Tag Archives: journalist

New beginning…concept of a diary

My dearest French friend C, has been goading me to take to writing a diary. Well, not in the sense of emotional rambling, daily chores types, but putting together 25 years of experience, different interactions in my professional and personal life. I was reluctant initially, coz I can be scandalous, I’ve very strong view. read my blog for evidence and most of all i’ve lived on my own terms. Now i will enlist many reasons why i strongly believe i can write a diary better than a book.

I do believe introspection is necessary, do it but think it is also pathological if we write. Then again i’m very concerned about the misuse of one’s diary, i often equate writing diaries with depressed, suicides, having covered crime for over 20 years. I’d rather flush it out that day than carry forward anything the next day that can haunt me or others. I’ve made it a compulsion to sleep over everything. and if one can sleep over any issue, then it wasn’t one of matter of life or death. And the whole idea of a diary is cope and sleep over a death.

So then we discussed writing a novel. Now for years friends have been telling me to write a book. I tighten up, my brain freezes, i can’t focus and i mentally feel i’ve been forcibly put on a roller coaster with my stomach ready to burst. I am the last to ever write a book. I don’t mind doing a book on photographs with stories of people, but NO writing a novel.

Firstly anyone and everyone across the world is writing a book. Now I don’t feel equipped and qualified to write one. I live on fiction, mainly thrillers and crime, espionage and cold blooded murders. I DESPISE ghostly, scary types, I admit I can’t sleep at night. And more so I draw up a list every night for those I wished to be dead, so I dream they are killed in them. That list i would rather see unfold than feel some nocturnal spirit hover around me. In real life I love peace and hate violence, I’m dead serious.

Now more important than all this is I do NOT have a thought process and skills to write fiction. many speak of discipline too..not interested.. and many ofcourse say words just come flying out of their head, ohk. No such sort happens to me nor do i crave to experience it, My life and experiences are to do with real life issues, too much of harsh realities and I’m sorry I refuse to write them in form of fiction. I tried hard. I was told of a fantastic love story that unfolded on the night of 26/11, a couple that lived through that night in the Oberoi. The lady’s first male cousin told me about it, a prominent doctor family. I tried to write in fiction, but i can’t fantasize. How could i? Dammit I was focusing on the blood bath, terror strikes and I could not imagine any love and romance in it. i was there present for those nights and days, i directed my childhood friend and his wife to the officials to enquire about his sis and brother in law who he found lying dead in blood. That couple also need a break having witnessed so much violence in one night, that can last a life time.

So, after lots of bouncing off of ideas we conceptualized a form of diary writing. I begin with that day’s incident and link to the previous such in my personal or professional life. In this manner, my work gets recorded, references to the past, historic information too is recorded.  So today there will be 2 entries. 1st the introduction as to why my blog looks naked, with no picture Where I can give a pictorial reference I will, else bare body text. I love pictures, cartoons, videos. I get bored of only text, may be this the dominant reason for me to not write fiction.

Now being the political season, with State elections in Bombay and Maharashtra on October 15, I will begin with some of these current issues with connections to the previous elections I’ve covered. I often feel I was a dog or predator in the last birth. I rely immensely on my sense and mainly the olfactory senses. Tis has helped me greatly in covering news. I could smell something will become news. Firstly, it is a gut feel, other is of course the professional drill. But I believe one needs to be born with a news sense, even if you try to develop it, it is not the same as being born with it. So strangers and general public can get pissed off with journalists who get excited in the most tragic, extreme incidents. There are stories in it. But you will get pissed off if I said I get uneasy in most peaceful times, when nothing is happening in the society and there is an eerie peace. My antennae go up, I smell some trouble and experience has not proven me wrong.

One sees a pattern in things, in events and situations. Being a journalist and covering news all these years teaches you a lot. We are like hungry wolves and I find it difficult to believe we lead normal lives. Many things we couldn’t report and still many we can’t reveal. I’m not sure I can tell a lot in this diary, because somebody may read, make a reference to it and then misconstrue. I’ve been privy to few things and then one wonders whether these secrets will go with me..  What I can remember and reveal I will tell as the diary travels through the decades.

Dare to dream

When in school we’d have many people who’d come to give us speeches, lectures. Many were boring, many still would give talks saying how life is such and we have to overcome, all of which would put me to sleep. On the rare occasions I’d pay attention was when one would say “dream and follow your dreams.”

In the last nearly 25 years of my professional life, honestly the same pattern I’ve followed. I meet all sorts of people and believe me I appreciate and truly admire those who have dared to dream. This has been my guiding principle – Dare to dream.

This is a story of Shubhashish a former DNA money journalist and a friend. He had previously applied for a Masters course abroad, but had to give up on this BIG opportunity, obviously for want of money. It is not easy, considering he has been living alone, no family support to raise such huge finances. It has been quite a challenge.

However, this young, restless, journalist Shubhashish, obviously must have felt sad for giving up this chance, but didn’t let it sink him. He is someone I like for apart from many reasons he is one young journalist who has a conscience, believes in basic values, which is NOT easy. Now in today’s world when many tell me, “you have to move with the times,” here is Shubhashish who is trying to slip into the ways of today’s world but with keeping intact his ethics. Now, there is something to learn from him. Besides, he has dared to pursue his dreams.

Shubhashish waited for few years, moved on to Business Standard, has been doing some really hard-hitting stories and hasn’t stopped dreaming of pursuing higher studies in his field. He again applied, I’m happy and NOT surprised that he did get admissions, for pursuing a masters degree in International Relations in the U.K. Even taking into account his savings, he still needs to raise few lakhs of Rs . Meanwhile he learnt a lot along the way and hit upon ‘crowd funding.’ The idea of crowdfunding came about after reading Sleeping in Homes of Strangers: A month-long Journey of Trust by Mark Dickinson

Now we are all used to seeing the world through our hardened experiences, our perspective and way of thinking. Reading widens horizons, travelling a lot more. He could ideally have applied to the same trusts, funding sources or the best option which is rather most expensive, taking loans from Banks. Shubhashish dared to pursue the path of ‘crowd funding.’ Where one goes to all and sundry, those who can give a minimum of Rs800, these can be absolute strangers, foreigners, relatives, so-called friends, bosses, just about anybody who would ‘like to help’ another person in need.

There is absolutely NO human being that never needs help. We all do need at every given time. It may be to simply lighten one’s mental, emotional burden, but we are more than willing to shed it. Here is someone who wants to pursue, is hopeful that there is still some good out there in the world and I absolutely believe there is. Often what ails us from getting any form of help our own inhibitions, shame, even humility to say, “I want help.” I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Shubhashish to firstly accept at personal level, higher then that now he needs to go out and ask for money.

I think two most important factors that we needto support people like Shubhashish is the drive to evolve and more importantly, the need to acquire new knowledge, skills, I think this needs all the encouragement. Many told him they don’t want their money, instead he should help others. This has been the guiding principle of our family. From my grandfather’s time we prefer to ‘carry forward’ help. And that’s how idea of #Projecthope evolved. A project that he has committed to help other needy students like him in future. In little over one and a half months he has raised half the amount, he still has to reach his target.

Project Hope

A passport to travel

Usually once you get your passport the biggest obstacle in one’s journey in the world is tackled. Or so we were given to believe. Till this bloody May, specifically the first week, I’d NO clue that my valid passport would give me quite bit of headache & problems. I received my dear friend Makeni’s letter inviting me over to Paris -tomeet her parents, spend time with the family & travel around France, like she had done in India way back in 2008. When she lived with my family & we travelled around… there began my problems.

While applying for the French visa the 1st rule disqualified me, right on the spot! Anyone with a passport having over 10 years validity is ineligible…is NOT permitted to apply. This was the FIRST time I ever encountered something so bizarre. That I had a valid, legal 20-years passport DISQUALIFIED me from getting a valid Schengen visa.

So there went my French dreams in one stroke. My 1st reaction was what the hell, what kind of a country am I born in? French have made these strict rules after the varied experiences they’ve faced. So have other western countries. The Visa page states lot many more rules, including getting the invitation letter attested from the mayor’s office in Paris.

Now my dear friend in Paris when she first came in 2008, she just asked me over the net, email whether her dates are suitable & will I host her. I said yes. That’s about it. She easily got a visa to travel to India. Not like the way we tourists are treated.

I still had 8 valid years on the old passport. It meant I had to return my old passport, apply for a new one & go through the whole rigmarole of applying for a new one, stand in queue, etc. I was definitely NOT prepared for it. But by not returning I’d be deprived of visiting Europe & we are not getting any younger. Hence I took the BIG step of going ahead for getting a new passport. My issue is in this country of billions, ONLY approximately 1 lakh passport holders with 20 years validity would be there. So the Govt of India could’ve sent public ads, notices, called us to return our passports, in a time-frame of 1 month & re-validate it for us. That’s how most foreign nations behave/make policies. NOT India, learn it all along…self-help it is!

I must say the process is lot more easy. Though one must ensure that the net speed & modem is fine. Once all well, go to the ministry of external affairs website & get onto the page for applying for a passport. Either new, re-issuing, etc. Now in that too there are a few glitches for the 20 year passport holders like me. They asked me for my reasons for re-issuing. And I had to enter –  others & I specified my validity is 20 years. The developers of this software are TCS. The Govt of India has out-sourced the technical work to TCS.

The regional passport office has opened many new centres – 2 in suburbs, 1- BKC & 1 new one in Kamla Mills. It is state-of-the-art. It makes you feel proud of your country. All air-conditioned, well timed. Process is fast & within 45 minutes you are out with the final receipt telling you within exactly how many days you will get your passport.

There are restrooms, canteen, xerox machine. But we are just too over-populated. And Indian parents that have absolutely no manners. They permit their children to bang on the glass doors, yank the plants kept, parents who think asking their kids to NOT cry, shut up is being over-domineering. Else the process is all electronic & fine. The TCS staff is cool, young, learning & yet nice. We no longer need to carry photographs, they are taken there itself. Your whole application is shown, a run-through is done so that any last minute glitches can be tackled.  A single token number that sees you till the end.

Once the information is finalised, all documents uploaded, your photo is taken. And finally your signature. Now for someone with such a long surname like ‘Kolhatkar’ it took me few times to cramp it in a tiny box. It was very irritating because I like free, uninhibited style of signing & here I had to write in a style which I can’t recognise anymore.

What a cut off from the first experience of getting a renewal or passport. My first passport was made way back in 1990, when I earned my official salary. My cousin had quietly told my mother that as I’d hand over my salary, to set aside money for my passport. He would then ensure to get it for me.

Now imagine I was a journalist, later took a break to pursue Masters in Social Work, worked as a media advocacy specialist & went into broadcast when satellite channels first came to India…so obviously was always paid poorly. Hence the question of going ‘abroad’ was never on top of my mind. In fact every single person from batch had gone abroad to study, many settled or simply married & migrated. I am too lazy to pin everything on 1 person, job or issue… So for the first 10 years I came a whisker close to going abroad but it didn’t materialise for whatever reasons. And it was time for renewal. Again there was NO question of NON-renewal, my cousin had sealed my fate. After the first renewal I have travelled…but sadly, it’s an Indian passport. Hence getting visa is never going to be easy…so although I’ve got a new passport, believe me getting Schengen visa is still a long way…