I don’t write here much about the profession, though I have named the blog ‘Lost Journalist’. Think I will narrate a couple of scenarios that says the unpleasant side of being a journo.
1. Annoying people: this is not intentional, but it seems to happen sometimes. Especially when you need to get comments for, well, ‘unpopular’ events. Say, like calling a music director accused of plagiarism to ask his comments… or any individual to take his stand on a controversial piece of news. The incident I am going to narrate however has none of these elements. It was a house to be featured in the paper and when I called the owner for his comments I used his first name. I soon get a message: “Would like a little more respect when u call. We are not on first name terms. Always add a Mr. when u refer me. Call now.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond to this. When I first joined as a newspaper reporter, I took to calling everyone ‘Sir’ or ’Madam’ cause you never know what they expect. But somehow, with time, this habit faded away. Everyone was calling everyone else by first names. When it was someone senior, we still used Sir. This particular owner, being a young corporate person, I didn’t think much before the controversial first name addressing. Moreover, he was introduced by a friend, as a friend. But I don’t wish to justify. People are different, they have different ideas about respect. And I totally accept his argument. I replied ‘Sorry Mr. (name), seems the corporate culture has spoiled us all. Will spare you from commenting on the house. Thanks.”
Another time was when I called a theatre owner to ask about movie changes. He seemed quite annoyed. “Who gave you my number! Call the theatre!” He kept saying this a few times to make sure I got the message. I did. Whew! Who knew a theatre owner could be so sensitive about naming the movies in his theatre!
2. Wrong news: oh this happens a lot. Knowingly or unknowingly. Some take it well with their ‘it happens’ and ‘we all do it’s. Some of course become very upset and that’s when a journo comes across that most feared three letter word: Sue. I have lost friends from giving wrong last names, for using photos they didn’t approve of, and won stranger enemies swearing to sue me. I took to offering the idea myself after a few bad episodes. Once a photographer was upset we didn’t give him credit after using his photo and I suggested suing me. Nailbitingly I calculated the thousands he’d ask for. Fortunately they all had a heart somewhere and let me off the hook. Well, so far. Any day now I expect to see the insides of the gates from where we buy our chapathis and curries for lunch: the Poojappura central prison. Well if we get the same lunch inside, maybe it won’t be so bad.
I did not enjoy watching Skyfall. Not cause the movie was any bad, it was lovely. And for an uninitiated Bond person like me it was all too good. But the boy-gang that sat next to us was unbearable. The sound system was already bad, and I was straining to follow what was said. Then there goes Mr. Hooter whistling and hooting for no apparent reason. He also took it upon himself to pass a running commentary in Malayalam, loud and clear for the whole hall to hear. He then started making farting sounds! My friend tried to talk to him but I insisted on changing seats. I know it is not what you should do, kicking yourself out instead of the trouble. But I didn’t want to talk, have more revengeful hoots and ruin the rest of what I heard was one lovely movie. After the change of seats forgot all about them. They were too far away. But why, why, why do these people come to the cinema? What earthly pleasure do they get out of spoiling a good film experience for a whole bunch of people? I have decided to invent a hooter-checker, that would scan a person before issuing ticket, and if found guilty of menacing hooting history, deny entry.
I have been thinking about writing this for a while now, about two women I met. Selfishness is such a common trait that we sort of take it for granted, we don’t expect anything good from anyone – at least not when we first meet them. So I was so happily surprised when these two women I barely knew went out of their way to help me. It is not from huge disasters, but everyday situations – where help is neither expected nor appreciated.
The first instance was when I went to Padmanabhapuram Palace for a story. There I met Rajashree, my guide for the day. From the moment I was introduced to her till two hours later – way past her lunch time, she’s been nothing but a cheerful happy helper. Explaining everything, twice when I ask, not an inch of the everyday impatience you are used to, on her face. It was in fact I who ended our palace tour when she was keen to show more. She wouldn’t take any ‘tokens of thanks’ from me. I am just doing my job she said and bade me farewell.
Another instance is again work related. There is an architect – Trupthi – I call every time I need help filling our ‘house’ page in the paper. I once called her as usual somewhere around 3:30pm. She answered the call sleepily, and asked me if I could call after 7pm. She called me after 7 and gave me the contacts I needed and told me again that I could call her either early morning or in the evening in future. I was a little confused by this when she said she is in the US now. So I must have called her at 3am in the middle of her sleep. This did not annoy her, and she was only happy to call me first thing in the morning with help. Am not a friend, just a pest of a reporter she has not even met! In her place, I would have not only not answered the phone but lavished curses on any midnight caller who woke me up. I was amazed.
Whoever feels goodness is disappearing fast in the world should encounter people like Trupthi and Rajashree. It is just that theirs may not be life saving missions but simple everyday gestures that are taken for granted.