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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.