Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ahmedabad blues!

Despite absence of much excitement during my days at the business newspaper in Ahmedabad, some moments were very eventful. Everything was so new for me. The city, the roads, the culture, alien faces and sleeping on a sofa in a two BHK flat on second floor of an apartment.

A person, who had never slept before watching television for nearly two decades, had to close his eyes listening to FM Radio. I just couldn’t sleep properly for first few days. But, things started improving when I started finding good stories and developed confidence that I can deliver.

My first few visits to some banks and companies were completely unproductive as I couldn’t extract any information worth writing. However, my single visit to Gujarat Industrial Development Board (GIDB), one fine day, was enough to boost my morale. I got an exciting story on a public transport project that was to be implemented in Ahmedabad. The project was in planning stage and I got the privilege to break the story.

There was a disadvantage though that the newspaper I worked for didn’t have any Gujarat edition. So, my stories were read in Mumbai and Delhi…

The first good story, which I thought was worthy enough, was on co-operative banks sector. I worked on a story related to Madhavpura Bank that had gone bust. The Centre had decided to infuse hundreds of crores of rupees in this and other co-operative banks to revive it. I had hard time getting information as no one was ready to divulge any detail. But, I persisted and got good results in the end. The story was published and my boss, who seldom appreciated our work, smiled at me and said ‘Good Work’.

It was so nice listening such words from a person who rarely said encouraging things. Boss even gave me free passes for a Bollywood movie whose premiere was to be screened in Ahmedabad. I was on the moon that day.

But, as luck would have it, there was a huge showdown between the journalists and event managers of the premiere show in a five-star hotel and our community decided to boycott the screening. I was so upset, but couldn’t do anything except return home and listen to the same stupid FM songs. But, after that day I started delivering stories on commodities market, co-operative sector and infrastructure.

However, the evening torture of almost half-an-hour every day continued. Our boss never left a single opportunity to blast us and even swear at us sometimes. Whenever I used to visit boss’s cabin I used to feel like a soldier who marches towards battlefield with very few hopes of returning back!

Amidst all these rush however, there was one place that used to serve as a stress-buster for me. A tea-kitli opposite, well, world-famous management institute IIM-Ahmedabad! What better place to munch on bread and samosas than this kitli.

Sitting on that small iron boxes by roadside and surrounded by some intellectual management students was something that gave me a high. A maska-bun loaded with butter and a cup of hot tea was my daily breakfast for months together. There was hardly any day when I didn’t visit that place.

But, is there any better than your home? At least not for me. I missed my home and homemade food terribly. The horrible kind of food dished out by some restaurants in Bodakdev area made me miss homemade roti and subzi all the more… And, who would forget those exciting Fridays. When I used to pack my small bag and head for Baroda. My city… Small and beautiful.

The 8.30 pm Lokshakti Express used to take me to my city by about midnight and the next day – Saturday – used to be completely mine. Lots of ‘lazy lamhe’ and talkative evenings with friends. I am in love with Saturdays since then and it continues till this day when I am in Times of India.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Topsy Turvy Days...

After going through a horrendous experience during my first job in a newspaper, I was very sceptical about taking up another job in journalism. Several thoughts crossed my mind including the one to change my field. Corporate Communications was on the top of my mind after journalism and I started thinking strongly on that line.

But, may be there was something within me which stopped me from joining the corporate world. An unseen force pushed me again towards journalism and I applied for an English newspaper that was yet to be launched. The newspaper was to be launched by a leading Gujarati newspaper and I was offered the post of news correspondent in Ahmedabad.

I was glad, but bit hesitant as the memories of my first job were still fresh in my mind. But, I shored up all the courage and went ahead, only to face yet another disappointment. A senior media person informed me that the newspaper I was supposed to join wouldn’t get launched as the plans have been shelved! Yet another setback and more confusion.

Why is God doing this to me? What have I done wrong? Shall I quit journalism and pick up a nice, cushy job in some company? And, if this was not enough, some faculty people hurled taunts at me instead of being helpful. They always thought that I wasn’t talented enough and couldn’t make a good career in journalism. And why? Just because I couldn’t score well in the stupid subjects with the most outdated curriculum they taught. As if I cared to score!

But, I never paid attention to them. I took up a part-time job in an NGO that used to work for differently-able children. I used to write for their magazines and brochures. Though the job wasn’t exciting, I continued with it as I learnt a lot about how NGOs work. How they manage funds and what is the real face of those urbane middle-aged ladies who run such NGOs!

Despite two setbacks, I continued looking for some opening in journalism which finally came my way in the winter of 2004. I joined a business newspaper in Ahmedabad with a decent salary. Phew! It was a topsy-turvy ride for a rookie like me. And, here I faced another fiery boss who loved to shout at me and my colleague every other evening.

God! What is this? Have you decided to make me work under such hot-headed journos for whom ‘humanity’ is an alien word, I questioned the Almighty. Me and my colleague used to face her blazing eyes and furious words everyday. Whenever we asked for some help, our boss used to say ‘You should create your own contacts as you are journos.’

Wow! I was in an alien city with hardly any friends around. Didn’t know where to look for stories until, one fine day I drove to Gandhinagar, our state’s capital. It proved to be heaven for me. Having number of government and ministers’ offices including the state assembly, the small and sleepy town was loaded with stories.

I started driving down the clean and green road from Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar dotted with few high-rises and shopping malls. It was a 30-kilometre drive, but very pleasant and refreshing. I also made few friends at the Udhyog Bhavan including a special one at Gujarat Industrial Development Board (GIDB). Also, I attended few sessions in the assembly wherein I saw how our elected representatives actually function.

The centrally air-conditioned assembly hall had a separate section for journalists. And, the best facility that this government building provided was of tea and nashta. If you don’t find a journo in press box during assembly, then he surely must be sipping tea in the canteen.

I never returned disappointed from Gandhinagar, which was a special place for me for some other reason too. It was exciting work but the ‘boss factor’ was dancing like devil on my mind. I wasn’t learning anything from my workplace. I spent few months at the newspaper before getting break in another national newspaper The Asian Age. Finally, I had latched on to the tag of a JOURNALIST!

Monday, October 20, 2008

My First Tryst with Journalism

It was my first job and I was full of apprehensions. Will I be able to deliver? What if my boss doesn’t like my work? Can I write a good copy or would I turn out to be a lousy writer? An army of questions surrounded me and I surrendered just like an inexperienced and unarmed soldier. The day finally came…

I was afraid, but bit confident. And my first assignment was to look for some good story! I didn’t know what to do and whom to ask. I was working in Baroda as a stringer for a newspaper. I was expecting that my boss would give me some ideas and ask me to work on them. But, all he said was ‘give me some good ideas’.

I was baffled. But, later decided to ask some friends for some ideas. They did suggest few things but not impressive enough. I was praying profusely and, then there was a divine intervention. A telecom company had organised a press conference and I got invitation for it. Here is my story… I attended the conference and gave two stories on the second day of work. I moved around with my head held high and collars bit upped as if I had conquered Everest. That day I was reassured that GOD does exist.

But, who knew that what was lying ahead for me. Within few days, my boss started shouting, yelling and what not at me. He wouldn’t explain me anything about digging stories or writing them. Instead, he expected me to deliver good stories everyday. As if, I was some experienced journo. I was bit depressed and bewildered. A senior media person (not a journo) helped me a lot during those days.

A day came when I wasn’t able to contact mayor for story. My boss needed a quote of him, but the mayor was in Delhi for some official work. I couldn’t contact him and explained it to boss. But, he simply shouted at me and said that I am useless. That was a shock for me. I always thought that media world is friendly and enough time is given to a green horse like me.

But, he never understood it and kept yelling at me everyday. Gradually, I started growing nervy and the morning sun literally gave me jitters! What story would I give today? What if my boss doesn’t like it? Would he shout at me or suggest some story? But, the soothing words never came from his side.

Finally, two months within joining the newspaper, I decided to quit. I was confused as I didn’t have any offer on hand. So I took few days to decide and wrote a mail to him. It was my resignation letter. I never thought that I would face all this in my first job. But, as luck would have it, I walked out. That was my first tryst with Journalism – the field I was so excited to join…