A complimentary copy of the books recently published by her publication arrived by post. As one can expect I was happy and excited. Taking the books wrapped in a newspaper from the postman I started removing the knot of the thread with which the books were tied. Before I could unknot it and have a look at the books the newspaper caught my eyes. I stopped. Extremely familiar fonts. Extremely familiar page design. Extremely familiar colour schemes. More than familiarity it was the emotional attachment towards the newspaper which made me stop. The emotional attachment towards the newspaper has been not just because I love it and because we were told during our course in journalism that it is the best and the most respected newspaper apart from being reliable. The emotional attachment towards the newspaper has been also because I worked for that particular newspaper for a year!
I smiled to myself recollecting some similar incidents that took place while I was working as a reporter for that particular newspaper. Our office was located in the outskirts of the city. At times in the evening if we felt hungry we would ask the security guard to get some masala dosa. I know not how far was the hotel from where he brought the dosas. He used to say it was some canteen. Canteen or hotel I did not know how far or near it was. But I had not seen any canteen or hotel near the office. So it must be slightly far I always assumed. The distance of the canteen/hotel aside for now. Yeah, the security guard would get masala dosas for us neatly packed in the newspaper we all worked for!
We would laugh or ignore.
We would ignore because evening is the time when newspaper offices come to life, for the reporters. Would laugh because we knew that the shelf life of a newspaper is maximum one day, except for libraries and researchers. But it pained me, though I knew that newspapers were dead after a day. It pained to see bread being packed on that very sheet of paper which earned me my bread! I remember remarking once, “Cant he at least avoid packing dosas in our newspaper when the order if from our office itself?” and my colleagues had laughed over it. I dint know nor I don’t know how I expect the canteen/hotel fellow to know where the order was from. I made the remark because on that particular day it pained me more than ever. The extra pain was because it had affected me personally for that evening when I unwrapped the masala dosa I found my own name inside it!!! My story smiled at me as desperately opened the parcel in extreme hunger!
My report next to my bread. Perfect. The cause and effect. I wrote so I could afford a masal dosa. I was eating masala dosa so that my hands wouldn’t shiver in hunger and I would be able to write one more such story, that evening! Perfect. The circle seemed complete!
Later that night while walking back home the image of my story being used to wrap masala dosa kept appearing before my mind’s eye. I shouldn’t be ashamed to accept that I felt my ego was hurt. But then I also felt that one’s ego must be hurt in that fashion once in a while before he/she starts assuming himself to be extremely powerful. Yes, journalism has the ability to give that arrogance, at times, to a reporter for he/she is not just well treated and respected but also for the access to places, people and more importantly information and the knowledge of the ability to create public opinion. A puncturing of the ego and arrogance at times helps one find gravitation, I concluded and accepted that how much ever powerful I assume myself and my profession to be, after the end of the day my story is either found in the canteen kitchens or in the cupboards to sheet it from dust.
I also told myself that if the canteen fellow saw a pit toilet he would also feel grieved as I was thinking “what a waste of all my efforts!” But that would actually make him also find gravitation from the ego, if any, of being the one who ‘feeds the hunger of people’, I told myself and consoled myself that every profession had something to feel disheartened about. But such disappointments I thought and I still think are necessary to make us more humble.
Unknotting the thread and tearing the cover I took out the books. But the smile remained on my face as the newspaper sheet with which the books were covered lay next to the feet of the chair turning into a paper ball…