I Made That Betch Famous

Sunday, April 09, 2017

As far back as I can stretch my memory, my pseudonym while signing off each of the questions in the 'Writing' section of English exams in school was this reporter's name. It's been a while since I have revisited classrooms to see what's been up, but back in the day, for my friends and I, journalism was glamourous. Print and TV journalism enamoured a whole bunch of us who believed we could write. We would look up the bylines and names, and try and emulate their style with ours. That's to say, if the adult me had the confidence that I had at 13 with my writing, I'd be in line for a Ramnath Goenka Award today.

I digress, but I want to go back to the time where newspapers were distributed through the year inside the classroom. Various media houses had tie-ups with schools with a curated newspaper; a healthy mix of appropriate news bulletins and editorial written by students from various schools. I remember waiting eagerly for the newspaper every fucking day. My obsession with the newspaper, and consequently journalism was to the point that if I ever did take an off, I'd hunt the previous day's edition in the dumpster allocated for old newspapers in the building. This, after having finished reading the day's paper at home before being shamelessly late to school daily.

Going back, this standup comedian who's a big deal right now, used to double up as a cartoonist. The strip was coming of age Indian Peanuts, so to say. A guy accompanied by his bespectacled friend in the strip, trying to figure out life and times of growing up Indian with globalized pop culture all around. What I remember distinctly from being 12 is the cartoonist's obsession with the journalist, whose name I used all the way from when I was 13-16. From 17 onwards, I attempted to use my name but my confidence wavered off. That's for another time. The cartoon strip used to only appear in the newspaper distributed to us in school. Maybe my research skills weren't as nearly fantastic as they're today, but I could never find those cartoons online, till very recentloy.

Naturally, for a 12-year-old, the reference in the cartoon strip meant cross-verifying by either watching the television/using the dial-up connection, I preferred to go back to the television, for it doesn't curate but throws everything at you together. The 12-year-old saw the journalist on the screen- dusky, dimpled and ravishing, and her enunciation to die for. That is when I decided to grow up and be as amazing as this woman.

The kind of woman, men would profess love to vis-a-vis cartoon strips. The prospects of being the object of affection excite the 25-year-old me, to this day. Who doesn't want to be immortalised in the memory of an artist through his work? Also having the lead character in a comic strip being obsessed with you, ask yourself, how flattered would you be?

Some 13 years later, at work, I was called in by the PR lady to an ongoing meeting. I'd just returned after a long smoke break with Mia and it was already lunch. I was expecting something serious to be thrown at me. Something along the lines of, 'How dare you take 20 minutes break before one-hour long lunch when you don't even smoke?' or some such. My last organisation was brutal and it's put the fear of god in me. So here, I don't get called into meetings unless there's a Tsunami threat. And this wasn't adding up.

I entered the room and there she was. The ethereal beauty, whose name I'd borrowed without sending her my best, for years together. Her hair was completely dishevelled, her face as hopelessly optimistic and full of false hopes as she normally projects on the screen when she talks. I knew she is doing a book with us, and that it's going to be our big Summer release. However, I didn't think, I would be anywhere close to that title. Universe is a strange player and naturally, things were not supposed to align.

"We were just telling her that you can help us boost the book on Facebook since you have ideas."

I continued to stare at her and her phone. Android in a large-ish pink and black case. Soft ringlets of hair that she was trying to comb through with her fingers falling on her forehead. Her bottle green top which she had so effortlessly combined with taupe pants. I continued to look around and nod, while being transported to VIII C, located on second floor, left hand side of the senior building.

This woman sitting in front of me had no idea that I'd written letters to editor(s), composed lost and found notices, invited people to annual day functions through posters, written furniture orders amongst other things across various exams with her name over the years.

As a child, I'd wondered, what would my language teacher think- where am I getting her name from. As an adult, I looked at her and hoped, that she forgives me for using her name if she ever did find out that I practiced my writing skills with her name as mine.

The meeting was just as how meetings are supposed to be- banal. At some point the PR lady complained that she can no longer read from a screen and would prefer reading the journalist's book as a printed version. The journalist responded by saying that her experience with reading on the iPad or a screen, in general, is more efficient than paper. She expressed her inability to understand this phenomenon.

"Um, what happens is that years ago you were used to reading off a paper. You had a certain speed of reading. Our only experience of reading today is through screen. The screen appears in different forms in front of you. You're only so habitual to read and pick faster from a screen than from a paper.", I said without quoting how it took around three years of research school to teach us all this much. I keep all that I learnt there bottled up unless I feel like everyone else around me is really pandering to bullshit. That meeting was a perfect spot to combust me out of that conversation with respect.

The journalist through the dialogue kept nodding and as soon as I was done she said, "You know, you're right. You're absolutely right..." I could see the sincerity in her appreciation with the approval.

It's funny though when I think that I've written an entire piece without mentioning her name. Especially in case such as this, where it was all the more required. I suppose I no longer look upto people who made me who I am.

Which is a fucking disappointment, because my paper hero knows less than I do. When your childhood heroes turn out to be mere mortals expressing their ignorance over matters such as screen studies, while having devoted their lives to earning a livelihood through the same screen, you cringe.

No one's made a cartoon character in their comic strip fuss over me. No one has thanked me in their acknowledgement section of the book. No one has credited me with the invention of zero. And I'm doing just about okay.

Now to turn that time machine backwards and whisper in the ears of the 13-year-old me, "You don't need no mask/no pseudonym for your work. You're going to be okay, kid."

Meanwhile, the cartoonist shared the post I boosted from our organization's page. Somethings never change. And, they shouldn't. 

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