Saturday, February 17, 2018
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Continuing from where I left last  , my first day of actual duty at `The Leader’ was not a pleasure at all. It was a nightmare. I was asked to work in the evening shift from 4p.m. till 10 p.m. I was fresh from the University activities. And evenings were always a fascinating experience.

When I learnt that I will have to work for full one week like this, I missed a heart-beat. At first I called upon the Assistant Editor, Mr Ram Gopal, who was then all powerful. He was very sweet to me. He was inclined towards intellectual work and had also written some informative books on freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak which were full of exhaustive details about the people and the times of the great freedom fighter. He told me: ’You have to write a weekly feature, Flashlight on Allahabad. Start work today. Today is Monday. I want you to submit your copy positively by Friday. I will check it, send it for composing. Thereafter, when the proof comes you will have to pass it’. That was quite morale-boosting. I also paid my respects to Suresh Babu, the News Editor. He introduced me to the new shift. That evening one A.K.Dutt was in charge, and two sub-editors were assisting him – Shri Prakash and the late Ishwar Deo Mishra. The local news was taken care of late Swami Das Agarwal.

They were all very encouraging and cooperative too. But the shift-incharge A.K.Dutt was a tongue-terrorist. He used to say nasty words for every one – right from the editor and news editor down to the peon. He had to wreak his vengeance on me too. So he began by saying: ‘Look here, you say you have done your MA. Let me tell you that we don’t care a damn for those who come here with degrees and diplomas. Remember, your degrees and diplomas will not help you. ‘. Then, without explaining me the editing methodology, he asked me to edit some copy. I was at sea. But Ishwardeojee came to my rescue. He was very polite. He said, `We know your English is very good. I have not been a student of English- medium school. So I can’t teach you English. But I will teach you some editing methods’. And then he explained me how a copy was edited. He rightly told me:`The most difficult part of the work is to give a headline, a catchy headline with minimum words.’. I edited some copy (copy meant for editing is never referred to in plural terms). But my headlines were too immature. Ishwardeoji passed them on to Shree Prakashji, our senior, who looked keenly into what I had written. He said that he liked the words I had used but that while they would be good words to use in the text they could not be used in a headline.  He said that the headline should be ‘brief, it should fully express the contents of the report and the language should be intelligible’. He then improved upon my headlines and then said: ‘Now write them in your own hand and pin them to the items concerned.’ I did so. A.K.Dutt was not always present on his seat. After tearing the items from the long PTI roll and pinning up the scattered parts, he would hand a big bunch each to his subordinates and then go out gallivanting from one room to the other, always torturing the listener with the same old stories running down his colleagues.

He finally came to the room and said: ‘Show me the copy that you have done’ There were six or seven of them. I handed them over to him. He fumed: ‘This is what you have learnt in the University ? Did you go there to study or to loaf about ?’. I was fourth in the merit list and had also topped in one of the papers. For me to be told that I had been not studying but loafing about was a bit too much. But I gulped his remarks. He said: ‘These headlines are rubbish’. I kept quiet because those headlines were not given by me but by Shri Prakashji. Then he made some superficial changes and said: `You will have to learn here from zero. Shri Prakash will guide you. Unlearn all that you have learnt so far’. Then fretting and fuming he again went out. Both Mishraji and Shri Prakashji told me not to mind what he was saying. ‘He is an ageing bachelor’ they laughed. `You should not feel sorry because the headlines were mine, not yours. And I have not taken offence. It is his habit to criticize and condemn all.,’ said Shri Prakashji.They also told me that AK Dutt was referred to as ‘Doctor’ even though he was neither a Phd nor an MBBS. I asked them: ‘But is he going to be like that all the time ? How have you coped with him’. They said: ‘He is only temporarily looking after this desk. Our own shift incharge is Mr B.B.Das, a thorough gentleman, who has gone to Darbhanga in Bihar on leave. As soon as Mr Das returns you will find that this shift will turn from hell into heaven again’.

The sports desk was manned by Amalendu Ghosh. He was a bachelor, an Allahabad lover to the core. He knew my parents, elder brothers too. So I felt a little comfortable now. But soon Doctor came. They exchanged a few words which soon turned the news-room into a battle-ground of words. They were both Bengalis. So they would fire at each other in a language the rest of us didn’t understand. But soon thereafter, Amalendu was all cheerful and warned Doctor not to ill-treat me.There used to be a peon by the name of Kailash. He would serve tea at intervals. Ishwardeoji offered me tea. I politely declined. He was surprised. I told them that I took tea only twice- once while getting up and once in the afternoon. He smiled and said: ‘Take your time. But when you go on night duty next week, you will have to drink tea’. I told him that I would not. They smiled as if to say that tomorrow you will change your mind. But I did not form the tea habit even during night duty, though occasionally I did enjoy the beverage with them. And then it was nearly 10 p.m. and the time was coming to go home. Doctor apparently did not want me to meet the members of the incoming night shift. So he said: ‘You can go. And remember my advice. Degrees and diplomas won’t help. Don’t think that you can boss over us because you are an MA. You are zero right now.'

I cycled home. My brothers and sisters were gossiping on the cots laid outside under the sky because the June heat was too much to bear in those days when coolers had not made their experience. ( I still stay on the same premises but can never think of sleeping outside under the sky on what would seem to be a road now, though it is not ) It  was dark. My elder brother saw me coming. He asked me: `How was the first day’ as I was rolling my cycle inside. I told him that my experience was excellent. How could I tell him that a rude man had tried to humiliate me ? He asked me, ‘Are you happy?’. I replied, ‘Certainly yes’. It was dark. What he could not see was that I was telling that to him, with tears  gushing forth from my eyes. The silent tears. The tears that no one saw.!

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