Experiencing Journalism of Courage

This is not Slumdog Millionaire! But there are 3 musketeers in this story too. Three of them who together land up at an alien place to discover what real, professional and hard core journalism is like. Welcome to The Indian Express, Ahmedabad Bureau ... where me, Afsha and Sakib were placed for internship during the last leg of FJC. This ranks as the most enthralling and not so enthralling experience of my life. I landed up in Ahmedabad, a city to which I had never been before ... with hopes of learning to practice "journalism of courage" (no offense meant please). There were a lot of expectations which we all had, being internees ... I guess the race for bylines was obvious. Ahmedabad is a huge and crazy place, unlike my sweet little Baroda. Three things you can't escape when in Ahmedabad ... pollution, traffic and large distances! Staying in a rented place, eating terrible food and struggling to catch buses to reach the ever elusive office of Express at the Judges Bungalow road ... I felt as if I was undergoing a life imprisonment experience! And to make matters worse, in the first few weeks of the internship we were clueless as to what we were actually doing there.

Week 1 began with a lot of newspaper reading experiences ... as if I had never read any. I learnt a new way of finding out stories! Check out the other newspapers and find out what has been covered in those and not been covered in your paper. Lift a story idea from there, find a new angle and cover it. Really innovative! I also learnt that it was quite offensive and demeaning to call regional language newspapers as vernacular language newspapers. Week 2 was spent in researching Ahmedabad ... the grand city, discovering its varied hues ... and I could connect with my dissertation which I had just completed the previous month! Felt more like a research scholar than a trainee journalist.

It was only in the third week that we began doing some concrete work ... with each other's help of course. I don't know how I would have managed without Sakib and Afsha and that is why I refer to them as my musketeers! There were some highs and lows, some disappointments which led me to discover the world of mainstream journalism. I went to quite a few places like "The District Magistrate and Collectorate Office" which is like an hour away from the place where I worked. I hated the city's transport system because I had to do all sort of additions and divisions to catch a bus and in spite of boarding a bus I was not sure about landing at the correct place.

There are some positives also. I don't wish to sound like a doomed internee. The positive side was when you saw your story in paper (even though it was published quite later after it was written). I got to do two stories on RTI out of which one was published. I got to cover film festivals, board examinations, electoral issues and an art exhibition which I think is quite a range of issues! The day I would never like to remember was the one during which we landed at the ill-famed "Gulbarga" society (post-Godhra riots and the one where Ex-Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri was burnt alive). It sent shivers down my spine to just be there and witness the horrific site just a day before the anniversary of the incident. We were almost held up by the cops there inquiring about our whereabouts. I clung to research again ... saying that we were research students who were conducting a study on communalism and its impact and blah blah blah ... research can also rescue ... I never knew. That day is still etched in my mind.

Finally, by the end of March we finished our internship and I was eager to be back at the faculty. A few observations about how it felt to be an intern ...
College life is certainly better, organizations should take more interest in internees and should invest some time and energy in training them, organizations should not impart all the training in the last week ... but most importantly organizations should take interns only if they are capable and willing enough to train them!!! I have to say that I don't miss my traineeship period ... not even one day! Its something I have left behind in my memory books very comfortably.

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