder-curator of ClutterCutters.in.)