September 21, 2003

Hopscotch

I can almost smell the dust here. Been quite a while eh?

For starters, I put in my papers sometime early last week. I am leaving what has essentially been my problem child over the last three years. It has been some ride, one that has taught me quite a lot more than what I ever expected to learn and changed me in more ways than one, a pleasant mix of the good and the bad. It has been pretty hard work, but I guess I owe nothing to anyone. Guess it is time to try and create another little corner of comfort from scratch. Another place, another time, another cause. Forward ho! We do not look back.

If anyone were to have told me in early 2001, after two disastrous one week stints in two major media organisations, that I would be working the three years that were to follow on minimum 8 hour a day shifts, six days a week, I would have laughed it off. Me, the forever restless human doing something like that? No way! Never! Unthinkable. That is the sort of thing reserved for ordinary mortals, no, not for me! And how the mighty fell and rolled further and deeper into the ravine of a set routine and an ordinary existence.

Honestly, I do not have any regrets, nor am I complaining. I am just serving the facts on a neutral plate, ruminating, contemplating during one of those rare periods of time off work. The effort has taken its toll though. Strangely it has been pretty impartial and the effects are pretty much across the board. I have lost a little bit of everything, cynicism, optimism, pessimism, and any other "ism" you can come up with. I have come quite a long way and yet I am nowhere.

I am relieved though, to be away (hopefully!) from pushing news on a daily basis. Every now and then you do end up questioning if there is any bit of shame or humanity left in you when all you can think of, even when reading about some tragedy, is how well you can play it up. There is one photograph I will never forget, of a man dying slowly at the site of a train crash. It still disturbs me, makes me wonder if I would have still seen it just as "saleable news" if it was someone I knew, someone I cared for. Maybe I won't feel anything. After all, it is just a symptom of a deeper-set malaise.

On a news desk you get to see all the agency photographs, raw and unedited and also stuff clicked by your own photographers. At the high resolution that we get to see them, you can see every cut, every drop of blood and the pain and agony on the face of every victim of disasters, created by man or nature. When you read around 70 odd stories in a day as a part of your work, there is a lot of crap that runs through your mind, makes you feel so bloody helpless. There is so much of it out there and all you do is to try and sell it well.

I know I am doing it knowingly. No one is forcing me to do it. Still, I cannot just ignore the detached irony of the situation. It makes you feel so yuck, still all that you are going to do is to push it. Laughable, two-penny, pathetic sensitivity that is of no good to anyone. Every story has spin, every story ignores some important fact, every story makes or destroys a case. Fact? What is it? I do not remember when was the last time I saw it. Do you? I am just a conduit to push an agenda and I am a pretty good one at that. I speak the language they love to hear.

And they do love me. They love the fact that I am dependable. I am clockwork personified. 6 days a week I can be found here from 9:30 PM to 7:00 AM, come rain, snow or sun. It is not rocket science. It has been more about endurance than ethics. It has been more about escapism than principles. If the cowardice in sheltered survival is mistaken for outstanding acts of bravery, who am I to complain? Who am I to reject another of those shiny medals? But I have to admit, it does amuse me to work the system. It is fun.

Actually, I do not know for sure anymore what is real. Any given point there are two other referential points. One, the old rough, reckless, raw self and the second the new, smooth, calculating one. I am neither. In fact I am not sure if that is actually the case or is it just that I want to believe that I exist somewhere in the middle, detached from either. Gives you the best of both worlds, minus the responsibility of either. It was not me monsieur, it was him! Schizophrenia elevated to the status of a practising art. Not a bad prospect?

But I do miss the certainty of the old days, of actually being able to just move on as and when the need was felt , as well as believing in it. The old days when all I had in this strange, alien city was a duffel bag, a mattress and a bucket. An ode to choice, out of it or the lack of it. I am getting rooted. It is not a comfortable thought. I want to have a mobile foundation. I miss the days when I could comfortably find a couple of hours in a day to finish a hundred pages of a book or when I could think of wasting five minutes in my day without having to think about a similar five in the coming day.

But I am having fun. Yes, I am. To let you into a secret, I really do not believe in the crap that I am good at. I am just bluffing, you see, and everyone thinks it is genius. It is like you are the emperor and is yelling at the crowd "Damn it, I am standing here stark naked" and they think that it is something like a cool new fashion statement. But it is time to leave this beast and head for the new one. Yes siree, I am now giving "internal examination" a totally new meaning. I am looking at the beast from the inside and the view is.. umm.. cool?