My Rainbow Man

Our paths crossed (for almost 24 months) when we worked together some years ago. He had heard horrible things about me from one of his close friends who worked with us for a brief while.  She had painted me as a ‘ruthless bitch’.

It was a tough beginning for him too. But somehow he loved me for being a hard task master. He was eager to learn. I was eager to teach. In due course of time, his reservations melted away like ice cubes leaving no traces of its existence. We clicked. He had and luckily still has a wacko sense of humour. Humour works for me. But not Comedy nights with Kapil.

He left the job to move to another continent. He wrote a highly emotional three page long letter as a goodbye note. He wrote in that note that I have changed his life as a senior at work, as a human being. He wrote also a line, “It was gratifying to meet somebody who has experienced more of life than me. And till now I thought I have seen it all.” I read the note and thought to myself, “What does this 24 year old know about life? What has he seen in life?” I was arrogant about my share of experiencing life, loss, love. I was arrogant about my grey hair.

We have stayed in touch over the years. He still writes long emails to me and calls me at regular interval irrespective of the time zone. Last year, he was in India and we met for a nice meal of naan, paneer makhni and chooza chicken noorani. He has been telling me that he wanted to talk to me about something personal. I thought maybe it’s about a girl he’s dating or his career dilemma.

During the course of our dinner, he told me, “I am gay.” And he told me, “I want to live a life of truth and love.” And he chose to tell me because he knew that I wouldn’t judge him and would love him the same way as before. He talked about his whole painful struggle of coming into terms with his sexual choices and the whole turbulent path that lies before him as he comes from a very very traditional family. He talked about being ridiculed throughout his life, of going through deep pain in his personal space. I felt ashamed of thinking about “What does this 24 year old know about life? What has he seen in life?” I felt ashamed about my own arrogance, lack of compassion.

Our relationship is one of the most beautiful parts of our lives. He has given me lots of gifts. He has gifted me beautiful silver jewellery, lovely handcrafted notebooks, lots of songs carefully chosen for me and beautiful handicrafts. I haven’t given him anything material. Nothing at all.  I wanted to buy a shirt/kurta for him when we met couple of months ago.. I told him, “I haven’t given you anything.” He looked at me and said, “Mam, you  showed me how to love. The art of living life as a lover.” I had no words express.

I have been thinking of him for the last couple of days. On Tuesday, February 2, the Supreme Court will hear a curative petition on LGBT rights. It’s rare that it would be an open hearing on section 377. On Saturday night, I watched a television debate on LGBT rights and I almost cried seeing the aggression, hatred for homosexuals (by some panelists). I just wanted to hug my rainbow man and tell him, “It’s fine to be a gay. The world needs love. Just more love.”

Today morning he called me up and we spoke for almost two hours. Yes, telepathy works. Longing for someone intensely works. We talked about hatred, aggression ruling our public and personal space. We talked about Syria, Palestine, LGBT rights, dalits, women and hungry kids. It was wonderful to be on the same page. Sharing our anguish, our desire to love freely and openly.  We talked of life ahead. He told me, “Mam, I will be your budhapa ki lathi. I just want to give more of myself to people I love. I will cook for you.”

He’s the rainbow of my life.

 

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Of onions, VAT 69 and a birthday gift

It all started on a crazy day at office. A conversation with my colleague.

Me: What do you eat for dinner?

He: Maam, dal, roti.

Me: Which dal ?

He: Moong.

Me : How do you make it?

He: Boil it and then give a tadka.

Me: Fry onions, cumin seeds and the like you mean…

He: Maam, onions???? In my salary? (Last checked, onions were available for Rs 75 a kilo)

Needless to say, we burst into laughter.

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His birthday is on September 28. And this is what I gave him (ONIONS) as birthday gift. Of course, onions put in a Vat 69 container (sans the bottle). And in my note, I said, “We live in strange times but we can still shed tears of joy. And in today’s times, onions can give us the same high as VAT 69.”

When I presented the VAT 69 pack to him, he couldn’t believe his eyes. And then he opened it softly to discover the onions. And then it was time for uncontrolled laughter in the newsroom. Onions as birthday gift? Not many can think of it as a gift to give and not many will receive it too. With so much of grace.

His mail says it all ” Thanks a lot ma’am, this is one of the freakiest gifts i have ever received in my life… it surely has made my day. Though i did all the shopping for the party tonight (including onions) these ones go in for a special treat…

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Happy birthday, dear.  Share your thought on ‘crazy birthday gift ideas’….

Newroom gems

Newsrooms can be brutal. Frustrating at times. But on most occasions, it’s an exciting place to be in. The conversations are spicy, salty and crazy too.  Here are some of the newsroom gems (read conversations). Will not spill the beans on who said what. But then it doesn’t matter actually.

* Fuck man, it’s such a boring day…The whole world is having a holiday. Bloody only we are working. Will people die if they don’t read newspapers tomorrow?

* Hey, can I borrow your earphone? Want to write a story in peace, not in a mood to listen to bullshit.

* P V Sindhu…. she’s all over the newspaper… Whenever I hear this PV, I always remember P V Narasimha Rao.
The ‘silent man’ will now turn in his grave. Give him a break.

* No stories for tomorrow. It will be a really tough day.
Somebody answers back: Newspapers are like bedrooms. Eventually the sex will happen. No need to stress.

* Today, I completed 10 years in Gujarat…
Yes… we can give you this name: Baby, bahu, ba (as you came here as a young gal straight out of college and then got married here…and one day you will become a granny here)

* Did you see the bikini pics of the famous holiday?

* Sunny Leone is the most searched person online. Speaks a lot about Indian men.

* Aare, aaj kal players ka interview nehin mila toh uska parents se interview kar lo. Agar woh nehin mile toh, uska kutta/billi se interview kar lo. (These days, if you don’t get to talk to a sportsperson then talk to his parents. If parents are not available then talk to his/her pet dog or cat)

* Of course,I saved the picture in L file…..what will I do if it’s not saved? Aatm hatya kar lu kya? (Should I commit sucicide?)

* Hey guys.. you know there’s a model who eats paper.
Really, kaun hai woh mental? (Who is that mad person?)
Kisi ko chahiye kya (Anybody interested?) Free ka ration supply milega.

* Somebody screams ‘Page 1—R4 PDF  has come… guys one last chance…’
Yes, we can hear you.

* Arre page chhodo… kal paper logon ko mangta hai (Please release the page. Tomorrow people will read the paper). Deadline ka dahi mat banao.

* I miss having cool intelligent people who enjoy ch—tiyapanti.
Boss, what’s the exact meaning of ch***tiyapanti?
Many meanings… which one you want?

*********
Food for thought

Newsrooms are the place where somebody or the other is always eating something, drinking tea/coffee or somebody is making a phone call to the canteen. So, till the edition is put to sleep, you will always hear….

“Bhaiya, ek chai.”

“Anda maggi one plate.”

“Veg sandwitch… bhagwan ke naam pe grill mat karna.”

“Uncle, yeh chai hai ya chhasni (sugar syrup) hai? Chinni muft ka milta hai kya?” (Is this tea or sugar syrup? Do you get free supply of sugar?”

“Chhottu, listen, bread, jam, double omelette… pls don’t put haldi (turmeric) in the omelette.”
“Madam, hum haldi nehin dalte.” (Madam, we don’t put turmeric in omelette)
“Aare, last time omelette mein sirf haldi ka taste hi tha.”
“Na madam.”
“Chottu, maine khaya tha ya tum??? jaldi le ke aana. Aur soon… tomato sauce nehin chahiye..”
“Madam kyon?”
“Kyonki tumhara tomatao sauce kaddu (pumpkin) sauce hai ….”

“Yaar, bahut ho gaya yeh aloo, baigan, giloda, tindola…I want gurda kalegi, bheja fry, biryani…”
“Chalo, khana order karte hai.”

I have the worst job

So says a study. Journalists have the worst jobs because of the low pay, long working hours and high stress, says a new study. A newspaper journalist’s job is worse than that of a garbage collector, waiter/waitress, butcher, dishwasher and the list goes on. I don’t want to add further because that might inspire me to do something fatal about myself.

I have been a journalist for the last 18 years. I never joined the profession for the lure of money. Anyway, eighteen years ago, money was not ‘on your face’ object. India had then just started flirting with economic liberalisation. Even in a city like Delhi, one could manage with  little money (little even by the mid 1990s standard) and still occasionally shop at Dastkar and enjoy a Chinese meal at Golden Dragon or Osaka. The newsroom was a great place for learning, assimilation and having fun. It was simply addictive. One could never have enough of news.

I remember on December 31, 1999 when the whole world was partying to welcome the new millennium, I was in the newsroom happily making pages. The Kandahar hijackers had just released the passengers and I remember working all excitedly on the front page with a senior colleague. We were so absorbed in our ‘lowly paid’ work that not once we felt miserable about working on a night that smelt of cocktail. Even as the streets of Bangalore were full of revelers screaming with joy and happiness, we were raking our brains over the lead headline.  I am still very much addicted to news. I still feel like a child in the candy store when a news story is developing.

But in post-liberalised India, the newsroom has changed. Now a journalist is just a journalist sans any passion. Very few are compassionate. Very few have a perspective on anything whether it’s cricket, relationship or cinema. I am not even talking about politics. Recently I asked a young reporter ‘Who’s India’s home minister?” He just gave me a blank stare as if I was asking about nuclear physics.

And even before young journalists can file an interview with a B Town celebrity or a cricketer, they post their pictures with the celebrity on Facebook to grab some likes and “you are so lucky…” kind of comments.

To be a good journalist, one has to be compassionate, non-judgemental.  But then in today’s globalised world, compassion is a rare commodity. Today newsrooms are full of men and women having no substance, intensity or passion. There’s nobody to look up to. There are no towering personalities to inspire you, to push you to excel beyond your capability.

I don’t think my job is the worst job just because it has low pay, long working hours and stress. It was a job which was never associated with a great pay packet. It was a job which was never meant to be easy. It was always meant to be tough, stressful. But it was a job which had dignity. Now the changing newsroom does tell a different tale. .

A tired journo

I have an existential crisis. I am really tired of being a journalist. Not because my life revolves around deadlines and deadlines and working on days when the rest of the world is relaxing or holidaying. I am tired because every Tom, Dick, Harry has an opinion so far as my profession is concerned. I am supposedly everybody’s good friend even though I have hardly any friend (in the true sense of the term) in a city where I am living for quite some years. I am tired of going to parties where people jump at me the moment  they come to know that I am a journalist working for a leading daily. Suddenly, everybody becomes an expert in things related to media.

People don’t think twice before terming everything that appears in the newspapers as ‘shit’ and how they loathe these ‘toilet papers.’ I would have been happy if the buck stops there. But they all eventually take my mobile numbers and email id even though I hardly ask for all these details in return. I am on a minimalist drive in my life, so I am not really into forging new friendships. I know if I am doing a story, I will always manage to get the information I want.  And after being agitated about the ‘shit’ called newspapers, they all want their slice of shit. So, after 2/3 days, I eventually get phone-calls/emails asking for some coverage for them or their family-members. And they all tell me with great confidence that their story has got great potential too. Well, I don’t give my ‘expert’ comments about a cardiac surgery or building a flyover to my doctor or engineer friends. Just because one buys a newspaper that doesn’t make him/her a journalist.

And then there are issues relating ‘passes’ (read free) for attending events. In October, I was at my mom’s place in Bhubaneswar for a short break. Suddenly, my phone started ringing constantly as people wanted passes for a 10 day festival. Repeated attempts to tell people that as I am not there in Ahmedabad, I could do little to help them fell on deaf ears. People just don’t understand it. The standard answer is, “Kuch kar lo (do something). But we want the passes.”

Needless to say, I am amazed at people’s overactive imaginative power of networking. In the last 24 hours, I have got four phone-calls from Amdavadis holidaying in Goa asking me to arrange passes for the much-talked about Sunburn Festival. They all presume that as the publication ( I work for) has a Goa edition, I can easily arrange passes for them through the Goa office. I wish I were that efficient ‘jugaadu’ (networker).  I would have been much better placed in life.

There are times I just feel like surrendering my mobile phone, deactivating my mail id and just be with my old friends from school/university for whom it just doesn’t matter where I work. They love me because they love me. They call me up because they want to talk to me.