Darryl D’Monte: mentor to a generation of journalists

Peter Griffin

The Forum of Environmental Journalists in India (FEJI) and the Mumbai Press Club (MPC) hosted a memorial meeting in tribute to Darryl D’Monte, the revered senior journalist and environmental activist who passed away last Saturday.

“You’re either networking or not working,” said Joydeep Gupta, FEJI’s vice-president, quoting an aphorism D’Monte frequently used — before recounting incidents to exemplify D’Monte’s use of the power of networks for the environment. “Darryl obviously left behind a void,” he said, “but he has also left behind a whole generation of journalists.”

Senior journalist and former MPC president Kumar Ketkar recalled his long association with D’Monte, and that though they were around the same age, he had looked upon him as a mentor. “I wondered what drove him,” he said, before answering it with one word: people. D’Monte did not describe himself as a liberal — in those days no one did — or secular, he said, but at the heart of all he did was his concern for people.

“Environmentalism meant people. Rights, food, activism, meant people.” Unlike many activists who could be dry, D’Monte was witty and humorous, Mr. Ketkar added, before concluding: “Darryl practised catholicism, not as religion, but as a virtue.”

MPC president Gurbir Singh recalled how D’Monte had pushed the club to include a category for environmental journalism in its Red Ink awards.

FEJI’s founding trustee, Keya Acharya, said the organisation has begun as an organisation with a similar name founded by D’Monte in 1988, the Forum of Environmental Journalists of India. When his health issues first surfaced, he asked her to take over and the body was reconstituted with D’Monte as its Chairman Emeritus.

She said he brought journalists together to understand ecosystems before words like that were in common use, and was instrumental in forming networks internationally too. On his support for environmental issues, she said, “Darryl taught us that we get it on the front page of the paper, not just on an environment page. He was the first to tell us you could write about toilets and manual scavenging; we spent a day talking about nothing but shit.”

FEJI, Ms. Acharya said, is planning to set up a memorial award in his name, to which Mr. Singh promised MPC’s support to the initiative.

Members of the audience, some of who had come from other cities just for the memorial, also offered their memories of the facets of Mr. D’Monte, as colleague, mentor, educator, community member, and companion.

Samir D’Monte, D’Monte’s son, talked of his father’s strict routine while working from home, a discipline that never got in the way of his being there for his family, before thanking the attendees and promising the family’s support for efforts to take his legacy forward.

A portrait of Darryl D’Monte at the memorial meeting.
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