As a professional, Gautam was all of these. But as a human being - and as an old friend I can vouch for this - he was even better.
Gautam had the gift of turning a single meeting into a meaningful long-lasting friendship. His friends ranged from politicians to academics to diplomats across the political and ideological spectrum. To many in office, he was the colleague with the amiable smile and the welcoming hello. He would make small talk and leave you in a far better frame of mind than you were before you met him. That's because he had that rare human quality: genuine empathy for fellowmen. Gautam was a master in the nuanced art of listening.
I struck friendship with Gautam during our days in The Pioneer in the mid-1990s. We grew close towards my last years there. The newspaper was going through hard times and salaries were delayed. Sometimes as a part-time food writer I would get an invitation to write on a culinary festival in a five-star hotel. I would request Gautam to join me to overcome the awkwardness of eating alone in such plush surroundings. He would generously agree. After the food, we would take the DTC bus back to office laughing over the irony of our existence. Over the decades, as our friendship grew, his neatly kept home was the preferred venue for a bunch of colleagues to relax over good food and the best of spirits. Spirituality engaged him philosophically. He would talk about his encounters with the aghoris in Benaras, his discussion with Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiuddin Khan. Gautam was also a first-rate cook. He enjoyed an intimate relationship with spices often improving on traditional recipes. If I recollect right, he even wrote an article on his own variation of butter chicken. He also created recipes which were entirely his own. Gautam had enough culinary skills to be a serious contestant in Masterchef India.
At The Times of India, Gautam was my go-to editor. I always showed him a draft of what I wrote. He would make corrections, carry out improvements. He was an irreplaceable friend, colleague. He was only 50. He will be missed by all of us.
(Source: The Times Of India)