When a New York Times editor served as courier

T.S. SATYAN writes: The death on Wednesday of A.M. Rosenthal, former executive editor of the New York Times and the Pulitzer prize–winning, internationally-reputed journalist, has saddened all those who had known him and admired his genius and humanism.

In New Delhi, where he was foreign correspondent in the 1950s, he was a role model to many like me who had gone there seeking success in newer pastures. I found him a genial person, easily accessible and sought-after by many leaders during the Nehru era.

I had the pleasure of having tea with him at his office in New York in the summer of 1972 when I visited his country as a government guest. He laughed aloud when I recalled our first meeting at Hotel Metropole in Mysore during the Dasara celebrations in 1956.

He had come to my City along with some foreign correspondents after reading newspaper reports about the Maharaja holding his public durbar for the last time and that the Maharaja would not go in procession sitting in the gold howdah thereafter.

I had been assigned by LIFE magazine to do photo coverage of the grand spectacle of what was to be the last regal event in princely Mysore.

At the end of Navarathri, my job was to reach my exposed films fastest to the Time-Life office in New Delhi by airfreight from Bangalore.

I thought I would save time and an unnecessary taxi ride to the Bangalore airport if I sent my packet with the Time-Life correspondent who was also staying with Rosenthal at Hotel Metropole.

I went to the hotel and requested him to carry my packet to Delhi as he was himself flying there the next day. The response from the somewhat tipsy correspondent shocked me. He admonished me saying that I should do the work myself as I was being paid for it.

Rosenthal overheard this and saw the disappointment writ large on my face. He hissed into my ear saying that I should not get upset. “You can see that your man isn’t well.”

He then asked me to follow him to his room where he collected the packet from me saying, “Please don’t worry. This will reach your Delhi office tomorrow. Go home and have a good sleep. Meet me in New York whenever you visit my country.”

It was a rendezvous both of us kept.