I first met M.J. Akbar on November 1, 1971. Of the six trainee English journalists who had been recruited by The Times of India group that year, Akbar was the one who was self-assured. I was 19 and did not know what the word “story” stood for in newspaper parlance when the Training Officer, Patanjali Sethi, started my initiation into the unknown world of news collection.
Most the new recruits were no different. Akbar was only a year older but he had already appeared in print at the age of 16, most notably in JS, India’s first and perhaps only genuine magazine for young people. Originally launched as Junior Statesman, the management of the staid Calcutta daily was soon forced by its youth readership to abbreviate the magazine’s name to JS. For the bubbling youth of Bombay in the 1970s, anyone who had written for JS, was “cool.”
By word of mouth in South Bombay, which was then the fountainhead of the city’s joie de vivre, Akbar was already collecting a fan following. A few days into our training, an exceptionally beautiful woman—who shall remain unnamed—joined our group. She was the wife of a naval officer and was studying journalism at a city college. Interning at a newspaper for a few weeks was—and still is—part of the mass communications curriculum. Her desire to ‘learn’ from Akbar was evident from the very second day of her internship along with us.
Soon afterwards, one of Bombay’s best known socialites of today began dropping in at the “Old Lady of Bori Bunder”—as The Times of India building is still referred to in intellectual discourse—to pick up Akbar for what were ostensibly regular dates. When the dam broke a few days ago about Akbar’s alleged sexual...