Friday, November 15, 2013

In the city of dreams. And some nightmares.

Today I knew I just had to gather everything inside me and just write.I  turned twenty three on November 9. Almost a woman now(?) Had a nice dinner with friends. I don't really get excited about my birthday anymore. I feel nothing really. A tinge of shock and disappointment, at how I can't help getting older.

I've been listening to ‘Death is the road to awe’, the OST of The Fountain. It transports me into another realm of the universe. I just finished reading The Lowland, the latest book by Jhumpa Lahiri. What a beauty. The ending killed me. Reading Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami now. Enjoying it immensely.  

In other news, I’ve managed to cross off one of the things on my wish list. We all went to Goa after the exams! It was exactly what I needed. We loitered around the beaches, played with the sea waves, zipped zapped zoomed all over Goa on our hired scooters and drank and ate and danced and did everything possible in three days. What a holiday! We used to come back at 4 or 5 in the morning, crash on the beds like there’s no tomorrow, get up late, have a lazy, delicious breakfast and then just rush to the beaches. I love the sound of the beach. It’s one of the most joyful sounds in the world.

It has been two weeks since I came to Bombay and started my internship at The Indian Express. Honestly, I don’t even know how to describe the entire experience. I live in a 3BHK with 3 of my other friends and a couple of strangers (who are now kind of friends as well). I travel by the local trains every day, Andheri to Churchgate, which were so alien to me fifteen days back. Now I don’t even have to bat an eyelid before hopping on a train. I see the red stripes and the ‘ladies’ symbol and BAM! I’m on it in no time. It has become so routine, so normal, so …necessary. I sit at the window seat, plug in my earphones and tune myself out till I reach my destination. The office was overwhelming the first day. It is located at Nariman point, one of the most commercial and developed places in Bombay. The building overlooks the sea, and Marine drive is right outside. That place excites me, thrills me. Every time I have to go to CST or cross those iconic landmarks or look at the skyline, I can’t help smiling. This is one of the best cities in the country! I am in Bombay! I’m working here! I’m living here! It is really happening!

Talking about work. So they have put me in the Crime beat as of now. When I was told that, my mind went like, “Oh my god, I’m done for. How will I ever do this?” But my superiors/mentors/colleagues are so helpful and encouraging. I feel like laughing when I compare them to my previous internship superiors. They are patient with me, they tell me where to go and how to go and what to do. I call them for the silliest reasons and they guide me through it. In the past two weeks I’ve done 2 suicide stories, 2 accident stories, a murder story, a couple of press conferences, and several small 100-word reports. And it has been a ride. To think that I had never gone inside a police station before in my life, and now I visit senior inspectors and police officers almost every second day. I was petrified at first. Lost. Blank. Ignorant. But slowly, I started getting the hang of it. I would give myself a pep talk. “I’m a journalist! It is my right to ask for information, and they owe it to me. These are public records and they are bound to tell me what people need to know. Just go and talk to them. They can’t throw you out.”

Some days, however, they almost do throw you out. Not literally, but they may snap at you, ignore you or pretend they are not who you think they are. They have more important things to do, cases to solve instead of talking to some newbie reporter. And I understand that, which is exactly what makes this job so challenging. I have had police officers who have made me wait for hours only to tell me they have to go somewhere urgently. It is mind numbingly demotivating. But you've got to get your story, by hook or by crook. It makes me question my own capabilities. Am I good enough for this? 

I admire the energy of this place. Not only my office, but the entire city. Everyone is busy, and everyone walks with a purpose. No one stares at you, no one tires to touch you. No one even has the time to look at you. Which is why it is liberating to work here. It is not odd to come home at 12 in the night. I know girls who come later than that. This place is for people who are really just trying to work and make a living.

The stories done by the other people in my office are sometimes so good I wonder how I will ever be able to reach that level, but I know I can if I push myself hard enough. I’ve seen good days, and bad ones. Some days were so frustrating I almost cried in the toilet. It is physically painful when you travel and walk in the heat for hours and you don’t get any information for your story. I have often wondered what I’m doing. If I want to do this. If I’m meant to do this. But I can figure that out for myself later. Right now I’m just glad at how much I’m getting to learn every single day. I’ve travelled in buses where there has been no place to move and where passengers are somehow dangling at the door, their entire body hanging outside precariously. I’ve travelled in loud, noisy, hot, crowded trains where I have stood for so long my legs have lost all feeling. I’ve gone from one place to another looking for the scene of crime, only to be met with ignorant faces and disappointment. I've eaten at small roadside shops alone. I’ve gone hungry. I come home by 10:30 at night. I change, have my dinner, read a few pages of my book and I’m out in minutes. But I know that at the end of my internship, even if I don’t report groundbreaking stories, this will all be worth it because it would make me tougher. Stronger. Build my character. Every time my report gets edited, I get better at writing it. I learn every day. Maybe this is all to compensate for all those jobless, useless, idle days I have spent sleeping and watching reruns.

I’m out in the industry. Even if temporarily. I need to learn how to swim against the current, lest it takes me away with it. I’m aware of my own inadequacies, and I have to work against them. Against my own fears and shortcomings. This is really the time to figure myself out. To make something happen. To do something that matters. This is my time.


  1. It's sad how birthdays feel less exciting as we grow older.

    Goa sounds like a great place for vacation!

    Good to hear that work is going well and your have a good support system :)

    1. Yes, it is sad. In a grown-uppy way. Goa is absolutely refreshing!

      And thanks :)

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  3. For starters, typically Astha-tically written!! I completely associate with everything you said(not wrote mind you! It's almost as if you're speaking)My internship was just like that. The feelings of frustration, the learning, the happiness, the feeling that you are getting stronger, empathy all the way!You will shine through after this experience. :) Brilliant work!(for keeps, until your boss commends you similarly after your first brilliant crime story)

    1. Thanks Sachin. So happy you can relate to it :)

  4. So refreshing. Sounds like you're living the life. Savor it. (:


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