Sunday, November 28, 2010

Great journalism happens

In the pursuit of journalistic excellence, you can often find me willing to go to any lengths to chase a story if the travel is paid for and the food and accommodation are free.

I confess. The only reason I even agreed to cover a car and bike race for an automobile magazine was that the event was scheduled at Bengaluru, where my darling now stays. “You’re coming HERE?” she squealed when I told her the happy news.

“Yes,” I said, wondering if I really was.

“You are?” she said in a hushed voice, wondering too.

“Yes,” I said, but I don’t think I was convincing enough. The husband looked fit to faint when I told him about it, and that I was actually turning the idea over in my head.

“Very good. You should get out more often,” he said sagely.

Hmph. One would think I was pale white from hiding in the house. (If you must know, my complexion is creamy.)

Then I started to think about more pressing matters, viz How, in the name of arse, was I going to cover a bike race?

Some footnotes may be in order at this point:
1. The question (How, in the name of arse, was I going to cover a bike race?) arose primarily because I know squat about any automobiles. (When I say ‘squat’, I mean ‘jack’.) If you asked me to deliberate on the subject, all I could tell you about any kind of automobile was that the buses in Mumbai were red and that my dad owns a Ford Ikon.

2. And also that I think the Tato Nano, in any colour, looks like it belongs in a cartoon film.

3. I cannot, even at my intelligent best, tell one car from another. Ditto for bikes.

4. I can, however, tell a car apart from a bike. I am not a total idiot.

And so I went to Bangalore.

The sister thought I would probably describe what I saw there as, “Some big white car with a green sticker on one side won the race.” I rather think she rolled her eyes when I scoffed at this line of thought. Well, har har. In keeping with my usual work ethic, I was extremely precise, clinical and unbiased while reporting the event. I append a critical paragraph from my as-yet unfinished draft, to illustrate aforementioned precision, clinicality and unbiasedpana:

‘_______ (insert name the moment you learn what it is) won what everyone kept referring to as the Dissel Wopen, and which proved to be, on thorough analysis and much sifting of official documents, the Diesel Open category. The winner was such a show-off about his victory that he came out of his car smirking all over his loathsome face and patting his own back, thereby riling certain sections of the crowd. This correspondent heard somebody on her right say, and she quotes, “Xjuouirljiuon melaiab wandapandi.” Translated from Kannada, this means, “Kitna shaanpatti kar rela hai, gaandu.”’

The hearing has still not been restored in my left ear, which was the ear closest to the start point, since I spent most of my time looking at the racers whizzing past. I keep getting Kannada flashbacks even in my sleep. I do not want to look at another idli for the remainder of my life. And the opening line of my piece really reads, ‘Some big white car with a green sticker on one side won the race.’ But the trip was fun and highly educational. If given a chance to do something like this again, I will certainly take it, provided it is in Bangalore.

And now I must go write the story before the editor decides to remind me. He says December 2 is my deadline, and though that is AGES away, I can see I have lost all my notes. Besides, I have other pressing matters to look into now that I’m back in Mumbai, such as What I should order for lunch.

Did I hear you say, “Xjuouirljiuon melaiab wandapandi”?