The author of this blog is a 30 year-old Mumbai, India-based journalist. He pens his works of short-fiction here. The write-ups here have nothing to do with his professional work and he doesn't represent the views of his employer. This place is purely personal and fictional.
Five months ago I was working as a senior editorial member at a large media group, responsible for their fixed income and Reserve Bank of India coverage in Mumbai. One winter afternoon, when I rushed into my South Mumbai-based office in one of the two-hundred-year old heritage buildings to file the first take of an important assignment at the central bank, I saw my usually cheerful boss lost in thoughts. I kept quiet till my story was published and then over a cup of coffee asked, what was bothering him? He said he is struggling to find the right kind of people for editorial operations and has little time left (not more than a month). I understood the gravity of the situation, for our newswire, which is at its inflection point fighting two international behemoths in India. Manpower is the biggest strength as well concern. We have to be quick.
I proposed we should try recruiting students from IIMC. My firm primarily recruited freshers from a Mumbai based institute run by a reputed Jesuit society, that has produced giants in journalism, cinema and advertisement world. He agreed to my suggestion purely from the belief that the few IIMCIans who work with him are the best in the industry. But there was another issue, he wanted experienced people as well as those who will be excellent reporters, writers and with analytical skills and passion for journalism. I again proposed that we should take help from the IIMC Alumni Association.
He entrusted me with the job of finding the right talent. I sought help from IIMC Alumni Association. Fellow alumnus Ritesh Verma, Harshendra Verdhan in Delhi and Suryakant Mishra, Krishna Pophale in Mumbai supported the idea and Ritesh posted the recruitment advertisement in the various alumni channels immediately despite his busy schedule.
Within a week I had 220 applications in my mail box, which I carefully sent to the editorial and human resources team. Each one was screened by the editor himself and the HR head. Many were selected for an editorial test followed by an interview. Finally 18 people were selected. Eighteen is a large number if someone understands the current media scenario. Most of them were from IIMC.
The whole operation finished in about a month.
My boss told me that IIMCians are really talented and focussed and he would love to recruit them from campus and this year as I understand they have called people from the current batch in Delhi. I have proposed such activity for Dhenkanal and Amravati branches as well.
I therefore would like extend my sincere gratitude to the alumni association for helping my company in finding the right talent. I want to tell you that young IIMCians have a great opportunity to connect with their seniors on this platform and benefit from the opportunities.
In the CVs I had received, there were many IIMCIans whom I knew-- my batch-mates, seniors, juniors and even freshers.I want to disclose that there were two IIMCIans who were related to me as well. But as we understand in the professional world, the competition and quality is what keeps you going. Both my relatives were not selected-- one was rejected in the written test and other in interview.
The point I want to make is that while IIMC Alumni Association as an umbrella body can help people get contacts, inform about opportunities but it cannot guarantee anything. Even our parents don’t guarantee our professional life unless they are billionaires and own industries.
I would request young alumni members to have faith in themselves and journalism if they really believe this is their call. Because journalism like movie industry is not meant for everyone. There is a bit of luck, competition, talent and relationship management that lands you the big job.
The alumni association will give you the desired strength and right guidance. It will tell what’s happening where. It will also provide you with some exclusive opportunities, but yet there will be competition. So have faith in yourself and the system. If one would understand the reality then one must know that the media scene in India is not at all rosy. Many businesses have shut in the recent past, the ones up are on their toes and the ones that have survived the cascading effects of the Lehman Brothers-triggered-financial crisis of 2008, are not recruiting big time. Yet the supply of fresh graduates is always there, which has painted a dark picture for many journalism aspirants in the recent years.
And I am sure every senior member on this alumni association can tell harrowing stories of their own struggle. Many of us are at very senior positions in different segments of the media industry, yet we have not got it easily. Everyone has struggled, has been humiliated and yet has kept that belief. Even today no one is ever sure about how the economy is going to do. But as true Indians we must have the enormous hope which has helped us to survive as a civilisation, sustain our multicultural society and produce unmatchable philosophy.
We can be the finest of individuals ourselves, but live in a world which resists phenotypes. Too bad when we don’t find enough sensitive people to look at the world’s problems, but too good if we also don’t find monster-like people in abundance. There are good people and there are bad people, there will always be a mix of both at the end of the day we can only get over our own weaknesses and decide for ourselves what we want to become.
It might be foolish but not weak to be honest. It might be hard but not impossible to achieve our dreams. It may not be true man’s world, but truth exists in parts in each of us. In the layers of lies and deceits, we know where the truth resides. It is most important to find the truth and nothing else. Because at the end of everything nothing else matters, but truth in its purest form. It may or may not help to practice truth with everyone, but with self only truth matters. Truth might be ugly, devious and unfathomable. But that’s what we are. A bundle of irrational aspiratons constantly trying to be rational and we end up being confused and behaving what we don’t believe in and on top of that being understood by others in what never wanted to think about us. We are bad communicators despite our clear communication, because all of us are irrational. It is fine if we don’t make it. It’s fine if we fail. Because we don’t know what is right, but we definitely know what truth is. Truth is only thing we know.
Random, strange fiction is what I desire to write the most, but the more I read from the world of books, I find almost nothing is left uncovered, unexplored. There are reams of paper filled by zealous, creative people across the world, though most of the books published are hidden in the corners of dusty libraries without any recognition. This probably is a reason, why despite all the good work, a little marketing is almost always needed for your book to be on the bed, or table of readers, than jostling for space in some non-descript district library. While it will take years for any publisher or marketer to decide on which book will be a bestseller, they surely can decide to make a mediocre scripted submission into a larger than life book, and whether the reader will like it or not, sizeable sales will happen around that event. So you can't decide who is a good or bad writer these days, or couldn't have even years before, because while you admired George Orwell, you never knew, there was someone better who remained unpublished, or unsold? Today when you read a book, you read it because it grabs your eye in the book store, on the online sellers' discount panel or is advertised via news publications. So the act of writing has to be dreamt with the vision of a marketer. It is a necessary truth and trust me all those who succeed in the market today, will become the most admired tomorrow, because people will adopt an idea wholeheartedly, when it trounces everyother competitor and stays larger-than-life forever. Books are as much a part of glamour business as the film and fashion industry do. (I ream = 500 sheets of paper)
In the past decade or so I had lost that passion for Cricket. Though statistically I read a lot and love to discuss cricket at social gathering it never entered into the intimate corners of my heart. I clearly remember those days of waking up early during India-Australia cricket series in early 90s to watch ball-by-ball updates, and then there was this particular world cup match where India lost to Australia and Pakistan own the world cup ultimately.
Then there was this sad dismissal of India world cup semifinal against Sri Lanka in 1996 at Kolkatta. Those were the days of passion. But then it eroded gradually with the infamous match fixing scandal in late 90s and early part of this decade. Sourav Ganguly with his attitude and aggression revived the passion amongst many Indians including me. Premier League and 20-20 brought the love back for cricket but the as a form of entertainment.
In the past decade as a human being my perspective towards life has also changed significantly which means cricket was losing its priority in life.
The only man who has kept cricket alive for this 1.2 billion strong nation for the past two decades is Sachin Tendulkar, who is getting widely known as the God of Cricket.
This world cup offered a different side of India. The day India beat Pakistan or Australia or for that matter even West Indies, it was mostly a psychological win. We have survived almost every match but ultimately have won.
Largely because we always played till the end and as they say you have to be in the game to win it.
This time cricket touched the corners of my heart. It has shook me. It has given me goose bumps. It has made me feel like a fanatic of cricket. I have discovered how easily we melt as a nation of cricket lovers. We understand each others' needs of knowing the score, watching the cricket match, or celebrating after each win.
I live in Mumbai, which is a multi-cultured metropolis, but at heart people are loyal only to two things —-their profession and the sub-urban train lines -– they travel in.
But every night India won. The city had a commonality. East or west side of the sub-urban train line, it didn’t matter. Mumbaiah or Jaunpuria it didn’t matter. Investment banker or panwalla it didn’t matter. Hindi or Marathi, the language didn’t matter. Muslim or Hindu, the religion didn't matter. Cricket is the only religion and it does matter. We are better as a nation of cricket fanatics. Because as cricket fanatics we understand each other. We have only one Team India to pray for, we have only colour (blue) to be loyal with. And we have only one prayer – Indiaaah…Indiaaah – to recite. Note: While the whole Indian win is shadowed by 20-year old Poonam Pandey's going nude challenge. Though it opened the average lecherous Indian man to think of a nude woman and talk loosely about her, we must admit her patriotism and her ability to unite many for the sake of the country. But I wish she doesn't actually go nude and make the World Cup victory a shallow event. God bless her and she deserves more dignity than being just remembered as a stripper. (Photo Courtesy: Poonam Pandey in Cricket gears by Vasant Sawant, Sachin Tendulkar as a child) Trivia: The author of this post has grown a moustache after India's win against Pakistan to meet a prior commitment.
Almost twenty-months ago I met a brave Sardarni who taught me something about honour, I never thought of telling her story till I met her again, today. The event goes back to a July monsoon morning in Mumbai.
Without an umbrella, rain soaked, I was waiting in a long cue, trying to find a taxi to my workplace from the Cotton Green suburban station. Anyone who knows the station must know how difficult it is to find a cab in rainy season.
There were fewer taxis and at a time everyone in the cue got a cab, except me and a tall, fair young woman in pink Patiala trousers and green cotton kurti and well covered under the spread of a white umbrella. After waiting for about 15 minutes in the rain, came a taxi which zipped past me, though I was ahead in the line, and asked for the lady to get in. I, despite my belief in chivalry was furious for a moment but sustained my calm.
The taxi moves for about fifty meters and takes a reverse course and stops next to me. The lady says,” sir if you are going to Lower Parel, then please get in and in case you are going in some other direction then you take this taxi as legally it is yours.” I will wait for another, she added.
I was stunned and couldn’t speak a word immediately. After a momentary pause I said I will join you to Lower Parel. I was soaked in rain and she offered me a clean white hand towel to wipe up, and I gently turn down the offer. But, my sense of gratitude was weighing on me, and was nudging to say thanks.
But I realised a thanks will be obvious, so it is better to ask the reason for her kindness. And I did ask to which she replied with her calm eyes and slow moving lips,”sir I am a Sardarni and I will never let anything corrupt me. The events that happened a while ago was a breach of rules. If I would have let them happen I would have never felt like a Sardarni. Besides I know how painful it is to stand drenched in rain.“
I had no words, except utter respect for her beliefs. She dropped me at my office in Peninsula Corporate Park and headed for hers. I gently thanked her and blessed her from my heart.
Today I met her again while she was feeding kids at the Vashi station. We recognised each other. She still was as bright and graceful. She called out,”sir, hope you remember me,” with an open smile on her lips. I said off course you always remain as a positive thought with me. We spoke a while about why she is here and where do we work and stay. We shared pleasantries and parted our ways.
While walking in the opposite direction I turned back for a while and discovered she was walking unusually slow. After a close watch I discovered one of her legs is Polio stricken. Our eyes met again she gave me a bigger smile and in her convincing eyes probably said,” don’t worry for me I know what is happiness.” She stunned me again, but this time saddened. Yet, I know she will remain as a positive thought with me forever.
We indeed meet wonderful people every day in life, but mostly fail to recognise them.
I was alone and was going through a phase of ideological crisis in life. And it is widely know when you are exhausted in a mega-city battle; the heart craves for small town social ideologies and niceties. Though Utopian they make you feel good about yourself.
I dreamt of equality for everyone, while enjoying the comforts my education brought to me, I cherished the dreams of no slums, good education and income for everyone, while deciding on which income funds to invest in to get maximum returns for funding my early retirement.
I knew I was the paradoxical educated Indian young man that fruits of economic liberalization have produced. Men and women like me have tasted the fruit and in their heart wish to give back, but in a free economy which churns out constant growth and social changes, equality is the last word. It makes everyone wealthy, but the magnitude varies and it never lets you unwind, because the constant asset bubble and inflationary pressure keeps you on tenterhooks.
These thoughts were crossing my mind every day, when something was going to happen in my life.
It was a dark, rainy night in Mumbai. Trains were late. After two hours of drudgery between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, I reached the station of this satellite town, where I live. It was about eleven in the night; I was hungry and feeling a little feverish and had no intention to cook at home.
Hence I went to one of the Udupi inspired south Indian restaurants inside the station compound to have Masla Dosa, Vada-pav and cutting chai. Engrossed in the ideological crisis I was sipping the sambhar soup, when suddenly I discovered a tiny, chubby baby doused in dirt and rain caressing my feet. That sudden moment I felt a rush emotions in my faltering body and picked her up with all compassion. I looked around and found no one claiming the baby.
Not older than two years, this baby was weeping silently and had hunger in her eyes. She wanted the food and I was more than happy to see her having the food. My chest was swelling with motherly affection and everything seemed so superhuman at that moment. Just when all seemed at peace, the trouble began.
A group of restaurant employees came charging and took the baby away from me and threw the Bada-pav from her hands. While I fought with the employees, she licked her hands furiously to have the last trace of food in her tiny fingers. I was angry and frustrated and wanted to see the baby having her food.
But they took her outside the restaurant premises and threw her to a dilapidated young woman who seems to be in her late teens, may be her mother. I ran after them wishing to buy them food and forget the hunger in their eyes. But the woman ran faster with her kid. And soon they slipped into the labyrinth of the nearest slum to the station in the dark of night.
I was exhausted and lost. I looked back at the restaurant with a wish of burning it down. Not possible. I laughed at my naïve citybred socialism. But my heart cried loudly for the helplessness.
I walked three kilometers back to home with utter discomfort; getting drenched and being barked at by dogs on the way seemed a perfect way to punish my discontented heart. I couldn’t sleep and tried to watch ‘The Simpsons’ and 'How I Met Your Mother', expecting to lighten my mood. But that didn’t work.
I read Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ to get into further depression with the lonely, dark and windy moors of English countryside. I listened to the supposedly hilarious and foot tapping number ‘ni woofer tu meri main tera amplifier’, just to get over the sadness, but it also sounded so melancholic this time. The hunger in the child’s eyes haunted me and it still haunts, whenever I eat good food alone in a restaurant.
Two years ago I survived an attack on my life at Leopold Cafe. Within a span of three days I discovered the finest people in my life and an angel. Saw humanity, friendship and hope in action. It changed my whole perspective of life. I realised life is indeed beautiful if you want it to be. There is nothing in your control except your own mind. You can travel in a jam-packed train while immersed in beautiful thoughts or fight with the pushy co-passenger.
You may enjoy the small cutting chai with absolute strangers in the hackneyed by-lanes of Parel and may not like the finest liquor in the unreal atmosphere of an expensive Lower Parel restaurant. It’s all about the state of your mind. Life is kaleidoscopic with beauty lurking at every other corner. You just need to have the time and interest to observe it. Life is not fast as many say. It gives you time to understand yourself and others. It is we who run away from the wisdom and openness for what even we don’t know.
We think we compete with the world, with others. We struggle day and night for little niceties of life. The truth is we miss millions of niceties every other moment by putting ourselves under an undue pressure psychology. We must respect time and the power of the unknown, because we don’t have any control over them. But our mind is our own. Our thought process is our own. Our dreams are our own. People who love us are our own. And there is no perfect day or way to start life in the best way.
The very next moment is the best moment of ours.
After two years of the 26/11 attacks I feel wealthier for I have real friends and I can own millions of little good things in life just by smiling, writing, painting talking and listening to others.
Following is a quote I have always tried to remember after 26/11. “We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets." - Marilyn Monroe
Let's pray for very innocent human being who have lost their lives and every angel who has tried to keep hopes of humanity alive across the world. Amen....
(*PICTURE: I made this acrylic-on-canvas work named "The Sorrow of Mumbai" in September 2009. I want to portray the pain and grief of this mega-city accompanied by tranquility indicating hope and stability. The work was presented to the organisation I was working with and is presently at the Reuters News Room in Mumbai)