The other day I received an email from one of my colleagues at BusinessWorld magazine. Well she was more than a colleague, is a cherished friend now. It was her resignation letter, detailed and emotional with a special mention of each team member. I am tempted to copy her words here: Indira, it has been a while since you left BW but it honestly doesn’t seem so. Working with you has always been a breeze and the most important thing I learnt from you is maintaining a work-life balance. We all miss your stories, and I can confidently say that you are one of the most interesting people I have met. Observing you work has helped me inculcate a news sense and you even made scanning the wires accurately for updates appear seamless. We had the most fun scrolling through Pratibha Patil’s pictures in PTI archives (now that’s what you call alliteration), I think! I know you are just a click away most of the time, something that almost makes the distance between us illusionary. Hope to see you seen when you plan your next India trip.
Aloo as I fondly called her (yes alliterations sound better) knew my pet peeve those days was former Indian President Pratibha Patil. I just could not stand the sight of the puny sari-clad president of a country who looked sleep deprived all the time! So there we would go scanning for pictures of madam Patil and passing the most cutting remarks about her. Jeez my viciousness can sometimes know no bounds. Why I did it I have no idea, I just enjoyed the laughing so much. And I made Aloo my partner in crime.
Indeed BusinessWorld, a leading business magazine in India previously owned by the Ananda Bazar Pratrika (ABP) Group and sold off recently, brings many fond memories. After my stint at PTI, the Times of India – two supposedly big media outlets – I had succumbed to the reality that mediocrity thrives in journalism, and that my life was going to end with filing “he said, she said, they added” kind of stories with no proper utilisation of my depleting grey cells, editing stories, updating websites, attending bossy meetings and driving home in the wee hours of the morning every day. So I took a sabbatical from a career that was losing its sheen and went off to Africa. Eight months later I got back to India jobless and looking around. I remember my interview at BW clueless about finance and statistics and business jargon and telling two very pleasant editors that “English is English and I can edit”. I was told later that I was hired because they liked my 'temperament'. Thus I restarted my career as Assistant Editor on a five-day normal hours job, weekends off, public holidays too, a decent pay package and feeling like a true ‘babu’. But most importantly, I met my quota of normal, intelligent people who did not behave like megalomaniacs while rehashing a press release and acquiring a by-line for it.
Apart from PTI where I found some true friends, BW to me was special. I really loved the working environment, there was no hierarchy and the editors were people you could have a conversation with anytime on any issue. I loved the Saturday editorial meetings packed with reporters who brainstormed their stories. I learnt so much from by boss Pro, who I am extremely fond of to date. He is a mentor par excellence. “If the editing desk of BusinessWorld has had direction since 2000, it has to be attributed to Pro -- even when the job market was tight. He brings finesse to ordinary stories, while also strengthening it with information it lacks: by making reporters work harder on a story. And he took the greatest care of BusinessWorld through its toughest times,” put my friend Kunaal at BW, who over an argument in my car suddenly erupted into a toothy grin after we discovered we shared the same birth date. Fight resolved in seconds. Another gem of a soul fondly nicknamed ‘the argumentative Indian’. The people who have moved places after the developments at BW have all moved further ahead in their careers and I guess it has to do with the intellectually stimulating environment that BW nurtured.
Personally, Pro taught me work-life balance. When I was diagnosed with a tumour on my right thyroid gland, he told me to ‘go fix my body first’ and think about work later, all the time inquiring after my health through sms. And when I did come back to office after a 45-day break, I was not only welcomed with a big cake but also a nickname ‘deep throat’, and sometimes ‘slit throat’! He wrote to the HR office in Kolkata stating it was a special case and my holidays waived.
Thus Aloo’s email revived many, many memories. At BW, I saw life changing events – a cancer scare, death of my mother, death of a few relationships, marriage which I had almost ruled out and a new country to call home. Today, BW has disintegrated with more than half the team gone, the offshoot of a depressing market downturn. Moving on is the story of life but BW, for me. will always be that security blanket – friends I can seek at the click of a mouse and friends with whom yesterday seems once more whenever we meet up.