Olu Eletu photo
The greatest temptation journalists face is to regard the stories they write as their own. They are not, they are the stories of those who are involved in the events reported. It’s not the journalist who is the hero, it is those who suffer famine or floods, those who fight cruelty or oppression, those who govern and those who oppose them. Never do I feel this more strongly than when I walk away from natural disasters with the material recorded for what I know will be ‘a good story’, leaving the victims to their sufferings.
Sir Mark Tully – Former Chief of Bureau, BBC in “No Full Stops in India”
“Each individual’s life is a story, if penned beautifully then could be an inspiration for many” is the line which made me write my own story. Believe me, I avoided writing my story, starting from my birthplace, a rather spiritual but disputed place, Ayodhya, to the capital of India, but at last I found that there are some elements which must be heard by a section of society, hence I decided to write.
Therehave been many ups and downs in my life, many potholes and then some achievements which can be a story of any individual in your neighborhood. I was born in an aristocratic Brahmin family where education was given primary importance, but what it took for me to finally reach to my goal, was an unending story, a story that could have been a very personal experience in the big bad world of the media.
Many of us aspire to be an achiever but few make it their destiny. I do not know whether or not I have achieved something of value if we take into account an upbringing of a kid in the surroundings and atmosphere of a backward but rather religious town, which has seen the bloody battles over a temple cum mosque, later on changing the political destiny of the our country, but I must admit that in this journey I learnt something which is rare and remarkable.
It was all due to the support of my family, friends, people from all walks of life who I came across in this journey. They left an imprint on my life and helped me to finally gain shape from where I train and polish the new younger and bright generation.
The journey was tough and so was the traveler, as I often say, but experiences gained were exceptional.
From the tiny religious town of Ayodhya to my dream city Delhi where you often get lost on the way to achieving something and are are wrongly perceived by people of the big bad media world, I kept my head high through the a series of rejections, despair and disappointment, all thanks to a few people around me. In my way I saw stories of hope, courage, mysticism and misery in the wonderland that is India.
The instalments of this story may be great in number, but are kept short and precise and well connected with the next and will keep the travelers in this journey hooked and will enjoy their travels through all the potholes along with me.
People with whom I have met and who are the part of this journey are remarkable. They are unique in many a sense. Ramchandra Paramhans was one such individual who challenged the rigidity of the entire belief system on his rigidness for the glorious Ram temple to be built in Ayodhya. His uniqueness in fighting and travelling together with Muslim counterparts is a lesson for many hardliners today. Ami Vitale is a remarkable photojournalist with lots of courage and hope. She has many times penetrated the remotest parts of the world alone in search of stories untold upto now. Anita Pratap was the first female head of CNN and the first to interview Velupillai Prabhakaran at his peak; she has been my inspiration. Rajdeep Sardesai has shaped today’s TV journalism and I am thankful that we met at on a few occasions. Organizations like the BBC which supported me for two months and inspired me (not helped) to listen to the people who are part of the story. NASA also helped by providing some opportunities to attend its prestigious conferences. Places like Ayodhya, Delhi, Noida, Dehradun and Bangalore have been my home in this long battle and I will never forget to mention the stories of these places.
Then there are the people whose stories I have told in this journey. Myself as protagonist and all those who I came across along the way are themselves extremely readable material. I have tried to listen and tell the stories of all those who left an imprint in my life.
I must admit also that in the various instalments that will be published, you will find the stories of all shades of life. My elder brother has been my sole source of support through the dark days and long battles with joblessness. My parents who gave me birth and helped me fight this battle are also my mentors. My wife has given me a lot of time and patience to share my difficulties as has my infant son.
I am thankful to all who inspired me to write this wonderful Story of an Intern.
Wishing you the very best on this journey.
This is the story of deep pain and shallow gains. This is the story of an unending journey which has shown me all the ups and downs, suffering and pleasure, sorrow and happiness in media and has made me emerge from the darkness into an enlightened world, one that has transformed me from an infant to a fully grown man in the media.
I recall my meeting with a rather low profile, but remarkable achiever in media, Madhukar Upadhyaya, when I had just passed my 10th board exam in 1990. He was in Ayodhya to cover the bloody shoot out on the streets and I, by that time, had decided to make my way in journalism. That was a very cool meeting at his native house amidst long tall trees, a holy temple and an old but in all directions building. As I entered his house through an old creaking and trembling stairway he came out in a ‘lungi’ with a ‘Janeu’ on his bare upper abdomen. Very politely he said, “Thakur pandit ji ke bete ho.” I gave a positive nod and then discussed my dream to be like him and serve in the three letter charisma of media, the BBC. He wrote down his Delhi home address and promised to meet me there after my graduation.
Exactly five years later, when I passed the entrance test for a Mass Communication course at University of Lucknow University I again rang him to ask whether or not to submit the fee for said course, at which point he advised me to stick with it, which then decided my fate to pack up my bags for a rather longer journey in the media. The year was 1997 and the month was March.
Lucknow University, as I had presumed, had nothing much to offer in terms of classroom studies, but as a city Lucknow at that time was the ‘Mecca of the Media,’ for it was a center for all kind of politics that we were studying. So, soon after taking admission in the Masters program, and to live up to my father’s dream, I started roaming around and knocking on the doors of each newspaper and media house. Luckily, I was noticed by one of my teachers and a veteran in the media, Karuna Shanker Saxena, who offered me the opportunity to write on a regular basis for a feature agency, where he was serving as editor.
It was a kick start to my career in the media alongside my studies and I truly enjoyed my job which lasted for six months, up to my departure from Lucknow to Delhi. The first article I wrote was on Chinese leader Deng-Xiaoping‘s death and was published, not rejected. I developed relationships in the Hindustan Times and visited its Lucknow office several times. I recall that we had plenty of students crazy about journalism and some of them have come a long way. Indeed beginning in journalism was as I had predicted. People with long beards and empty bellies walking into a newspaper office to get their sarticles published and editors always trying to find out how to reject them!
Through these unforgettable experiences, and as time rolled on, a year had passed, but somewhere deep in my conscience was the picture of Delhi, where the real media war was being fought. This was the war between fresher and experienced media people, the war between print and electronic journalism, the war between vernacular language and English journalism and a war which has really given the shape to today’s media industry through the efforts of the real heroes who are no longer with us…
And I got my way, I got the opportunity to knock on Delhi’s doors, as I always say ‘where there is a will there is a way.’