‘Meet Mansur Ali Khan, The Nawab of Pataudi…’ was the way I was introduced to him in 1986. I was amongst the eight trainees who had then joined the illustrious Anandabazar Group. It was customary for all in the marketing department. “Pleasure to meet you sir,” I stammered to which he said, “My name is Mansur, In case you have trouble pronouncing that, you can call me Tiger.” It was a brief and crisp meeting and all the eight of us could capably do was to stare in awe. He was an impressive looking man, but the strongest trait was his sonorous voice and its modulation as he spoke casually.
Over the next four years I had numerous occasions to meet Tiger at his Delhi residence in 1 Dupleix Road. The visit was seldom without the rituals synonymous with the Nawab household. The Gates at 1 Dupleix Road were never closed, so you could drive into the sprawling bungalow and park in the spacious porch. The servant would open the door without you ringing the bell and would wave down a flowing ‘aadaab’. He would briskly walk off and come back with the destination where I need to be seated. Normally it used to be the guest room, or Tiger’s study. But once I had the occasion of being seated in the Trophy room and that was an experience. There were numerous trophies, mementos and framed pictures of fame. As you glanced at each one in awe the ‘Nawab’ would emerge mostly in a light green kaftan. After the customary handshake he would immediately make you comfortable and come to the point.
I normally used to land up to discuss the ‘Sportsworld’ artworks which needed to go into print as advertisements and Tiger had to approve. It’s during these discussions that I heard Tiger speak in Hindi for the first time. He spoke impeccable Hindi and was very careful with the words he chose. He would look at the artworks and get irritated and say “Kya baat hai, Calcutta mein kisi ko Angrezi nahi aati”? This is wrong grammar and hence needs to be corrected. He would pick up the phone and speak to Lata at Anandabazar Delhi and dictate a telex message that was a reaction to the artworks he was supposed to approve.
Tabla Player and Ghazal lover
Few would have known of this trait of Tiger. Once when I walked in to see him, I could hear the haunting voice of Begum Akhtar and Tiger alone in the room. Again, surprised I asked him and got to know the love and knowledge of Hindustan classical music. He was an ardent fan of Begum Akhtar and was an accomplished tabla player. You would never attribute this side to Tiger as the world always saw him a suave Oxford educated royal who brought stature and glamour to the game.
The First Brand In Indian Cricket
He was one of the first to have films made to endorse brands. Till now it was always Farokh Engineer and the famous Brylcreem ad, in print. Tiger’s depiction of style in Gwalior Suitings driving a red Ferrari was unparalleled elegance.
Wikipedia of Cricket
The ability to look at the insight within the knowledge was a rare talent he possessed. I always told him that the advertising profession paid handsomely for unearthing the insight which forms a big idea. He would smile, demonstrating crooked teeth and utter a one liner which was his trademark of wry sense of humour. He jokingly once told me, “Get me a good scotch brand and I will model for free; for life.”
Fear of Flying
Again a side of Tiger few would relate to. He avoided flying whenever he could and preferred to go by train. On one of these return trips from Calcutta, the head office, he was in the Rajhdhani -First Class. He travelled with his Khansama (Attendant). I was also on the train, but was in the adjoining 2nd AC compartment. I was summoned to Tiger’s coupe as soon as the train pulled out of Howrah station. We loved the same beverage after sunset and the table was set. Till the ticket checker walked in and reprimanded all for the festivities that were about to begin. I apologised, and the table was cleared and gloom descended on all faces in the coupe. Till the train superintendent walked in and apologised profusely to Tiger as it was a case of mistaken identity by the inspector. Tiger was least perturbed and we began the proceedings to a memorable evening.
Love for the Game
Tiger, when called, used to grace the occasion for even a localised match featuring ABP versus a local media house and spend time with all employees. We all know that Tigers are an endangered species, but this one will live in our hearts for generations to come.
(Gopinath Menon is CEO, Melon Media.)