Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's My Life, After All!

It is so exhilarating to be a journalist, to leap into the nearest creaking auto rickshaw or local train, notes and pen tucked safely away in the innermost recesses of a cavernous handbag, half a dozen pencils sharpened to a nicety, and a camera that snuggles in a pocket that clenches its teeth miraculously! So it is that, when you reach your venue, rush for a hurried brush up in the rest room and emerge mint fresh, you know it is time to look your best and ask all the right questions!

My first few interviews find me, at this point, facing a suave interviewee, and delving into the aforesaid cavernous handbag! Which is when chaos takes over, and I discover myself scrabbling within to locate the half dozen pencils, all of which have acquired lives of their own.

The interview begins, and I strive heroically to keep a pleasantly interested, intelligent expression on my face, even as my fingers move inside the bag, like ten little mice scurrying around for a single slice of cheese!

Another singular piece of acting that besets me every time I do an interview is when I ask questions that I have painstakingly prepared, without looking down at my notebook. Even more painstaking is the struggle to write down the answers without taking my eyes off the face of my guest! Losing eye contact would be fatal, and hence, I always bemoan the fact that the only shorthand I have heard of is in the old ‘Ajit the Loin’ jokes. By the end of the interview, I have managed to look down at my page maybe thrice, if only to check that I am writing on the page, and not on the snowy white tablecloth so thoughtfully provided by the owners.

The climax comes when I have reached home after a truly great interview, only to find that I cannot decipher my own handwriting, which looks as if a drunken ant has fallen into a glass of alcohol and decided to make the best of it. After which it decides to hop into a bottle of ink, and finally make its way home, taking a short cut across my page. There are other times when I have been taken aback at my own skills, one of them being the ability to write in pitch darkness! This happens when I go to watch a play which I need to review, and instructions are very clear! Mobile phones to be switched off, no camera flashes as to distract the players and a brightly lit stage!

Unless it is one of those dismal pseudo-modern acts which have the actors and the audience sitting in the dark, and I am not just referring to the lack of lighting here! And so it is that my carefully cultivated Convent calligraphy, honed from hours and hours of writing impositions and raps on the knuckles, hangs its head in shame at its latest disjointed avatar. Lack of writing practice due to years on the computer has taken its toll as well! The computer has become a constant companion, especially convenient because articles almost write themselves, replete with a spell check, and one has the freedom to change the font, the size and the margins... very little margin for error there! Mundane words can be substituted with grandiloquent high sounding ones, with the synonyms application. Almost like keeping up with the Joneses... Or is it the Ambanis, in this case!

New Indian Express
15th December 2011
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