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Portrait of David Davidar as a young man

While researching the ongoing David Davidar sexual harassment scandal, Q&Q came across an archival newspaper column written by one of his former mentors, the late Indian poet and columnist Dom Moraes. The piece, written in 2002, is a reminiscence of Davidar’s early days working as an associate editor for a Mumbai literary magazine. We quote it here because it provides a not-irrelevant, pre-scandal glimpse into Davidar’s character:

[David] was a tall, coltish, bespectacled young man, curiously lovable. While Dhiren [another editor at the magazine] had abstained from most of the pleasures of the world, David was — at least then — very susceptible to them. He drank a lot and liked to fall in love. He was paradoxically a devout Christian. At that time he lived in the YMCA in Colaba, not far from me. He would often drop in for Sunday lunch. I discovered that he usually stopped at church before this, to attend the morning service.

[...]

After this David became an associate editor of Gentleman, together with Harish Mehta. The two young men invented a monthly feature. They took turns every month to interview a beautiful film starlet or model over an expensive, often candlelit dinner, paid for by the office. David’s first such dinner, with a then famous model, caused him to tell me enthusiastically that he loved her. I was not unused to these confessions. I suggested that he should declare his emotions to her, not me, and should start by asking her to a meal that he paid for himself.

Later David came to tell me the lady had accepted his invitation to dinner. He was to pick her up the following evening. I advised him to be particularly careful about the impression he made on her father, and to take her flowers. He said my ideas in these matters were unoriginal. It was Easter. In the patisserie of a hotel, he had seen a life-size Easter bunny made of chocolate. It cost a lot and with a lavish dinner would exhaust his month’s salary, but it was worth it. As to her father, he expected to have a man-to-man talk with him over a drink.

This rendezvous was not a success. Through nerves, he arrived far too early, carrying his gigantic gift with difficulty. The reaction of the family had been one of amusement rather than awe. While the girl got ready, the father rather grumpily offered David a drink from his last bottle of Scotch. In those days a bottle of Scotch was much prized by its owner. But the girl took time to dress, David’s nervousness increased and by the time she appeared the bottle was empty. The father was by then no longer grumpy, but positively hostile.

Later requests for a date were firmly turned down. Soon after this David left Bombay. I missed our long talks about literature, and his youthful presence. He wanted to be a writer and showed me his poetry. When he returned from America he told me he wanted to write a long novel about his clan in Kerala. This has now been published, a decade after he first mentioned it to me, and has been praised. He is already the CEO of Penguin India, but I think he will be more pleased with his book than with his position, and I am pleased for him.

  • Ck

    This is sort dredging is so irrelevant — I get a distinct gutter press stench to this article. I’m not defending Davidar, but I think it’s a bit unfair to use Moraes’ description of him as a “coltish” twenty-something year-old man as evidence of being a player. Who in their twenties hasn’t tried to rock on the company dime when given the opportunity? Who hasn’t fallen head over heels over every pretty person they see? If anything, Davidar comes off as extremely human in this little sketch. Moraes, if you haven’t read his other work, also has a particularly “quaint” way of writing.

    With regards to Davidar’s conduct with Rundle — well that’s an entirely different matter, because it’s about the abuse of power. Davidar being a player has nothing to do with the way he allegedly behaved with Rundle. There are lots of “players” who have perfect conduct in the workplace. This article is just another attempt to sensationalize. Come on, Q&Q, I know juicy gossip doesn’t cross your way often. There’s a reason you’re called the Quill and Quire and not OK Magazine.

  • Singhal

    The dredging is not irrelevant. It’s provides a data-point (or points) to be evaluated in conjunction with all other data by a reader (such as myself).

    All other data would include all the positive things many of Davidar’s supporters, friends, former colleagues, etc. have been saying about him.

    As a reader interested in the issue, I want all the data, and I will make up my mind as to what is irrelevant or not.

    Now, as a corollary, I also fully support, and would defend to the death, your own right to state and argue for the irrelevancy of of post/”dredging”.

    But let’s have transparency here – who are you? Are you a fan of Davidar? A friend?

    For the record, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I had never even heard of the name David Davidar until very recently, and I have never read any of his books.

    Then why have I been following this story? Very simple: I’m based in Toronto and I’m originally from Bombay, India (so I grew up reading newspaper column/letters by Dom Moraes and the like as a schoolboy).

    Again, don’t have a dog in this fight, but in order to take a view, I want to see everything that’s out there – I’ll separate the wheat from the chaff, thank you.

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Book Pictures

Do you have great photos from a recent book event in Canada that you'd like to share with us? Submit them to the Quill & Quire Flickr pool and they'll show up here.

Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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