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Sunday, 5 August 2012

13 Until I Die! [Chapter 5: Wings of Fire]

Have you experienced your alter ego break into Cuban salsa? This happens usually when you think you have arrived. My first time was in the winters of 2001 at Delhi Press Club @ Raisina Road - a place where you flash your teeth along with your press id card to those who doubted your age/eligibility to procure good food for less.

You get better story leads at the Press Club than most other places in the city. It is also a place where you - cannot avoid flirty senior journalists; fumble for the right words when you meet your favourite writers; bump into random drunkards like in Charlie Chaplin movies; find happy socialites who give free passes to events in the capital or get stuck up with chain smokers who hate everything from the politicians in the parliament to the next door pan walah and care little about the passive smoke you badly hate about them.

In his public speaking voice Samuel Baid sir (my mentor and then director of Centre for Mass Media New Delhi) announced ‘meet RD my friends – a promising talent’. His friends seemed to have read my stories. My cheeks burnt. Heart jumped out like Jim Carrey’s in the movie, Mask. They asked ‘what this RD stood for’. I was only too happy to explain that the alphabets R&D came from my mother's name (Devika Rani)... and dance in the limelight – a Saggitarian delight [chickchickyboom chickchickyboom chickchickyboom].

My dancing ego wanted bigger things. I wanted to go to war-torn Kashmir for a special story on ISI agents or uncover illegitimate money laundering in the prime minister’s office or find something unbelievable undercover in the stock market that could probably topple the government. I had just finished reading Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam.

I entered my raving 20s in style.

My nose for news flared at non-newsy city assignments. I worked extra to find special stories.

Once while staying later than usual somebody dropped these words over my shoulder at the UNI canteen ‘we have not been flattening papads all the while to get here… you need experience kid’. I looked back to the voice. There was a group of ‘no ones in particular’ – few cap and muffler-clad seniors. Dressed like terrorists they looked dramatic under the neon bulb of the canteen and behind the rising fumes of the gas stove that kept everyone warm. Wonder how flattening papads get you what you want? – I pitied aloud! The canteen walah loved the joke. As always he nodded his head in dissaproval even though he was smiling. The terrorists huddled/sniggered/disappeared into the shadows to die meeting their deadlines.

The cold war had begun. Colder than the sub zero chills in the capital.

My stories were being cooped/followed/developed by veterans/seniors [those faceless terrorists!] whom I have forgiven... and names forgotten. No one thought it is important that you know your story is stolen – after all you are just ‘a young thing’ [an insignificant fly on the wall… who must attend the opening of some stupid saloon or suffer a spat! Or better still flatten papads…]

Spotting nepotism ‘too early’ is a good thing. Thank you Sumit Nagpal sir (then Sr Business correspondent at UNI) for telling me to live in the moment and enjoy it than being caught up thinking about the future ‘too early’.

‘Too early’? In my head I was as good as one should be in 20s - utterly disgusted with the 'system'- but not ready to hyper ventilate resorting to usual ways via booze or smoke... and make my silly days sillier. I had plenty of good friends who knew the stories but only one very close friend who guarded my secret decisions - self!

I could now afford to miss my peaceful news editor – Nandakumar Varma – who painstakingly necked out of his neck-collar to modify each sentence while his favourite food - ice-cold upma and coffee - got colder by his side.

My puzzled classmates poured the same questions over cold coffee at Dee Pauls - ‘RD you are leaving UNI also!?’ etc. Cold coffees taste amazing in winters too. Similar to eating icecreams in the rain.

It was quick. I knew it was time to get out of UNI. I did not wait for the ‘honeymoon period’ to get over. On my last assignment there, I covered the launch of a new training institute by a new cosmetic brand Biotique. The shop gave me a fat press kit full of goodies that I accepted guiltily for my girl friends. [I like Biotique’s ‘Flame of the forest’ hair oil till date].

My roomies were attentive to my adventures of the day [chickchickyboom chickchikyboom chickchickyboom].

Roomies 322

Brian Adams sang Summer of 69 all winters until someone changed the cassette to Khalid’s Arabic album with Didi o didi o didi number. These were old albums - anything could entertain us in room no 322 @ YWCA. Dancing helped few of us to beat the chill in the non-heated hostel dorm.

A Press Club birdie tells me that the very soft-spoken Varma sir continues to be the news editor at the UNI head office in Parliament Street. Great news! Must visit him someday before either of us are history.

I miss winters in Dilli. [Dubai its high time you took some hints! ;)]

… 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.



Unknown said...

Loved it, loved it, loved it... so true!

Anonymous said...

Good one Archis..loved and enjoyed reading it...

bluvian said...

thank you unknown and anonymous... am so glad you are so glad :)