Farewell, Sabina, this was hardly the way to go: Kalyan Kar

The weekend just gone by is one that I will take a long time to get over. Personally, and for a lot of my colleagues at different stages of my long career, it was a double tragedy. At the midnight of Friday-Saturday came an SMS with the news that the body of a dear friend, Rohinton Maloo, was the last one to be brought out of the Oberoi Trident in Mumbai.

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Dec 1, 2008 8:39 AM
Farewell, Sabina, this was hardly the way to go: Kalyan Kar

The weekend just gone by is one that I will take a long time to get over. Personally, and for a lot of my colleagues at different stages of my long career, it was a double tragedy. At the midnight of Friday-Saturday came an SMS with the news that the body of a dear friend, Rohinton Maloo, was the last one to be brought out of the Oberoi Trident in Mumbai.

Immediately, sitting in front of the television set, the dreaded thought crossed my mind: what about Sabina Sehgal Saikia, Consulting Editor with The Times of India?

For two days, ever since the mindless terrorists had laid siege to the Taj Hotel and Oberoi Trident in south Mumbai, colleagues had been frantically trying to establish contact with her. Sabina had gone to Mumbai to attend the wedding of the son of another former colleague of mine at The Times of India, Bachi Karkaria. Sabina had fatefully checked into the Taj. I sent a frantic message to Group Editor Jojo on Friday evening only to get a “Nothing yet” reply.

On Saturday morning, the dreaded news finally came through soon after the NSG commandos had cleared the Taj: Sabina’s body had finally been found. She was gone – in all likelihood, she had perhaps perished soon after her last, frightened SMS to her husband, Santanu Saikia, on Thursday last week, which said that some terrorists had entered her suite and that she was hiding under the bed. Her cellphone fell silent thereafter.

Sabina had been a colleague for a little more than 10 years through the decade of the 90s when I was in The Times of India. It is difficult to believe that her deep and loud laughter will not be heard any more on the third floor of Times House in Delhi. Sabina was a fun person, with a smile always on her face, and a wacky sense of humour, especially with those she was close to. She always had the knack to lift spirits on bad days when nothing would go right at work or with bosses. It was in 1990 that I moved to Delhi from Kolkata to be part of the launch team of Business Times. At some party that year, I suddenly found my wife Mitali and Sabina grinning at each other. It turned out that they were classmates in Kolkata’s La Martiniere School. They were meeting each other after years – and not known to each other till then that both had taken up journalism as a profession.

That old link with my wife helped bring me closer to Sabina. She loved make-up and lipstick. And I took it as my right to make a dig at her almost every day about the colour of her lipstick or the extra amount of make-up on a particular day! She always laughed it off with a comment like “Tere ko kya”! What I always admired about Sabina is that she never made you feel that one had to talk differently with her simply because she was a woman; Sabina was always gender-equal in conversations or, to put it differently, she could give back the guys as good as she got. She didn’t believe in being unnecessarily coy.

I still remember the times in the early 90s when she first met Santanu, who used to work one floor below those days with The Economic Times, and their romance blossomed. So did the jokes and digs from colleagues trying to pull their legs! It was a matter of time that Sabina picked up Santanu’s language, Assamese, with decent fluency.

Initially, Sabina used to work with the Saturday Times and the Sunday TOI. She was part of the launch team of both products. She subsequently went on to become Editor of Delhi Times, and was responsible for giving it a strongly youth-oriented content. Thereafter, she went back to STOI as its Editor.

For the past eight or nine years, Sabina had been reviewing restaurants and their special menus and cuisines for The Times of India. Her popular weekly column, ‘Main Course’, in Delhi Times has accurately chronicled and charted the business of eating out in the Capital. As well-known journalist and food writer, gourmet and gourmand Vir Sanghvi has written in his book ‘Rude Food’, “In Delhi, the formidable Sabina Sehgal Saikia can make or break a restaurant’s business with her acerbic judgements…”

Sabina’s love of the food business culminated in her authoring ‘The Times Good Eating Guide’, a comprehensive evaluation of 600 restaurants in Delhi, a first-time initiative for the Capital. She is known to have often visited restaurants anonymously, picking up the tab at the end of the meal and writing without hesitation about the entire dining experience.

Sabina was an alumnus of Lady Shri Ram College and the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. She was with The Times of India for about two decades.

As I end this piece, my thoughts go out to her husband, Santanu, and their two young children. May they have the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss. I will always regret the fact that I did not make time in the last few years to catch up with Sabina. May her soul rest in peace.

(Kalyan Kar, until recently Editor of exchange4media.com and Consulting Editor, impact, was Head-Business Times and a Resident Editor with The Times of India where he was a colleague of Sabina Sehgal Saikia for over a decade.)

Kalyan Kar’s tribute to Sabina Sehgal Saikia also appears in the December 01-07, 2008 issue of impact

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube