Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gulf News, not again!

I have been debating with myself over the last few weeks/days on whether I should write this post or not. And there are many reasons for which it should not be written, especially by a journalist for it’s only a journalist who understands that a newspaper is made/created/written by a human being hence errors are bound to happen. I too, have made some at my job and am sure will make some in future too. But today what got me pen this was yet another ‘slip’ in the Gulf News!!

In The Views section of Gulf News August 27th on Page A 27 (http://gulfnews.com/opinions/offthecuff/he-grew-up-in-jail-to-free-his-mother-1.1224232) is a piece titled, ‘He grew up in jail to win his mother’s freedom’. The moment I saw the headline I knew I had it read somewhere recently! The same piece penned with full details (Name, Age) had appeared a few weeks back in Gulf News’ Friday magazine (http://fridaymagazine.ae/features/the-big-story/freed-after-20-years-by-son-i-had-in-prison-1.1207832). While, I was surprised to see the same piece (written by different writers) appear yet again in the pages published by Gulf News, what also shocked me was the fact that this particular one didn’t carry any name (Assuming the names were not to be kept anonymous for the sake of the people involved, wondering why they were not there) and read like a piece of fiction. Two, the tone of the piece in terms of how the husband’s relationship was with the wife, who was in the prison, felt like we were talking of two different people! Three, the amount that the son paid to free the mother, two varied in the two pieces. I am not 100 per cent sure if they were talking of the same mother-son but one read and you would know it is.  Shocking that there is no check to ensure pieces are not repeated or factual errors are not made or stories are printed with complete information. Talking about a few days back I was flipping through the Tabloid! Section of Gulf News wherein I found two events being listed twice! I understand we all live in the world of Copy & Paste but a little thorough won’t harm anyone. At another time, when I called to attend an event I was told it was not scheduled for the day at all! Another slip that comes to my mind, which spoilt my morning cup of coffee, was the misspelling of Red Fort. Another one where the name of actress Vidya Balan was spelt incorrectly in the headline…

The list is long. The work of running a paper is tedious. But then, tomorrow is a new day!

Image: here

Monday, August 26, 2013

I can survive this day

can survive this day. Days like these that leave me feeling empty and cramped at the same time. Days when ‘RAPE’ dominate the newspapers, TV channels and FB status updates. Days when roads witness candle marches and protests. Days when leaders tell me not to interact freely with men. Days when cops tell me I dress inappropriately. Days when men transform into animals. Days when I secretly thank god it was not one of my loved ones. Days when I say a prayer for the girl fighting it out in the hospital. Days when I shiver in fear. I can survive this day. I have to survive this day. I don’t feel sorry for myself. Today, I feel sorry for my parents. Sorry that I was born as a girl. Sorry that while I gorged on popcorns in a theatre they stayed hungry in anxiety. Sorry that while I worked long hours to climb up the career ladder they stared at the watch and prayed. Sorry that while I became an independent woman they worried that I was growing up too fast. Mom-dad, did I ever let you sleep? My prayers go out to parents with daughters. I wish they can survive this day.

Image: here

Saturday, August 24, 2013

the rape season?

There are seasons. If you are natureholic then you would know of summer, autumn, spring and winter. If you are a fashionholic then you would know of Autumn/Winter and Spring/ Summer, Fall/Pre-fall. And if you are an Indian then you would know of the scam season, rape season, incest season, dowry season, bomb season, murder season… This phase too shall pass? Once upon a time we got obsessed with kids falling in pits. The whole nation prayed for a child who was in a pit and troops of men tried to save his life. Did no one fall in a pit post-that? Were all the manholes covered after that? We don’t remember. We moved on. Once upon a time we got obsessed with incest victims? Our newspaper splashed gruesome tales. Did no hand reach a place where it should have not after that? We don’t remember. We moved on. Once upon a time we got obsessed with a 23-year-old who was gang raped? Then a six-year-old, then a 45-year-old, now again a 22-year-old… We will soon not remember. We will move on. This is the rape season. This phase shall too pass?

Image: here

Friday, August 23, 2013

Let the anger live

This happened to women you and I know. I am breaking their trust and narrating their secrets here because I don’t want this anger to die off. I want each one of us to stay angry.
Some stories have to be told.

I never feared the breeze. It was always a friend. I loved it even when it blew the flower in my hair in the wrong direction. I smiled at it even on the day when it took away my umbrella with it. I always tried to feel its rhythm and sing along. We were friends. We got along well on all days, in all seasons and at all turns. So why did it betray me? Why did it stand away from me, quiet and feeble. Why can’t it meet my eyes today? Why can’t I breathe in it anymore? Why did we stop being friends?
I loved that polka dotted skirt. It was a cheerful lime green with happy white dots. My mother had got it for me for my birthday. I had slipped into it, the moment she took it out from the brown paper bag. I still remember the giggly sound the bag made when I jumped and took it from her hands. It made me smile. I hopped around it till I fell asleep wearing it. I loved how it made me feel and look. I used to love the mirror.  A year later, I grew an inch taller. It could still cover my knees. I wore it to a birthday party of a friend. We were neighbours. When I walked back home, the breeze made my skirt flutter.  It couldn’t cover my knees anymore. It got tainted with a secret I guard. I still look into the mirror. I hope one day I will find myself there. Till then, I stare back at the stillness.

Some voices need to be heard.
It was a cosy winter night. My father had tucked us into bed. My mother was in the kitchen, warming up hot chocolate for me and my brother. We were laughing uncontrollably. My brother was five years elder to me. With pride he was showing us his young moustache. My father had then hugged him and called him a grown-up man.  That night I dreamt of him, my handsome brother. I am sure I smiled in my dream. Next morning, my father taught him how to shave. I watched.
At the dinner table that night mom laid down a special meal. We were even allowed to eat two ice-creams. My father’s friend shared the dinner with us. He made me laugh. He tickled me when my brother teased me, and I laughed again. There was a lot of noise in the room. The pots and pans made a clanking sound when mother cleared the table. My father walked up to his room to play the radio. My brother ran up to our room to get his shaving kit. There was a lot of noise in the room. My voice got muffled. My father’s friend too had a moustache.

Some love stories need to end.
We were a bunch of six. We had all bunked our offices for two days to spend a chilly weekend on the hills. It was a lovely drive uphill. I felt the tiny raindrops on my hand when I rolled down the window. We stopped at a dhabha and ate ghee-drenched paranthas with daal. My friend burped out loud when we got back into the car. We laughed out loud. I was in love with him, even when he burped. We reached at three am. We were exhausted.
We rented two rooms, one for the girls and the other for the boys. My boyfriend had carried my bag. I went to their room to get it. He was alone. He smiled at me and pulled me towards him. It was a cold night. The sun would rise soon. Half an hour later, our friends returned. I went back to our room, without my bag. Next morning, we ordered more paranthas for breakfast. He loved paranthas. I heard him burp. I couldn’t laugh. My head was filled with loud cries.     

Some shields should not guard.
It was a pale blue sheet. The walls were painted in stark white. My mother held my hands in hers. I could see my father standing outside. He looked forlorn and tired. I wanted to tell my mother to be with him. But she would not leave my side. She was my shield. I felt weak, I could not stay awake. I think I slept for a few hours. When I woke up, I saw my mother was shaky. She was trying to rest her head on the arm of the bed. My father was still outside. He needed some rest.
Next morning, they took me home. On our way back they asked me if I was participating in the college fest this year. I was a runner. My room was full of my medals and trophies. I don’t remember if I replied. I stared outside the window. I saw people jogging, some were running. It was very early in the day. Every day I watch people run in the park.  My mother still doesn’t sleep well. My father looks older. I smile at times. I have given up running.

Image: here

Saturday, August 3, 2013

lifestyle journalism is not DYING!

In 2012, they said the world will end. In 2013, they are saying lifestyle journalism is dying a slow death!

I am opinionated but I prefer to keep most of my opinions to myself even when I have a reasonably active Facebook account and a slightly ignored Twitter account. But this time around I decided to get vocal with my thoughts on the ‘hype’ surrounding the death of lifestyle journalism because of the sudden action by Outlook group announcing the closure of its three licensed international publications, Marie Claire, People and Geo. Yes, it is extremely sad to see so many people losing their jobs in a jerk but I am not convinced that this is the end. How can it be? I don’t have statistics to share but a trip to any of the magazine vendors is enough to convince me that a lifestyle magazine is born every fortnight, a lifestyle journalist every day and a lifestyle blogger every hour. So it saddens me to think that shutting down of a handful of magazines is making us believe that soon there will be a time when no woman with kohl-rimmed eyes will pick up a magazine to know what she can cook for a festive dinner or how she can keep the flowers fresh. Or no man with his ‘magazines and soaps are for women’ attitude will flip through a magazine to read what are the latest boy toys or fairness products on the shelves. When you finish reading this piece I hope you understand that lifestyle journalism is not a frivolous fad but a real job, the death of lifestyle magazines (if it happens) can’t be blamed on the content of the magazines and that there are enough supporters, readers and writers to keep lifestyle journalism alive, kicking, FBing, blogging and tweeting!

When I landed in Dubai a few months back I had two choices, one to join a full time job as an editor of a lifestyle magazine or two, to start my own lifestyle magazine. I took the risk and chose the latter, my e-magazine for NRIs in Dubai is just one-issue old and I am facing teething problems in running the show. Yes, in the magazine we talk of Bollywood, gourmet, telly, fashion, memories…and the other ‘blah blah’ of lifestyle journalism and each time I approach an advertiser I fear he/she would tell me that they have enough ‘Likes’ on Facebook so they don’t need to place an advertisement. Each time I prepare an edit list of the magazine I am faced with the ultimate question, ‘What’s new in this? We’ve all been there; written that, read that…” Each time an intern (in the very Ranbir Kapoor of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani) answers the question I want to be a journalist by saying, ‘I want to travel and host a travel show’ I am reminded of my days as an intern when for the first year all I was allowed to cover for the local city supplement were management seminar and blood donation camps. Yes, things have changed and will probably get worse with Google writing most of our copies, pre-framed emails forming our interview questionnaires and celebs sprouting faster than saplings but I am still not convinced that lifestyle journalism is a job that deserves no respect or lifestyle magazines deserve no readers. Yes, they say lifestyle journalism is the so-called easiest job on earth, often referred to one that allows you to get your hands on freebies but it is still not something that everyone can handle! You may be a party-hopper but what if your job involved attending parties and taking quotes from ‘not-so-sober’ socialites at one am?  You may love the sight of free MAC products reaching your desk but can you work insane hours to meet deadlines at unearthly hours? You may get puppy-eyed at the chance of interviewing stars but do you have the patience to wait for them for hours and then keep mum when they annoy you with their egoistic replies (a lot of us have done that for we have a boss waiting for a story in the office)? Perhaps, not. And to top it all can you deal with people who think all you do at your job is take smoke breaks, attend fashion events, drink in evenings, go for food reviews….?  Having said that I still know a lot of journalists who don’t behave like malnourished African kids at the sight of lavish spreads at press conferences or barter bridal spa packages for half-page coverage in the magazines. Yes, we don’t bring you the breaking news, we are not activists…we create leisure reading, something different than that daily dose of what’s happening in the zone of ‘timeliness’. Journalism is information about people/world on a public platform, nobody ever defined the contours of its context, weren’t we taught at our journalism schools about the hard and soft aspects of it? Yes, we sell dreams…we talk of what you should have, aspire for… we talk of things that we (journos) can’t afford… In my last job, I was the editor of a magazine of a luxury automobile brand while I drove a humble compact hatchback that came at a price of my annual salary (including the standard performance appraisal). But what’s wrong in selling aspirations and dreams? Why can’t we accept the journalism that extends beyond fierce reporting on rape cases or scams? Yes, we’re here to entertain you and that’s our job and we are not ashamed of it.
Now if lifestyle magazine will die it will not be because we are failing at making a reader read, re-read and re-visit the list of summer fashion essentials but because we simply don’t want to READ anymore beyond 200 words on FB or 140 characters on Twitter. We still love to know what’s happening in the life of SRK as much as we want to gossip about the lady in the neighbourhood. We still pick up a magazine to know the various options to dine or holiday at. We still take pictures, from a magazine, of a showstopper at a fashion show and take it to our local tailor to get the same outfit…  There are still many more investing in starting new magazines every day! I for one, with no funds at hand, am still hoping that one day I will print my mag! How do I explain this better? Aah, that there are still many who prefer the smell and sound of flipping paper? Or that you can’t swat a fly with a laptop or kindle but can with a magazine? Or that you will get constipated if you don’t read a magazine on the shit pot? Electronic is the way but the death of lifestyle journalism has nothing to do with what we’re filling in the pages! And then here’s the stark truth lifestyle journalism will survive for all of us writers, together, will make sure it does. When I blog, I expect people to comment on it and to initiate the flow of comments on my blog I have to take out time to visit and comment on the blogs of others. When I put a status message on Facebook I know mostly those are going to ‘Like’ or ‘Comment’ on it on whose pictures & status messages I have made my presence felt. When I get a by-line I want my fellow journos to read it, and he/she will, if I also take interest in his/her writing. So we will help each other survive. I don’t know how to end this rather long piece but people keep the faith, we are not a dying breed nor are we in a dying profession!! And yes, till we don't respect what we do no one else will! And I can say so for I am at a position where I am responsible both for bringing in money in the magazine but also creating content for it. 

Image: here