Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I've left Mint (not The Mint, as it has inexplicably come to be known), after nine months on the job. Last November, a good three months before the newspaper's launch date - a date we did not know of then - I took up the offer to become a media correspondent for this newspaper. The promise, and the lure, was that our analysis and story length would distinguish us, and that we would not be normal. If we were a channel, normal would allude to television in general. But with newspapers, it had to be Economic Times. The endeavor was worthy enough, the editors were good, and hierarchy would not be a problem. I hopped on, glad to be in the middle of the kind of competition that now expected journalists to keep their dignity, and which sent salaries soaring.

As our launch approached, the competitors geared up. 'We want feature stories, we want feature stories,' one employee mimicked his editor in the presence of a friend who he knew worked here. Leave was apparently cancelled, strings were pulled, the machine rumbled in anticipation. And then, very quietly, Mint appeared. I recall the morning of its launch when, in my own private excitement, I wiped one newsstand off all Mint's copies. The walked around the mostly empty train compartment, scanning people at every station to see if anyone was reading it.

If everyone was like me, we wouldn't have had an issue the next day. It was spent in a trance, smiling at nothing in particular. The Mumbai bureau had the happy air of a man who has silently detonated something. "What next, Mr Tata?" What a headline!

Among journalism's many merits is that once a job is done, it is done. It is a profession in which the footsoldiers find it difficult to take work home. They revel in this aspect of it. Indeed, their job is to report, not always to question. There is no time for questions. Many people are clearly meant for this.

So here I am, writing from a net cafe in Chennai, bloody homesick, speaking a language I cannot understand. One eye is on the limited budget behind me for this project, the other on the possibilities. The feeling never changes - there's always some fear and some degree of elation. I reckon it's the promise of asking questions you've never asked before that's at the heart of past adventures, and the same can be said of this.

I'll be blogging a lot more now, perhaps with a theme in mind.

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