FOR a while after his son phoned to pass on the news, we could not place Alfred D’Cruz, who died last Friday on June 1 at the ripe old age of 91. But then we saw his picture and immediately everything came flooding back. Veteran journalist, historian and author, he was all this and more – a quintessential gentleman, a breed you seldom see among journalists of any kind nowadays.
He was a stalwart of The Times of India and retired as a chief sub-editor after 40 years of dedicated and meritorious service. Not much, one might think, in these days when you can become an editor in five years, depending upon the publication you are with. Alfred D’Cruz would not have known even where to start with 90 per cent of the flotsam coming out of media schools. Yet, to young journalists serious about improving their writing skills, he was the soul of kindness, his gentle voice with its Portuguese intonations a better encouragement to higher standards than the ranting of a chief reporter or a news editor.
He was also significant for other reasons, not least of all for being a bridge with the past, when the TOI had a British editor in place. In fact, he was the first Indian lad to be selected for a position on the desk by none other than Sir Francis Low, and that was in 1947.
A multi-faceted personality, he edited India’s best comprehensive reference book: The Times of India Directory and Year Book 1984, including Who’s Who – which was listed among the best in the Directory of Directories, Michigan, U.S.A. and soon became a best seller in India, US, UK and Europe. And he was a historian and a researcher, with his favourite subject being the newspaper he worked for.
He was a co-author with the late Prof. Patrocino de Souza of the book on Saligao, Focus on a picturesque Goan village, mirroring the confrontation of two cultures, European and Indian, spanning four centuries.
Retirement from the old lady of Boribunder did not slow him down, merely turned him in other directions, One of them took him to Kuwait on a promotion!
And perhaps most important of all, writing under the pseudonym Alfie, Alfred D’Cruz was the only scribe to stand in for the late Busybee when he went on leave, leaving 'Round & About' in the Evening News of India bereft of an author.
His son writes that he died as he always lived. Hard-working, with a zest for life, till the very end. He was the quintessential newspaperman and that is how we shall remember him.