‘Are you happy?’

Posted: December 16, 2011 in journalism
Tags: , ,

A former colleague, and now a good friend, called in the morning to tell me about a story which he thought I could do, or get done for the newspaper I work with.

His next comment was interesting. “Are you happy?”

If I was, he said, it didn’t show in my blog posts.

I reflected on the past six years since June 2005, when I quit the media and went into PR and Corporate Communications. It was a big mistake, I realised, a few months down the line, but by then the doors had shut in my face. That’s not to say there weren’t offers, but there was nothing that seemed interesting enough to take me back to journalism.

Public Relations and Corporate Communications, as defined by the two mom & pop outfits that I worked for, was nothing but pushing press releases and attempting to get the bosses interviewed by the business press. It’s something that can’t go too far, unless you have something to say – and they didn’t.

I think what really gave me another lease of life was teaching, or just telling people about the way newspapers worked – at least the way I saw it. Listening to kids less than half my age, expressing themselves in a way only they knew (!) was an eye-opener. It also got me reconnected to the media in a way. Now I had to brush up on my knowledge of the subject.

I couldn’t possibly stand up there in front of a class of a hundred plus kids and clear their doubts when I had so many of my own. Sometimes I failed and the students made their displeasure public, but most often, I believed, I did clear the doubts they had. Thankfully, no one ever wanted to discuss the Monroe Doctrine or Mein Kampf! Or else I would have got screwed.

So when I returned to journalism in January this year I was elated. Unfortunately it was an unpleasant experience, and I really wondered whether the field of media had passed me by. Should I go back to PR and salvage that part of my career, is a thought that also occurred to me. Then I decided, if I had to get back to what I really wanted, it had to be now or never. When I joined the newspaper, I was well prepared to take a salary cut in the process. It was better than wasting my life away in something that didn’t interest me. Thankfully my teaching assignments made up a bit of the shortfall.

So on September 19, my first day at work in this newspaper, when I walked in and sat down at my work-station, switched on the PC and logged into the wire service, I felt this huge swell of emotion. My eyes began to sting with tears. I realised I was home. I was back where I belonged. I should never have left. I just sat back and soaked in the feeling. This newspaper was a small cog in the huge wheel that made up the media group and it was competing against some of the giants in the field. But for me it was like the oxygen that makes us live and breathe.

I don’t know how many others have felt this way, when returning to something they had loved and lost! To me these last three months have been a revelation. And then the atmosphere at the workplace has also helped. Editing was always something I enjoyed doing. To go through the copies of the juniors and clean them up has given me the pleasure, I’ve haven’t had in the past six years. It’s a thrill that I am still soaking in. Like a former colleague told me yesterday, when we were on chat, “take what happened in the past as a bad dream that occurred and move on.” I have.

And there’s something else.

I feel that today’s kids, who aim straight for the top as soon as they finish their course, make a mistake. I realise that for the money they spend on their course they only want the biggest name in the business. But what is the biggest may not necessarily turn out to be the best. One or two of the ten may hit the jackpot, but what about the rest? For them it invariably ends in frustration and then a general feeling of having wasted those early years.

In a large organisation, no one has the time for you. I spent five years in Hindustan Times where no one had the time for me. Whatever I learnt I did on my own. And I had to thank my time at the small newspaper for that, which taught me the basics and a lot more about journalism. The feeling I got was that since I worked with the largest selling newspaper in the region, I was expected to know the job, without there being any ‘hand-holding’. Working in a multi-edition newspaper was a huge shock, for someone who never worked in one. That’s where the 13 years I spent, and the guidance from my seniors helped.

Some months ago I addressed a fresh batch of media students. All of them had come there with stars in their eyes, taken in by the glamour of the profession. They all wanted to be Barkha, Rajdeep or Arnab. Then I gave them the ‘real’ picture. I heard later from some of them that I had ‘disillusioned’ them. After hearing me, they were not really sure whether this is what they really wanted to do. But there were those who were ‘inspired’ by what I had said and knew this is where they wanted be. I know of quite a few of my students who have quit the newspaper they worked for, frustrated by the work they are made to do (“This is not what I thought I would be doing after paying a packet these last few years”). Let’s face it, journalism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

But coming back to me, I’ve never been happier. A couple of my past students who met me in the city the other day said I looked much happier “and dapper” (whatever that meant)!

Joe, I hope that answers your question!

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Comments
  1. Glad to have u as our professor, one of the coolest i ve come across…..

  2. Sunayan Bhattacharjee says:

    Simply an outstanding piece! Was such a refreshing experience to read the same. The impact was unbelievable. I have always followed your blog with enthusiasm and I have hardly been disappointed. This time, it was no exception.

  3. Charul Bajaj says:

    Loved the honesty in this blog-post. Rather, now that I’ve read it, I think even I should stick around in this profession despite the occasional frustration. Probably this is as happy as I can ever be.

  4. Gurvinder Singh says:

    Your blog was thought provoking and forces analysis of your readers personal goals and life trajectories. This is commendable.

    On the other hand students have a right to dream big and to chase the rainbow. They cannot accept that their dreams are not realistic. While teachers should not feed their fantasies, I believe as a teacher you are also a dealer in hope.

    God bless you for you are a good person at heart and in your deeds.

    Gurvinder
    gurvinderamp@gmail.com

  5. Vaishnavi Bala says:

    I don’t know how I never got to know about your blog. This is brilliant. Very candid and from the heart.

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