A portrait of journalists as friends
News — and therefore news media — is always in breaking mode, so one has to be suitably aligned.
The media is a strange professional domain to inhabit. There has to be at least one (longish) stretch in your career — usually that phase which is titled “Proving Your Mettle” — when you have to be working all odd hours, not be ‘entitled’ enough to get weekends off (and even if you do, you are required to be on call), forget about work:life balance, eat most of your meals in and around the office (usually unhealthy, greasy food) and more such ‘unconventional’ stuff that others would never really understand (my father used to call the media ‘lifestyle’ a “bohemian” one — and I am fairly certain he had no idea what “bohemian” actually meant).
News — and therefore news media — is always in breaking mode, so one has to be suitably aligned. And because journalists work odd hours, they tend to hang out a lot with colleagues. Much more than those who work in other sectors. There’s a reason for this: the profession subsists on storytelling, and, most times, ideas germinate from conversations. Being chatty with each other is a means to the end.
Because “proving your mettle” is something you do when you are young, enthusiastic and eager to please, most journos don’t really mind it. A couple of decades ago, when I was a journalist in India and had to be at work quite frequently on my single offday — Sunday — I never felt gypped that my well-deserved “weekly break” was being compromised. On the flip side, if there was a Sunday lunch gathering at a relative’s house, the hosts kind of half expected me to cancel because I (suddenly) needed to be at work. “On a Sunday, huh? They are really working you to the bone.”
I didn’t care back then because I was on a roll: going to work was great fun because of two reasons. I loved the unpredictability of my workflow, and the creativity it stirred up. And, more importantly, an eco-system had been created where colleagues had morphed into like-minded friends who I loved interacting with on a daily basis.
In the process, most of us had dysfunctional relationships with families. I’d baulk at the idea of seeing a family member’s face every day, but would always look forward to having office colleagues as fixtures in my daily life. On offdays and (the rare) holidays, a few of us from work would often fetch up at one of many watering hole where we’d spend hours chattering away. There was (still is, though I am very far-removed these days) a venerable institution called the Press Club, where there were magical, psychotropic renderings of social discourse that framed agendas to change the world. I’d be asked (by folks from non-media sectors): “You see these people every day, don’t you feel like taking a break from them?”
I don’t, I’d say.
It was a wonder how we forged friendships in media organisations, and remained friends as best as we could, despite the transient, ephemeral quality our lives’ paths of progression took on. Most of us were competitive… fiercely so. Who wrote the better feature? Who filed a story first? Who filed the most number of stories in a given week? Who had better contacts with People Who Matter? Whose annual was increment was more? Who’s being sent on a press junket?
Yet, through it all, ties endured.
One of my bestest friends, who used to be in the thick of media action in her heydays, often returning home in the wee hours, picking up fights with late-night truckers (on her way back) who dared intimidate her, has a completely different life now. She’s a homemaker, an army wife and a hands-on mom. Her life has gone through a reverse sweep. But does that take away anything from our relationship? It doesn’t really, we are still as thick as thieves though we see each other rarely. Whenever we meet, she tells me, “You still have an exciting life”, and I tease her with, “Gosh, you’ve become such a housewife.”
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