Posts Tagged ‘Life’

‘Are you happy?’

Posted: December 16, 2011 in journalism
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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!


Life does come a full circle!

Posted: September 21, 2011 in journalism
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It’s been a while since I posted last. Since then so many things have happened.

I’ve helped a young lady jump from obscurity to fame/notoriety to near obscurity. I did my two cents worth by posting her link on my Facebook page and let things take their course.

Sorry for showing off, but I did play a hand, albeit a very small one in the young lady’s brief encounter with fame. I guess she also realises that one rant can get her to the top, but the problem is staying there – if she really wants to, that is.

But credit’s due to this young lady. She did in less than a week what I, and I’m sure a million others like me, have been struggling to achieve in two years – and are still nowhere remotely close!

Oh, yes, I also changed jobs. Quit my ‘fancy’ job at the two auto magazines and chose to return to a newspaper, which in its former avatar was the entity from where I started my journalism career –  only now it’s called something else and has new owners.

The nice thing is that it has some  familiar faces and is a much more modern version of the one I left 13 years ago. But it is NOT,  a remnant of the old one in any way.

‘Why am I joining a ‘small’ newspaper’ is what someone asked me. Well, I worked in some ‘big’ places with fancy reputations – both in media and software – and, frankly, considering their formidable reputations, their working left a lot to be desired.

And then, I was missing out on teaching at various places, due to the time constraints in my magazine job. That’s not an issue anymore. Now, it’s really up to me to decide if I want to.

There is something more  happening on the domestic front. But let’s wait for the ink to be put to paper before we celebrate! Touch wood and fingers crossed.

Don’t take life so seriously…

Posted: September 27, 2010 in blogging
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My favourite quote is “Don’t take life so seriously, no one gets out alive.” I’ve lived by those rules all these years and now as (according to some of my young friends) I am heading into the sunset, I am hardly going to change that view. I hope my students follow that dictum when they are my age and wherever they are! They will be amazed at how far they can go in life with a smile on their face.

But it’s amazing how much manure grows between the ears of some people. They could fertilise their backyard with it. A few days back I was asked by a student whether the news of my resignation was true. Well, if my resignation had been ‘seen’ by a student lying on the institute director’s table, it had to be true. Only I had no clue!

When I found out from where this bit of information emanated, I confronted the person. This kid told another that he had heard me telling someone that I had been offered the post of editorial consultant for an English magazine. He assumed that since I had been “offered” this post I would naturally be quitting. I don’t know, from where he got this bit of inspired thinking. He passed on this “information” to someone else. I don’t blame him, because he probably thought he had got a “scoop”! But this is the point from where 2+2 became 22! From here on, my offer letter became a resignation letter which had already found its way to the boss’s table. Of course, neither the employee nor the boss had a clue!

So by the time I got to hear about it, I was, according to some people, on the verge of bidding goodbye to the institute! It’s surprising how much time people have on their hands in the midst of assignments, projects and the impending semester-end examinations! I wish they took as much interest in what they had come here to do, instead of whining on about this and that, everyday. That at the end of this farce, I still have my wits around me and can still laugh about it, has a lot to do with my favourite quote. The thing is I get mad too, and I don’t forget, but unlike some people I know, I don’t let it affect me.

Like today, as I was dropping my wife off at her place of work I saw something that made me laugh. We were at a traffic intersection just before 9 am, when the traffic lights hadn’t started functioning. One car just about grazed past another. Both cars stopped in the middle of the intersection. The drivers kept staring at each other, neither wanting to budge, even as horns blared all round us. We too were trying to weave our way around the mess. Suddenly both aggrieved drivers shot out of their respective cars and began slapping each other.

It was the most absurd scenario, because nothing had happened to either car. Suddenly a cop materialised out of somewhere and began to placate the two idiots. Instead, he should have done to the two guys what they were doing to each other. It would have brought the problem to an abrupt, albeit painful end. Since I was getting delayed, I didn’t wait to see whether he did or not. It was only after I dropped off my wife, did I think back on the incident and start laughing.

Take even me for instance. I am a punctuality freak. I hate going late anywhere – unless I am in an accident. I once reached a big fat Punjabi wedding, at 7.30 p.m. because the card stated that. The wedding party, however, landed up at 11 p.m.! I was hopping mad at being made to wait. Then my wife told me “Why get mad at them? Always reach an hour or so late for such events.”

A few years earlier, I also reached the Poona Club at 7. 30 p.m. for a wedding reception slated for 8.00 p.m. The bride reached over an hour late. This time I had reason to complain. I was the groom.