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RIP Dileep Padgaonkar, my boss of eleven years

Padgaonkar passed away this morning in a Pune hospital. He was 72. Right through the nineties, he led a team of brilliant senior journalists who were the envy of most newspapers of that time

Kalyan Kar | Delhi | November 25, 2016

Dilip Padgaonkar Dileep Padgaonkar

It hit me like a thunderbolt. My boss and editor of eleven years at The Times of India passed away this morning in a Pune hospital. To those who knew him closely, he was a young 72.  He died of renal failure.

Dileep, or Paddy to some of us, was a different kind of editor. He marked the transition from the serious, feared editors that a paper like the TOI always had, editors who never stepped out of their cabins. He was to be seen often outside his room, chatting with the staff and sitting at the tables of his Senior Editors all the time – except during his edit meetings or when he was writing his edits or top articles.

Dileep was savvy, erudite, well-informed about the political winds of the day. He was equally knowledgeable about films, theatre and fine cuisine! He was an excellent writer. And he was full of humour and game for banter.

Right through the nineties, Dileep led a team of brilliant senior journalists who were the envy of most newspapers of that time. Over time many of them left him to adorn the editor’s chair in other newspapers. But it takes a lot of acumen and man-management skill to lead such a team of accomplished equals. He did that with aplomb. It was a stellar line-up: Dilip Mukherjee, Subhash Chakravarty, Swaminathan Aiyar, Praful Bidwai, Harish Khare, Jug Suraiya, Arvind Das, Anikendra ‘Badshah’ Sen, Ajay Kumar, Sanjaya Baru, Gautam Adhikari, Swapan Dasgupta, Chandan Mitra, Bachi Karkaria, and many more. Even his next line of senior editors was equally formidable: Subir Roy, Raminder Singh, Umesh Anand, Rajdeep Sardesai, R Srinivasan, Arun Roy Chowdhury, Uttam Sengupta, Kingshuk Nag, and perhaps yours truly. They all became editors over time.

The great thing about Dileep is that he never really held a grudge. He would let you argue, make your point, and like a good leader, make the final decision. But there was no rancour.

Personally, I will be always grateful to Dileep for the trust he had reposed in me in those days when I was heading the Business Times for a while. He never interfered. He stood by me in certain difficult newsroom situations, like the time Reliance was unhappy with the editorial stance of Business Times in the early 90s. Then, one day in early 2000, I was summoned to his room. There were too many structural changes happening in the newsroom those days, making most of us unsure of what’s coming. Some colleagues did quit. The powerful Response and Brand teams were breathing down our shoulders. Dileep simply told me: “Kalyan, you have done enough of business journalism. It’s time you took on greater responsibility. The TOI Lucknow edition is in a mess. I am sending you there as Resident Editor to set things right there.” The good news for me was that I would become RE, a prized position. The bad news was that Lucknow was a tough posting because of all the problems out there. But he was the boss, and it was my duty to accept the challenge.

Dileep also gave me another honour. He told me that I could edit his articles as I felt best! Now that was something because in my times nobody in his senses would dare to make changes or even try to throw in a different phrase in the Editor’s article!

For the record, Dileep was born on May 1, 1944. He graduated in Political Science from Fergusson College, Pune, went on to study in France and received a doctoral degree in Social Sciences from the University of Paris (Sorbonne). He was the Paris correspondent of The Times of India for a while. He was the paper’s Editor from 1988 to 1994. Thereafter, he continued as Emeritus Editor and Consulting Editor of the TOI.

The government used his wisdom of political affairs and appointed him to the three-member interlocuters’ panel in 2010 mandated to seek a political settlement in Jammu and Kashmir.

In April 2002, President Jacques Chirac awarded him the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian honour for his services to journalism.

I will always remember you, Dileep, for being a guide, mentor and well-wisher. May you rest in peace in your heavenly abode.

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