Is osama dead? The man looked at me squinting. ‘They do say so,’ I tried to be a good reporter.
‘Says who?’ he retorted back.
Erm … world
Who is world, he snapped back.
The question was innocuous enough, but as a journalist I am not trained to answer simple questions. I fumbled.
US, Pakistan, I mean, they all,’ was my handiplasted definition of world.
India? What is India saying on this?
I tried to dig my reading on the subject. Did India say anything? I vaguely remembered they did.
They welcomed end of terrorism, I guess.
Don’t guess, please. Journalism is not guesswork, he chastised me. I was reminded of my editor. A variation of this is his favourite dialogue.
I tried to remember India’s response. Did we respond?
We are a non-confrontist nation. We believe in peace, I tried to make good of my shortfall in knowledge.
And the only one who is wise, he was quite proud of his Indian-ness.
Why do you say so?
Is osama dead? He repeated.
I don’t know! I had to surrender.
Of course you know! I bet you know! You are a journalist!
Well, yes, I am. But you see, we have different beats, for example I cover …
Yes, you guys are good at covering. You cover up everything possible, he was aghast.
We try to, I muttered. Still, we often fail to cover our ass …
Be that brave to answer a direct question loudly. I am not an elephant to hear low frequency stuff. Just be loud, as you lie loudly daily in your papers.
My apologies, but we do try to write as truthfully as possible.
Yes, sure. Truth and lies are open to interpretation. What is truth to you could be a white lie to your readers.
True, I mean, false, I mean … whatever, I decided to ignore him. He must have noticed it, for he decided to take my case.
I see that you are embarrassed by your action. And you want to avoid any argument with me on this. He was right, Rabindranath Tagore, when he said, Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing. You are convinced, I see.
That was Oscar Wilde, not Rabindranath.
How are you so sure? He told you so? His was a direct question.
I have read it, I am sure. I am a fan of oscar wilde.
Read where? In his book?
No. On humor websites. I am sure they have read the books.
So your information is based on a second-hand source and you believe what a third party writes.
I was losing my patience with him, whatever makes you happy. But I am confident that whoever has said it, it’s not Rabindranath. Otherwise there would be at least two dozens of reference books and ten doctorate degrees by my fellow bongs capitalizing on this, I said, before I tried to concentrate on my book that promised me to be a millionaire in just one-fifth of my life.
I see that you are reading a rotten book, he smirked, millionaires are not fools to share their secrets. Probably the message is how the author became millionaire selling you fools the book.
I didn’t answer. I tried to concentrate on the book but coudn’t. what if he is right?
Sorry, I didn’t buy the book. It came for review and the magazine guys chucked it away. I collected it from there. I didn’t pay a single paise for it.
I obviously hid the fact that I love this author and this is his third book that I am reading. Yes, I bought them all. The first taught me how to be attractive to the opposite sex in seven days. The second taught me how to be a leader in whatever I do. I am going to gift the first one to DT in her birthday and the second to my editor when he goes on for that annual corporate junket of his.
Both should know the rule of the game before I play it in front of them. When I do it now, they give me that look that tells you that somehow they think I am an ass. It is important for them to read the book immediately and know the formulas so that they appreciate my smooth implementation of them.
That is a kind of corruption, isn’t it,” he had that irritating smirk on his face.
Are you corrupt?
Are you honest then?
I would like to think so.
And why should I answer? You are becoming personal.
Do you have any choice? We are both stranded here at the middle of nowhere. We are on the highway and waiting for the bus. I doubt you can ignore me. I doubt your book is that interesting that you can ignore me. Moreover, I doubt you like reading at all.
How do you know I don’t like reading?
Easy. You are a journalist. Journalists don’t read. Journalism is not a profession for a thinking man.
I see that you are good in generalization, I snared at him. That silent him for a while. Just when I thought I had scored over him, he charged back.
At least that is true for you. no thinking man can read those books, let alone buy them.
And you think they are best sellers just like that.
Nope. I didn’t say that. Very few can think. Those who can’t depend on others’ thinking.
And you think you can think?
I think. Yes I do. Osama Bin Laden is a big enigma, that’s why. Lots of questions remain unanswered. Why haven’t they showed the body? why it was disposed off hurriedly in the sea? Why was it that the versions change again and again.
I think they have a logical answer for all your doubts. I think they have said that loud and clear. Too bad you don’t read newspapers.
I do. As Rabindranath said, by giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community. It is an entertainment. But seriously, give me a reason why I should read what morons have to say and dimwits have to write?
Again, that is not Rabindranath.
I know. It could be your Wilde, it could be Shakespeare, it could be anyone.
Then why do you attribute any damn thing to Rabindranath?
It saves me a lot of trouble.
Isn’t that corruption? Are you not corrupt? You deserve corrupt media. Why cry foul?
So you are corrupt, you acknowledge.
We all bloody damn are corrupt. Readers are corrupt, promoters are corrupt, journalists ought to be corrupt.
Tell me more. What is your corruption?
Corruption of thought, corruption of action. Corruption of becoming an ass-licker of high and mighty. Corruption of taking sides. Corruption of taking pride in breaking a story where you know only the first sentence is half-true and rest are all conjectures. Corruption of taking the profession of change as just a job.
No. not money. Not yet. I don’t know what happens in the top level. But I believe it is not.
I see that you are wearing a swiss watch.
Yes, I am. I saved for it. There is no harm if you indulge in finer things in life. It’s your one life, and you have a right to be happy.
Yes you have.
Since when you are a journalist?
Are you happy?
Are you tired?
Tired of happiness or happy of tiredness?
That’s a cryptic one.
If you are happy, how can you be tired?
I am happy that I am a journalist. I am happy with the glamour, social ranking and so called opinion-maker, if not a reformer, feeling. I am tired that all those feelings are actually false. I am burnt out.
Don’t you think you should leave it then and give chance to someone else who could have fresh ideologies and real zeal for the profession? I am sure you have other opportunities that conform well with your present state of decayed ideologies.
I can’t. I will not. That is another kind of corruption. It is a hard, winding way that I have come up through. The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep.
Ah! Another gem from Rabindranath Tagore.
Sorry to say, it is not of Rabi Thakur either.
Of course it is.
I don’t want to argue with you.
Don’t. Just tell me where you the same when you came to this profession?
No. No. No. I was 23, I loved to write. I wanted to change the world through my writing. Of course I had no idea how could I achieve that. But I used to hate my father for a small corruption on his part, for example, making fake bills for his medical claim just to get a small tax rebate. I was idealistic, yes I was. A fresh, pure young man, brimming with ideas and ideals. I am ashamed to say, I used to read good literatures too. Russian writes, Dickens, Shakespeare, Tagore … I was a voracious reader.
Why don’t you die then?
Sorry? I pressed my eyebrows hard. I was damn irritated.
You should die. You admit you don’t have a critical mind, you admit your mind is corrupt. You agree you believe in what the high and mighty tell you. You agree, you are a decaying corpse who have nothing but maggots to offer to the society, to benefit some opportunist crows.
“Die,” came his fleeting voice across the vast dry arid land spanning to a vast expanse on the two sides of the straight highway that was sparkling at points at a distance. Illusions of fumes were rising from it as if it was angry of this aimless journey.
I turned around to punch him on his face. I was angry too.
But he had vanished.
My bus was coming at a maddening speed, the road was empty and it was high noon. The next stop is still some hour away from here.