I began my journalistic career as a trainee sub-editor with Mid Day in June 1981 when Behram was the chief reporter (that was his official designation but everyone knew he was the person whose opinions mattered the most at the paper). Four years later, a bunch of us left Mid Day with Behram to launch a rival evening newspaper, The Afternoon Despatch & Courier. And in October 1988, I left The Afternoon to become the features editor of the Dubai-based Khaleej Times.
|BEHRAM CONTRACTOR (SECOND FROM LEFT) PRESIDING OVER THE FESTIVITIES AT ONE OF HIS FAVOURITE HAUNTS AFTER A LONG DAY AT THE OFFICE.|
I remained sporadically in touch with Behram and my former colleagues all through my stay abroad. Every time I visited Mumbai I made it a point to visit Afternoon House and spend some time sitting across Behram at his desk and making conversation, which, with Behram, was not always an easy thing. He was known, among other things, as the funny man of journalism thanks to his famous and popular "Busybee" column, but he was an intensely private individual who preferred to let his writing do the talking.
When he died in Mumbai on April 9, 2001, I was in Goa at a company event (I had joined TMG in Bangalore after my stint in Dubai came to an end). I received the sad news from my good friend Shashikant Jadhav, who was Behram's assistant as well as the nominal publisher of The Afternoon.
Many glowing tributes were paid to the man who had become synonymous with the city but none was more personal than the appreciation written by Mark Manuel, my dear friend and former colleague. Mark's tribute to Behram was carried as the lead story in The Afternoon with the masthead placed below it. "I wrote it in one shot at 5 a.m., after coming to work straight from the hospital where I had sat beside his body through the night," Mark says. "I don't like to think it is one of my best pieces of writing, but people (and total strangers, too) still connect me today with this obituary... it is as if Behram's hand was on my head even from beyond the grave."
Here is the tribute in its entirety:
Afternoon House’s heartbeat has stopped…
|BEHRAM AS SEEN BY ONE OF HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS, THE CARTOONIST MARIO MIRANDA.|
- You can feast on the "Round and About" archives here: "Busybee Forever".
- "Empty wooden chair", by Salil Tripathi in Tehelka
- "He was the soft spoken soul of Mumbai" — Pritish Nandy's tribute to Behram Contractor
- "My friend Behram", by Vinod Mehta, editorial chairman of the Outlook group
- "Busybee wrote every day for 36 years, beginning in 1955, and he died in 2001. He was one of the few Indian writers in English who had an individual style and that made him special. He was confident enough, and good enough, to develop it and stay with it for decades. Like Hemingway, he had found his writing voice early in life and did not change it." — Read Aakar Patel's heart-felt tribute to the journalism of Behram Contractor here.