Recalling our days of friendship and collaboration in the mid sixties London, GVK forgot to mention that India Weekly brought out by a media oligarch Dr, Tarapada Basu (an avuncular manipulator of human resources) was sited in the famous Fleet street. I am grateful for the fact that I arrived and worked in the legendary street when it was still thriving. I recall that the minute one entered the street north of Strand with its august buildings, one was plunged in to Dickensian London with the acrid smell of printers ink and the news print which got under your skin. India Weekly was tucked away on a small narrow arterial side street called Carmelite street overlooking the back yard of – I think the Daily Mail. The street was constantly blocked with giant lorries wheeling in rolls of news print. The local pubs where we retreated frequently were dim and dirty but the bitter beer was like tonic. Our favourite was the dingiest of them all called the Coger. Here we met typesetters and all the printing associated tradesman, fervent if lazy supporters of their trade union called the Chapel . These were generous folk and often bought us rounds of drinks unsolicited. The bosses and editors naturally did not frequent these pubs. Their venue was El Vinos, the legendary wine bar frequented by media giants like Lord Cecil King and Hugh Cudlip of the Mirror newsgroup. I eventually got a look in on this exclusive place in the company of Asoke who knew every bibulous journalist by their first name.
Back to 4 Carmelite street which was presided over by Dr. Basu who kept yelling for his secretary, side kick, ghost writer, coffee maker, Asoke. Dr.Basu believed in being unkind to be kind, a perverse way of relating to other human beings. Dr. Basu was physically intimidating: well built with a generous girth, covered in an expensive 3 piece suit.
Our greatest memory is the friendship that Asoke extended to us unconditionally. I remember my first visit to his generously proportioned apartment in Tottenham court road which impressed us no end, as we ourselves as unmarried bachelors lived in oppressively small bed sitters often in bed bunks two to a room. I recall Asoke had beautiful reprints of Jamini Roy paintings on his walls and even a fully tuned Sitar. He would offer to cook us the Bengali mixed vegetable curry called Niramish which used five Indian condiments in a highly heated wok and the magic dish with a plate of rice would be ready to eat in ten minutes. I cherish these memories of time spent with Asoke who would never let you buy a drink, whilst running a “slate” with the pub landlord, which Asoke did not have the means to settle at the end of the week. He would then cajole the landlord who also acted as Asoke’s Bank Manager to extend him further credit. Changing pubs for a while or wearing an over-sized raincoat with the lapels turned up as one scurried along the narrow street past the Coger was a familiar technique.
One other friend who was a contributor to India Weekly was my fellow hitch hiking companion Subhash Chopra, a brilliant journalist to his finger tips. He and GVK always seemed to get plum reporting assignments like interviewing film stars like Dev Anand as my over-literary style of writing consigned me to producing pieces on philosophical subjects like a hagiography on the literary style of Raja Rao and compare him with Laurence Durrell. No need for me to add whose contributions were much read and talked about in the Indian community who bought the Weekly. More memories to follow>>>>>
Previous related Blogs of B2B-K-K (Kini-Krishnan)B2B piece on Basu