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Thursday, 12 July 2012

13 Until I Die! [Chapter 4: The Blue Bedspread]

The commercialisation of the media in India's Mecca of journalism, New Delhi, was a cause for worry to many.

I dreaded the thought of buzzing around Page 3 glitterati for a quote! The reason being, I did not grow up watching a lot of TV and could not relate to the joys of ‘an opportunity to know stars closer’ [neither did I  appreciate free booze and gourmet kababs!]. How papers sell an opening when they are in a hiring spree is absolutely amazing! Unfortunately I had to leave the city's two leading papers despite the offer... I thought a news journalist had no job at the city's party scenes.


Here is that story...

In the early 21st century a well-dressed journalist was probably as strange as an ill dressed diplomat. Those days TOI (Times of India, a popular newspaper in India) and HT (Hindustan Times, another popular newspaper in India) were poaching for new blood to brighten their newly launched all-colour ‘city’ pages. They picked a few of us from the Centre for Mass Media during one of the placement sessions [I was already working for UNI but was keen to know how different a paper's newsroom was like].

Thank you Sourish Bhattacharya (then MD and Editor of HT City) for having thought of me as ‘someone who must cover the city’s party scenes for page 3’ because I ‘appear’ different. Had you not said that in the first meeting I would have got worried thinking what on earth I did to be asked to cover the parties in Dilli. You actually solved that dilemma before it began. And it was easy for me to leave (HT) after a week in your office. [I absorbed the newsroom ambiance - noted that no one thought it was important to smile or greet strangers - and I thought they liked it being really sad].

In just a few weeks this episode repeated in TOI when they picked a few of us again from the campus. Like an idiot, I was happy to share the news 'TOI asked me to come from tomorrow!' But this time I asked if there is 'an opening in another beat than parties'. The city editor stopped pouring through the papers on his desk. Looked up from above his reading glasses to take a good look at me... and made a few calls [while making rangoli designs with his red pen]. He asked me to wait [making a lotus bud mudra].

And I was waiting, sitting, waiting, reading at various desks he asked me to perch on each day. On the fourth day of waiting I finished reading The Blue Bedspread by Raj Kamal Jha... at the then new 'careers' desk (supplements). The desk had an identity crisis whether it belonged to ET or TOI [I overheard some writers mumbling that at the Press Club].

The editor was clearly torn between many upcoming sections. I was waiting and he was busy... [to even introduce himself!]. He didn't seem to know what he could get out of me despite having gone through my UNI stories in the folder [I hope he did!].

'Oh! I need to brief you... just catch me when you see me next' [and then disappeared only after a few hours to show the lotus bud mudra and disappear again - this happened all day long]. After the 5th day of sitting, waiting, and starting on my second fiction at TOI [and nodding OK to the lotus bud mudras] ... I picked up my folder from his desk. Walked up to him while he was arguing with a colleague who let pass a misprint.

'Excuse me please... just want to say good bye.' And we shook hands for the first and the last time. I smiled at him and the colleague who looked worried. They looked puzzled [like the rest of the newsroom, had forgotten to smile].

And I disappeared. The ed threw a 'bye' back when I was almost out of the floor [he probably thought I left for the day]. I never returned to sit, wait and read fiction at TOI newsroom. No one was sent searching for me [he probably didn't know my name. I didn't know his name either. I did not turn back to see the lotus bud mudra another time].

Meanwhile at work in UNI, I was misunderstood to have liked being sent to cover boutique launches or saloon openings may be because I 'appear' the sort. 'So what did they tell you at the city desk?' [now you know why I called my self an idiot]. The news had reached the agency [and I thought nobody cared if I existed].

I was keen to know what moved the buck. Business beat, if possible - I told my friends. 'You refused both HT and TOI?' 'Who do you think you are RD?,' my PG friends looked worried over their cold coffees at Dee Pauls in Janpath. One of us was already busy covering the party circles in the city [and was the new rising star in the group as he had free passes and a new benevolent PR contact who always dropped these 2 lines in quick succession - 'come and have fun, all foreign brands are flowing free all night' 'and girls... I will myself drop you safe to your homes after the event so no issues ok?'].

I could never explain to my friends why I was reserving my byline for news stories... it would have offended those who felt proud covering the parties. I did not want to mess up anything - not my coffee time!

to be continued...

General disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or reincarnated is not a coincidence. No animals were injured during the making of this novelog although some monkeys may have their feelings hurt. Sorry.



rageshree said...

loved it! i love the "lotus bud mudra" :P

bluvian said...

thanks rageshree :)