Blanche's Manifesto

I look around me at work and I am amazed afresh everyday. How did such a whimsical occupation become a job that people take seriously? Yesterday I sat crouched for hours in a chair in the India Habitat Centre looking into the happy, insane eyes of a man who could have talked about his work for weeks. Every now and then he would gesture with his chin, still talking incessantly at my cooling coffee. I would gesture back with my chin that he was to go on. Later we were walking about in Defence Colony. He was telling me about the mystic links between Orson Welles and Ramoji Rao. "Its nice to be titillated all the time, isnt it?" he asked. Yes it is, sir, yes it is.

Once a fortnight I call a Mumbai film set designer and ask him what's going on. I call random people and ask them whether they like their parents, what they want their children to become, who they would sleep with. How do I get paid to indulge my curiosity?

The thing is this. I grew up knowing that I was going to be a reporter in a newspaper. I worked in newspapers during the holiays, ran little papers with my friends then went like a lemming to journalism school. The last event ensured that I was scared from a newspaper career for years. I fell in with the jhola crowd and there I stayed warm and happy for five years.

After a five year detour when I landed back in the newspaper business I find my fascination as naive as it ever was. I am still enthralled by the Slinky Woman Reporter with the Eyes that See All, the Charming Reporter with the Core of Steel, The Bristling, Kindly Editor... staples of the great newspaper movies ( I adore Terry Pratchett for his tribute to the newspaper movies in the first chapter of The Truth. The dwarves invent Discworld's first printing machine and as they are transporting it, they lose control over the machine. The last thing William de Worde hears before being knocked out by the machine is the dwarves screaming, of course, "Stop the press!")

At the very first real party that I went to as a teenager I met a sweetfaced boy who told me that he was sad. The girl he really liked had promised to come to the party and hadnt. He sat on the hood of our hostess' father's car and swirled his Coke about in his glass and sighed quietly. I was astonished by the confidence but painfully grateful too. I never saw that boy again but when people I have never met before, pour urgency, passion, amusement, rage into my ears I think of him and feel the same gratitude.


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