Monday, November 06, 2006

Those Were The Days

Nice to be back. Not so nice, however, to read my previous post, I Am One. Few things I would never have written in normal course have found their way into it, and that's because I did not write the post. It was ghost-written by two gentlemen, Mr Impatience and Mr Director's Special. That night was my blog's first anniversary, and early next morning I had a plane to catch, so there was hardly any time to light cigarettes and ponder, month by month, about the year that was. But how can the mind work in a hurry without assistance from alcohol; so I hired the services of Mr Director's Special.

By the time I got a chance to reread my post, in my old office in Kanpur, a dozen comments were already in. Too late to make changes. Never mind. Even organisations don't make changes when it is too late. Such as my old office. Flashback: I am in college, studying journalism. A respectable but a decaying Lucknow-based newspaper called Pioneer is repackaged from Delhi under the stewardship of Vinod Mehta and it goes on to become the toast of the town (Delhi, that is). Doordarshan carries ads, showing its in-house cartoonist Sudhir Dar drawing a caricature of Rudyard Kipling, and the caricature coming alive! What a stylish paper, we think.

As a student of journalism, I start buying the paper, the Lucknow edition. My subscription begins on a bad note: "Babri Masjid demolished." Turmoil. Conflict. Debate. I write a letter to the editor. It gets published. I take the clipping to my classmates. They sneer: "See, how he is showing off!" A year later Pioneer launches an edition in Kanpur. I get a job. Trainee sub-editor. Salary Rs 1800.

Those were the days of typerwriters for the reporters. For sub-editors like us, there was the horse-shoe table. The chief-sub at the head of the table, and the juniors spread out in a semi-circle across the table. He would hand over the copies for editing, we would edit with pen, write the headline on a separate sheet of paper and attach it to the copy and return it to him.

The peon, Ram Ratan, would take the copies to the composing section, where someone would type it -- on the computer. Print-outs would be taken, according to prescribed sizes, and paste-up artists would paste them on specified positions on 51-inch sheets of paper. The prints of these sheets were finally fitted into the printing machine. By the time the paper went to bed, it would be about 2 o' clock: too late and too risky for me to go home.

For a while I would play games on the computer in which stories were typed, and after the operator shut it down and went home, I would return to the editorial room, make a pillow of newspapers and doze off. That was my routine, night after night, for one whole year. The sound of the printing machine is a good sleep-inducer, believe me. In contrast, the noise of the broom can be disturbing: the sweeper woke me up every morning at 7. Only once did I oversleep, when I woke up to the chief reporter's customary call to the peon: "Ek chai le aana (bring me some tea)."

Ram Ratan, the peon, was my best friend. I borrowed money from him when needed, and also shared his food. The money was to buy semi-porn magazines like Debonair or Fantasy, or to go out on dates. The money could have been borrowed from my father, but at the time, in the fresh flush of employment, the idea was not to borrow from home. Just as I did not want to carry food from home: what, then, would be the difference between me and those who brought home-made food, religiously took their day offs and rushed home as soon as their bit was done? I had wanted fire, and not home food-induced hunger, in my belly.

Within months, I found myself propelled to Delhi, where home-cooked food was not even an option. I was one of the hundreds of pilgrims, fighting it out in the Mecca of Indian journalism for a place under the sun. Kanpur was history.

But history is the starting line of every journey. To measure how far have you gone, and in which direction have you gone, you need to keep revisiting history. Ever since I left Kanpur, everything has changed at the Pioneer -- from the management to the number of staff (there are only two people in Kanpur now who are manning the local bureau). But never did I imagine, while playing 'bricks' on the black and white computer during after-work hours in 1993, that I would check my blog on the same terminal 13 years later!


Anonymous said...

And a thank *you* this time; those two gentlemen friends of yours are not bad writers :)

found something I was looking for!

dharmabum said...

although i believe mr impatience can get trechearous at times, good old mr directors special never fails :)

superbly written!

oh, and btw, hows ram ratan doing?

Anonymous said...

Lovely ! your trip down memory lane evoked some from mine too...nice to remember & sigh & then get back to the present-day grind.

Anonymous said...


Usha said...

Loved that old relaxed setailed story telling of yours. Looking forward to more.

Bohemian said...

hmm..Well written.
As an afterthought I would love to add this "Nostalgia is best evoked when one is in the hands of Mr Director's special" else it may always have to be simulated and simulations may or may not always add to the intensity of the feeling and the heat of the moments gone by

Visithra said...

as they say - you can never predict the future

Anonymous said...

Hi Bg.Guess can take the liberty to add a third one-habit!Its surprising to note a spontaneous wroter like you should say this.Nevertheless kudos for retaining your sanity with so much sentimentality below that cool faced look.You know you are one person who can be thought of as an inspiration to pen down sentiments or write mentally somethings not to be forgotten!Would hate to say ye to you but then like all good things come to an end this must too.good day good luck.And thanks.You are a fine teacher.

Anonymous said...

Well that was writer and bye in the above you guess who this is?

Anu Russell said...

and life made a full circle!

Anonymous said...

lovely piece.... hope your keyboard and your mind will always spring up surprises

Best wishes

havy said...

Well that was writer

Anubhuti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.