I am sorry for myself.
Journalism is taking away too much of my time. It discomforts me a great deal when I think about it. But the joy of this profession is that there is no accumulation of profit. You get your due then and there. If you are in a newspaper, you get your reward the next morning.
The fun ends there though.
Next day is a new day, a new challenge, a new tension about what you will write now? Today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s wastepaper for the readers. For reporters, today’s newspaper is the filthiest of waste paper. When you were writing the article, you were busy, bosses were happy. Now you are done. Now you are story-less, worse than being penny-less in the world.
But still, you somehow pull yourself to dig a new hole to taste water. Over a period of time, it can become addictive, I guess. Of course, over a period of time, you get to know for sure if you fit the bill or not. Either you get excited or the profession will throw you out. You cannot sustain in journalism if you don’t have passion for it. No fooling business here.
Babes and blokes with those shiny eyes dreaming of becoming pseudo-famous, a word or two for caution – this profession is not glamorous.
Anyway, instead of trying to become the role model in journalism, I better cough it clean. I have conceded defeat. I am a failure in my pursuit.
When we were kids, my father’s favourite word of advice was “dream for the stars, and you shall reach the moon.” How true he was. I always dreamt of becoming a writer. Always. Ever since I was a child, I had this fascination for writers. When I was in college and university I used to roam around College Street, the Mecca of Calcutta’s book loving crowd, just in case I catch a glimpse of a writer! I frequented coffee house, secretly planning to catch hold of a writer and be his apprentice. That never happened. Nobody thought me fit for an apprenticeship. Nevertheless, I made some good friends in some “let us pool and publish” magazines and managed to print some of my juvenile short stories. I started behaving as a writer, as in, intentionally forgetting things and pretending to hear people calling me after a time lag of five seconds.
But then, it tired me, the acting part. I realised I have a long way to go.
I didn’t want to become a journalist. It happened. How it happened is an interesting story for which the aforementioned magazines play a role, but that I reserve to tell you some other day. Nevertheless, I became a journalist. I dreamt for the star, I reached the moon. My father’s wisdom came handy.
Now I cover treasury, the most uninspiring thing for you. And banks, including the central bank of the country, bit interesting, if you chose to take interest in financial systems. But then, my journalism starts and ends there.
People ask me about stock tips. Since I am a ‘financial journalist’. I am supposed to know everything about the market and my recommendations should make the person rich in just a fortnight. When I try to reason that my ‘expertise’ lies in bonds where the minimum lot of trading is Rs50 million, people refuse to believe that I don’t know anything about equity. I am a journalist, I am supposed to know everything under the sun.
Worst, people ask me what is my assessment about the upcoming election. Who is most likely to form the government? What would be the equation like? When I explain that I am a business reporter, they come back to the stock tip. When I tell them, with all my feigned humbleness, that I cover bonds and I have a workable knowledge on bond market, people think I am trying to be modest, or I don’t trust them, or I am a true ‘professional’ – not to divulge secrets. The worst comes when some of them give me a scornful look. It translates into roughly something like this, “If you are a journalist, I must be King Arthur” and “what the fuck you are doing in journalism if you don’t know anything?”
I wither in front of those suspicious looks. I can’t help but to look for cover.
Nevertheless, in my personal space, I am happy with what journalism has so far offered me. People who matter in my field know my name. I get mails (fan-mails? Hate-mails too!) from the readers. My parents feel proud to see my name in printed words. I get to meet the celebrities and heavyweights you see on television and newspapers everyday.
And I get the chance to wonder at their ordinariness.
The ghost of a writer just left me a couple of months ago. Till then, I was torn between my career and my dream. It did no good. Neither I wrote substantial anything, nor I concentrated at my job in hand because I thought this is not my world. It’s almost like betraying the wife for the mistress.
But my neglected profession, as if just to lure me into her arms, is giving me rich rewards. That day I wrote a column. Actually not. I contributed in a daily column in the absence of our consulting editor. He didn’t write that day and instead told me to fill his space. That doesn’t make me a columnist. But yes, it IS writing a column for sure. An unthinkable honour for a junior reporter. You don’t write a column unless you are an expert in it. I am just learning about the bond market, yet, I wrote a column on it.
I was excited.
I called up my mother, “Maa, I am writing a column today.”
“What? You are not writing about banks anymore? Your bosses are angry with you,” she was tensed.
I had no choice but to tell my simple mother that things are fine here in office. But I didn’t try to explain her about the significance of a column.
I called my father, “Baba, I am writing a column.”
I wanted a word of encouragement from someone. I wrote that old man in England a mail. As expected, there was nothing but encouragements. I knew this. He is predictable. He doesn’t believe in hurting people with his words. May be because he is a refined Englishman, may be because he is a genuine good man. May be because he thinks I am too sensitive and not capable of handling his criticism. But I knew his response, it didn’t encourage me at all. He is predictable in his mails to me.
I am staying alone these days. I missed my friend I wanted to call him and share this piece of news with him. I knew he would be happy, genuinely happy for me. I knew that. He always celebrated my happiness and shared my pain.
But he has hurt me somehow, I don’t know how. I didn’t call him. I won’t share my joys and sorrows with him anymore.
I called my former boss, who also happens to be my good friend, in the pretext of enquiring about a friend’s job application. I broke the news casually, he was excited. I felt happy. Really happy, but feigned to be “it’s normal. I am not a columnist really. It’s just stop gap.” But I was happy.
I wanted to call this guy who I consider my elder brother, who shielded me from all the workplace turbulences throughout my career with him. But he had left Mumbai two days back and I was not sure if I should disturb him with my ‘trivial’ news. Anyway, we are in the same organisation and he will see my name in the paper.
I called up this coolest guy in the world. A man I consider the kindest yet the most brutal in the world, the most moody and the most magnificent. I wanted to talk to him and after sometime I wanted to break the news. Because I believe in his emotions. If he congratulates me, I know it would be no formalities. But he has discarded me from his life I guess. He seemed not interested in talking to me. I knew he was brutal.
“Say something. Why are you answering in monosyllables,” I said. Thinking shall I break the news now? My personal feat?
“I have nothing to say actually,” was his cold answer. I bade him good bye.
True. I have nothing to say too.
Finally, I broke the news to my spiritual guru. We were having beer. He was elated. It was genuine. Suddenly the world seemed all draped in colour. Suddenly it seemed, I have achieved something big. The sparkle on his eyes told me I am happy seeing somebody happy for me.
Suddenly I wished my parents and sister and brother were here. That predictable old man was here. My friend and former flatmate was here with me. I wanted to have my former boss and the meanest and coolest guy at my room with me.
I wished they would demand a party. I wished I would be beaten up for refusing to give a party.
I swear I would have emptied my bank balance if they would have asked for a party.
Yet nobody asked for it.