Early one morning through our summer academy at Asian College of Journalism in Chennai, my new Afghan friend got a call from his home town. He had lost his 22-year-old colleague and friend. Some one from a speeding car had pumped three bullets into his forehead on a street. No one knows the reason for his killing. No one would, perhaps, ever know the truth. But life is all worth a bullet in Afghanistan, our shattered and bereaved friend told us stoically. The other friend from the same country explained us the chilling realities of his war-ravaged country: “It could be me or him the next time, or any time.”
The past two weeks of our training at the ACJ, we – about 25 journalists from all the south-Asian countries – shared, discussed and learnt the strife across the sub-continent; the conflicts we are riddled with; the challenges; and hypocrisies of our nations with regard to acknowledging and resolving the conflicts.
We live in a brazen world. And all the while we talk about democracy. India, the world’s largest democracy, is plagued with conflicts within: of people falling off the basket in the lopsided economic progress; of Nepal catapulting to a new system, which hopefully would be democratic, after a decade of strife leading to the toppling of Monarchy by Maoists championing what they call the “people’s cause”; of Sri Lanka, groping in dark for over four decades now to end the ethnic violence; of Pakistan, for sure, a country which is yet to realize what’s good for her; of Bhutan, which is only now about to discover the word called democracy; of Bangladesh, standing perilously close to the brink of sabotaging democracy.
But we also realized that life goes on…It has to…And there’s always a lighter side to a more serious affair. And with us, the journalists closeted in Chennai for the past two week, there indeed are a few lighter shades! Here’s a glimpse:
Ekta’s fan from Afghanistan!
Ezmaray can hardly communicate in Hindi. But this heftily built, well-chiseled journalist just loves “Kyunki Saans bhi kabhi….”. “I can’t miss that serial; you know ‘when mother-in-law was a daughter-in-law once,” the fair-complexioned naïve-looking Afghani confessed, in his broken Hindi, at the welcome dinner on the first evening of our course. What’s more, no matter the hell breaks loose on to his country, he tries to catch what’s happening in the K-series! Afghans just love Ekta’s serials in Pashtun!
When he’s on a song!
Ruwan’s singing adventures are by now well known in our group. This Sri Lankan journalist’s Hindi is as good as his English. But, play a Rafi song, and there he goes, romantic and berserk, in a way! I beg a pardon Mr Rafi, but lyrics aren’t really all that important when the Sinhalese is on the song! Literally! So, he could flounder, but, we know, that’s okay. “Feel the emotions man!” We know. Last evening, when we heard Colombo was in panic following a threat from the LTTE, Ruwan sang: “Hay mayre vhatan ke logon, jara haankh may bharalo…”
Life’s a chill(y)!
A quarter of a kilogram of green chillies – that’s the staple food for three of the Bhutanese journalists. Shhhhh! You would scream, but they erupt if the banquet has no chilly corner. Last week, Tashi, the journalist with Kuensel in Bhutan, told the guy behind the stalls “we will starve if you’ve no chillies on the platter.” The ‘Anna’ has since started keeping a kilogram of fresh green chillies. He invariably finds the three-some savouring them with relish, much to the amusement of all of us, who sweat when they eat! You know why Bhutan is a peace-loving nation. There’s no time for feuds when life’s a chill(y) for these guys up on the terrains.
Three’s a party!
One’s a journalist in the making; so she fires a volley of questions, which may not always be ‘quostions’. The other’s already in the profession, but may not always communicate. The third isn’t sure about his fate yet, like that of his ex-Prime Minister. But confusion and mess is a routine for my Bangladeshi friends!
No full stops and commas for the Pak friends!
What with the 9am-to-9pm packed course schedule, some of us shudder when friends from Pakistan start debating, arguing and questioning in a long and some time boring lecture session. Good thing is we can catch nine winks through their longish and almost never-conclusive arguments. And we thought, Mr Sen, only Indians were Argumentative! It’s only when some thing goes awfully wrong with the accent of one of them that we wake up to burst into giggles. One of them, a diligent journo speaks in English punctuated by Punjabi and Baloch accent. Thets nyot quarrect! Aha. We heard ‘Tendulkar hits Muralitharan for a six!’ as: “Tyandulkar hates Murlithyaran for a sex!”
Meanwhile in Vidarbha…
Violent protests on ever-increasing power cuts continue; farmers’ suicides have crossed 325-mark this year; and a Principal from rural Bhandara’s government-run school has been suspended for pouring cow urine on dalit students.