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Thursday, 4 October 2012

13 Until I die! [Chapter 7: Hop, Skip and a Jump]

The turn of the century saw venture capitalists in the country and the resultant dot com boom. Electronic media was hiring ‘new blood’ because experienced journos were asking too many questions. Journalists unanimously hated this new change - swiping into newsrooms. And despised corporate arm twisting or IT-enabled human resource interference that recorded man hours etc. Newsroom corridors echoed - ‘Now they are gona keep track of our chai and sutta (tea and cigarette) breaks too.’ Press Club’s bar tender sold extra drinks while everyone else cursed in chorus - ‘this IT revolution won’t work for creative man-power’.

A picture from an old album of friends - YMCA's journalism classmates. To my left is Basharat Peer - though born few years apart we share the same birthday on December 16. He is a successful author today. To my right are Paromita Ghosh and Tessy Koshy, we used to hangout together at the canteen after work and before class. Am not in touch with anyone in this picture except for Tessy for a while after she moved to the UAE.
Unlike many experienced print-journos those days I had fewer questions to ask the hiring dotcoms. A hostel mate tipped off a vacancy and I joined’s small team in 2002. The website nourished a host of other websites including Yahoo! and with news/features feeds. The company was led by Rajesh Kalra, a seasoned print journalist. He is one man with so much energy - you can draw as much power required to probably light the whole of Gurgaon by just staying around him. His fav line - aho dasso [come and sit, in Punjabi].

I stayed on with narad for an year drawing the positive power and conducting live chats - first of its kind then - with everyone who made headlines. The process helped me learn finer tips to have a good conversation going. I also started following interviews and chat shows/talk shows on TV. And this habit has stayed on.

And then afaqs! happened when it was just the right time to move on from moderating live chats. Afaqs! (‘First Indian portal on Advertising and Marketing’) put me right on the pulse of ‘what moved the buck’ in the media business. Here I was mostly watching TVCs (television commercials)... reviewing or rewriting story boards, collecting public opinion and updating content on the home page. I learnt almost everything about a new monster – the back end of a huge website. Swati Roy, my then boss, an expert method finder to any madness, proved that one could do salsa even while clad a crisp-cotton-saree. Ok - that was metaphoric. By salsa, I mean dance through any issue. She also proved that a lady boss can be a good friend.

An year at afaqs! was good. Soon a competitor [Exchange4Media] offered a similar job. The job interview was barely one. They were just crosschecking back end facts of afaqs! I wasn’t sure if they wanted anything else from me. Of course, I did not work with them. By now I started loving interviews – it was an opportunity to meet new people whether or not the job came through.

Aimless wandering through Cannought Place (CP) had me walk in to an old colleague who saw dot coms bursting soon and suggested that I should rather look at TV as that was the next best place. A newspaper ad caught my attention. 'We are looking for young journalists who can create public awareness campaigns and interesting audio-visual stories for the masses. If you think you have it in you, call us.' I called.

I was called back for a written test.

I met Deenanath Mishra [a dhoti-clad, pan-chomping senior political commentator, and member of Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani's inner circle]. He liked my written test. The write up was my take on realty in New Delhi – an old report written for UNI [but never published]. I was offered a Creative Concept Writer’s job at Everlasting Media Pvt Limited, its office was in a posh commercial tower in the heart of the capital.

Mishraji was interested in everything that could enable ‘mass communication’ before the next elections.

[And RD now stood for Research & Development!]

... 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.


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