Sunday, July 1, 2007

What's with the double profile anyway?


I almost collided with Rahul as I took three steps at a time.

I was unbelievably late for an assignment, my slippers have been in their death beds for last two weeks and are probably breathing their last right now and the last thing I needed was an idle chit chat with the friendly neighbourhood bore.

"Office jaa rahi ho?" he asked.
Ah the lure of sarcasm.... how it calls. but this morning I decided not to be my usual obnoxious self and give kindness a try. "Ya. And running awfully late." Loaded with hints.

"Did you see how West Indies beat India to a pulp yesterday?" Don't do this to me.
"You journalists always in hurry to go places no? No time for gossip?" Summoning what I hoped was my sweetest smile I told Rahul that indeed I was in a hurry now as I am normally not the one to pass on the chance to gossip.

The Varmas' dog treated the curb as its personal lavatory and I almost fell trying to sidestep a pile of dog crap. Ughh. Combining what i perceived was an all-time record for marathon, I hopped onto a passing autorickshaw. The driver with a keen sixth sense born out of tireless practice on Delhi roads perceived my predicament and charged me 20 bucks more than the normal rate.

"I was waiting for you. Perpetually late," declared Ashu from the Times of India. Thank god the press conference had not started yet. I nodded to my photographer who was frowning at the hall lighting and settled my tired feet on the chair in front of me.

I had a thing for Ashu when I worked with the Statesman. But that along with hobbies like bonsai and cutting out Laxman's common man cartoon strips from newspapers fizzled out with time.

The NGO droned on and on for two hours on their initiative in promoting safe sex and I began to panic. I had to be in office in time for my desk shift. Most newspapers and agencies have begun this new portfolio of a reporter-cum-sub-editor. It's neither here not there since you have to give time for both and get paid pretty much for one. My chief reporter brings the roof down for any stories I miss, which I do quite often I am ashamed to say, and threaten with dire consequences if I don't pull up my socks.

My News Editor on the other hand is at his sarcastic best when he points out the 16 mistakes (he actually counts!) I made in editing a copy a stringer sent from Hissar, during my desk shift.
In the tug of war lies the hope that someday i shall be taken off the desk and given full fledged reporting. And as I turn wherever the carrot turns, the financial adviser of the company is tickled pink at the money he is saving for agency.

"By what time will you release the story? I won't bother filing it then, just pick up the agency copy," Ashu said as a parting shot and a roguish grin.

Once back at office and having file the story I sat back with a cup of the dubious brew which the canteen insists is coffee when boss came running out his cabin. "Whenever I see you, you are either stuffing your face or lazing around. Quick, run a news flash."

My "Sir, thats so unfair" got buried under his impatience as I typed out the News Alert about a bomb blast in a Varanasi temple.

I am sorry to say that I'm totally de-sensitized to human suffering by now and all I care about is the damn leads that will start coming from the Lucknow bureau in half an hour, side stories, security situation all over the country, home minister's visit to Varanasi. Getaway looks slim.
Sigh... It promises to be another long day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Of first rains and subsequent 'first rain story'

It rained last night. I emphasize because I cannot put words to the feeling of liberation and sheer unadulterated joy when the gale kicked up the dust and scattered my floor with twigs and a lone yellow leaf.

Soon there was a fine coating of dust on everything... the dvd player, the top of the fridge and mostly my bed and pillow placed strategically close to the balcony to steal as much of the stray breeze i can.

By the time I ran out to gather a handful of dry clothes from the clothesline, the wind whipped the telephone wires, spiralled down the narrow rain pipes and somehow caught me standing in the balcony like a blooming idiot with a grin permanantly plastered on my face.

so it did what i expected (and yes, hoped a little) it to do. in one whisk it yanked the band from my hair and before i could shift the weight of clothes to the other hand, flew it away to the next terrace.

The process of first rains of the season is like giving yourself to your lover for the very first time. He teases, he torments and he holds back. You are scared that it will happen and yet you are scared that it might not...

As I rode the wind last night, the chill setting in my skin, finding my pores and giving me goosebumps I let the gale play with me a little... till the temperature dropped, till the smell of dry earth seeped my room with the smell of cloves and then i rode the rains... the first wet drops and the torrential impregnable fortress thereafter.

Perhaps I slept with a smile still lingering on my lips... because I certainly carried it to the office this morning!

"Aiye madam. Come grab a seat. And then maybe we can discuss why you are almost an hour late?" I could feel the frown coming up, sighed and tried to gauge the mood of my Boss.

"Bloody rains. No cab. Mile long traffic jam. No electricity." The tirade continued while i wondered whether I should just ease out of the room while he rants and raves.

"Who will do the Rain Story?" So much for easing out.

What followed was a string of phone calls to the Met department. I was wrong, the wind in my balcony was not carrying me the message of my lover over seven seas in the season's first rains. It was merely a trough over the Bay of Bengal and is likely to cause more intermittent showers in southern India and east coast in the next 24 hours. We'll get some in Delhi if we are lucky, the Met office told me.

The Met director is a dear old man who, having given so many wrong forecasts, and some right ones which newspapers refused to highlight, have come to the conclusion that life isn't what its cracked up to be.

And that journalists are "bloody buggers" who are constantly pestering and ridiculing him in their "fancy phone-ins in front of their fancy OBVs" and silly columns. "Arrey baba, am I Red Indian tribe that I'll watch the ant-line and give rain forecast? Am I god that I'll pull my puppet strings and pour showers over north India?" he frets to me. Quite true.

Having dissected the first showers such and peppered my copy with a genuine quote from the fruit vendor in front of our office (he is the source of most of the quotes that go into our Inflation, Earthquake, Rain, Traffic, Adulteration, Pesticides in Coke and a wide range of other copies) and a fake one from one "Ankit Sharma, student of Delhi University", my Rain Story was ready.


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