Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Hiya

Everyone out there in cyberspace, hiya. I've finally managed to set up a blog, and I'll save you the details of how long it took me to set it up. No, I'm not techno-shy, but this is not Maggi noodles stuff (it definitely takes more than two minutes). Anyway, to cut the long story short, I'm here. Who am I? Profundity apart, I'm a writer. I used to think this designation is as ambiguous as it can get when I was a journalist (and I was one until three weeks ago or will I always remain one) but when you're not chasing designations any more, it's relaxing and sort of nice to slip back into 'writer' mode. Because at heart that's what you are, whether you're a scribe or a communications manager, which is what I'm now. Here's something I wrote when I just quit journalism (after being in it for 7 years):

Beyond nine-to-five
My decision to give journalism a break and move to corporate communications may have had something to do with the seven-year itch. I do realise that the seven-year itch is most commonly referred to in marriages, but then in journalism you are literally married to the job – minus of course the rituals. It’s one of those commitments that’s hard to break, because it’s so much more than a job. Journalism is a way of life. You have to keep your eyes and ears open all the time; most of your stories come to you at the oddest of places and moments, not when you’re sitting at your desk and writing one e-mail after another, but when you’re two Bacardis down, chatting with an old friend, or when you’re making polite conversation with someone from the neighbourhood who just dropped in and is now going on about a series of thefts that’s taken place. Which is why when people are asked in a job interview why they want to pursue a career in journalism, many are likely to say “I can’t do a nine-to-five.” I have never quite understood what this means; journalism is not a nine to five, yes, it’s a nine to-nine. Twelve hours of sheer madness, chaos, and of course lots of fun. The one principle (and this is advocated in the Fish philosophy) that governed my last job was ‘you can take your work seriously but you don’t have to take yourself seriously’. You can crack a joke, keep the atmosphere light and I can bet the productivity will be higher. There’s really no need to work in a room where the aura is so heavy you almost choke. So why was I, at the helm of a successful career in journalism ready to give up the heady passion of an unending affair for a staid, and maybe boring relationship? Like I said the seven-year itch, not of being in a marriage but of being in a perpetual state of chaos and flux and stress and perhaps, declining creativity (I know this contradicts what I said earlier). But, for example, there’s no way in hell that I would even have the freedom of mind to write what I’m writing right now. And more than that, I’m beginning to realise, it’s best to be a writer in exile. No, I’m not retreating into the Himalayas; what I mean is that being a journalist often open doors for you but almost as often closes doors, closes doors of access to real people. The minute you say you’re a journo, that’s it, the surest way of making people retreat into a shell of clichés. So, I’m beginning to figure out that by being a corp comm executive, I may actually manage insights into people, some famous, some not so famous. How did I stumble upon this realisation? This is how:

The other day, a famous, top league film actress was in the city for one of our events and we had organised some one-on-one interviews with the press. Having interviewed celebs earlier, I realised she'd have her share of starry tantrums, but what I found instead was this: the actress had asked a for a list of who was interviewing her, knew the names of the papers, and was ready when she said she would be -- no tantrums at all. Journalists on the other hand, were the pits. One of them from a leading newspaper, I wouldn’t mention which, asked me in the lift why the actress was here. She had the time to call us before to ask for a car to pick and drop her but didn’t have the time to do any research for the interview. Geez! That's whay we're such a hated community, I though. Correction: not we, they.
You think stars lose their cool for nothing? One journalist asked the star about her childhood and how she entered the line (she had 5 minutes with the star). The actress cut her short. “Please let’s not go into childhood. And as for how I entered this line, you should have done your homework.” Later, she was alsmot fuming. “Gosh,” she said, “asking me about my childhood is like asking me about my past life. You know, yesterday I was asking the curator of the show the details of the event in case the journos asked me about it, and mid-way we stopped and said ‘you know they’re never going to bother asking anything about the festival. They’ll only want to know about my movies etc’.”
Till that point, I was trying to tell people I was a journalist, for seven years, so maybe they’d take me seriously, and not dismiss me as those ‘PR types’, a bracket I would try hard not to fall into. But at that point standing there hear the actress talk about the questions she was asked time after time, I had no intention of hiding behind the ‘I was a journalist’ barricade I had built for myself. I wanted to squirm.
The actress continued, “You know they keep saying I don’t do interviews, I feel like telling them ‘have you seen the demented questionnaire you come with?’ They ask me ‘what do you like to do in your free time?’ I want to tell them 'I want to kick your face in my free time that’s what I want to do’.” I laughed and told her this was explosive material and I wished I could give it to a newspaper.
The actress had me stunned. In all the years that I had interviewed celebrities, and I had interviewed quite a few, I had never ever managed such a candid confession. Never managed to get beyond the façade; maybe my questions were as demented, or maybe the minute a celeb hears you’re a journo they just switch off.
Now you know why my blog's called what it is. I'm going to be a writer in exile. Nine to nine. Ciao.

10 Comments:

Blogger writer-in-egg-style said...

Tech-phobia or no techphobia, it takes just 2 minutes or less to egg someone on. Which is my purpose here.

A writer in exile arouses the imagination all the more for a couple of good reasons.

The first, as outlined by you, is your newfound access to a world of genuineness instead of pretences... which could help your reader 'see through' all those layers and folds of opacity. The second: 'exile' in itself suggests there is more on your mind than you have dared commit to writing (so far)... which ought to stimulate creativity.

I look forward to this trip. Cheers !

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