View Point

Why you shouldn’t join Journalism too early

Please don’t join as a professional journalist immediately after college. Please pause to do a professional diploma or a Masters. Please allow me to tell you why.

I have a BA with Honours in English Literature from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

I joined as a full-time journalist at The Telegraph when I was in my third year of college.

Journalism was a booming industry even in 1999–2000 but I chose newspapers, as they were considered at the top of the news media food-chain.

I had a choice of going to Presidency University, Kolkata for my Masters but I decided against it since I always wanted to be a journalist and I wanted to seize the opportunity.

I told myself that this is what I should be doing next. Basically, my thoughts back then and your thoughts now, are exactly the same.

That I secured a position as a trainee reporter with one of the top newspapers in the country, further boosted my confidence and fanned my ego.

So, without any further ado, I dived headlong into a career of a journalism in the year 2000.I completed my traineeship in The Telegraph along with my graduation and was counted as one of the youngest (professional) journalists in the country at that time. However, the celebration was short-lived.

My career wasn’t exactly a fairy tale. Looking back, I feel it was a wrong decision.

Here are the negatives of becoming a journalist immediately after your graduation.

These 10 things happened to me next…

  1. I got a job ahead of most of my classmates who went on to do their Masters or professional PG courses. As a result, I always had money on me while they (my classmates) were still students and never seemed to have enough money in their pockets. They envied me and I enjoyed it.
  2. I couldn’t score well in my third year finals and lost my first class because I had ignored my studies in the final year (due to work pressure). I scored 58.8% in my final year (English Honours papers).
  3. I realised many years later on that a Masters is absolutely necessary at a senior level and I completed my MBA with great difficulty along with my job.
  4. By the time, my classmates started getting jobs, I was already an established journalist with a very decent salary. After joining Telegraph and staying there for one year, I had moved on to The Times of India (newspaper) as a senior journalist. Most of my friends were probationers and just weeks into their first jobs. I was still on top of the world.
  5. However, things started moving southwards soon. My classmates started earning double than me in less than three years (after the initial one year into their first jobs) because they were professionally trained in their respective fields, better equipped, had internship experiences while I was STILL learning on the job.
  6. I didn’t have any formal training in journalism, hence I made several ghastly mistakes early on in my career. I could have destroyed my own career, but thankfully I was clever enough to bounce back every time.
  7. There was nobody to help me — no mentors, no professors or no senior journalist to hold my hand. Journalism is actually a jungle where everybody eats up everybody to move forward. It’s a remorseless world.
  8. I became a senior journalist at the age of 23 but at every step I felt the need of a professional course which could have made my journey less painful. If I had done a professional PG course then I would have not faced so many obstacles. As a senior journalist (senior reporter) at 23 years, I couldn’t possibly leave everything to do a professional Journalism course.
  9. Journalism is a demanding profession. I missed my college life everyday but I was sucked into cold world of journalism so much that I didn’t even have time to even meet my friends on weekends. I started working like a robot after a few years.
  10. I started very early and hence I burnt out early too. It was inevitable, I guess. I was out of a regular day-to-day journalism job at around 35 years of age. It was an early retirement of sorts as I had burnt myself out.

I ended my full-time career as the Chief of Bureau at The Times of India (newspaper)in 2014 in Mumbai (which you might define as a successful career).

But I would never tell others to follow my path.

Please complete your Masters Degree in Journalism or do a PG Diploma in Journalism before you join the industry.

More importantly, enjoy your college and university life as a student. You are never going to get it back.

There’s no glory in struggling the way I did early on in in my career.

A professional degree/diploma in journalism enhances your longevity in the industry and arms you against the odds that the profession will throw at you early on in your career.

All the very best in your journalism career.


Important attribution: The same answer with some modifications also features on my Quora page HERE. The writer of both the blogs are the same person.

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Featured, View Point

The reality of the education system

I earn my living as a senior education administrator and I have been doing this for the past five years. I want to declare here that the education sector of this country is at a very critical stage due to Reservation.

Unfortunately, I am a Bengali Brahmin by birth and so, I belong to the general category students in this country. But I am not prejudiced against any caste or religion, rather I will try to present my arguments based on facts.

None of you have actually realised what has happened to the education system of this country while you were not looking.

Here is what has happened.

Caste-Reservation

The general education policy of India is usually prescribed by the government (both at the Centre and at the states) for colleges and institutions that are funded by them, partially or wholly.

Most private colleges or educational institutes don’t have reservation since they don’t receive money from the government as aid.

Since education is a Concurrent Subject under the Indian constitution, both the Centre and the State government may have their own legislations and jurisdictions over it.

This is where the problem begun and look where it has reached now.

Let’s look at how the different governments have dealt with Reservation in Educational institutes that includes technical institutes like the IIT and specialised professional institutes like Medical Colleges.

Many years back, the norm was 22.5 per cent reservation in educational institutes for ST, SC, OBC and other backward classes as per the Central government policy.

That system came under heavy artillery fire because the general category people argued that the reservation percentage was too high and that the general category students were being discriminated against.

The Central government initially agreed and started looking for a solution.

The governments (The Congress government at the Centre and others at the states) formed Committees, Advisory Bodies, Peer Groups to look into the criticism and finally, came back with a marvellous solution.

The solution was an increase in the reservation to 49.5%!

This meant close to half of the seats of central government funded educational institutes were reserved for students who might otherwise not qualify for admissions in the first place.

You might ask me, why not 50% reservation?

It is because there is a Supreme Court ruling that half of the seats in a college or a professional institute cannot be reserved.

It has to be less than that.

Nobody imagined at that time that the Congress government at the Centre would raise the cap which is just half a per cent point short from the prescribed upper limit set by the Supreme Court of India.

Some political parties in the states which play vote-bank politics (this means they expressly ask for votes on basis of religion, caste and creed) were obviously not happy with this 50% limitation imposed on them by the Supreme Court.

So, what did they do?

A few state governments again came back with another brilliant solution!

Some of them blatantly disregarded the Supreme Court order to impose more than 50 per cent reservation in schools, colleges and technical institutes in their respective states.

Currently , there are five states in India which has more than 50 per cent reservation. The states are:

  • Tamil Nadu: Reservation is up to 69 per cent (SC-18 per cent, ST-one per cent, OBC-50 per cent)
  • Telengana: The state currently has 62 percent reservation.
  • Maharashtra: On 25 June 2014, the erstwhile Congress-NCP government had approved 16 per cent reservation for Marathas and 5 per cent for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions, over and above the 49%. But the Bombay High Court put it on hold, saying the reservation ceiling cannot exceed 50 per cent, except in extraordinary situations and for extraordinary reasons. In the case of public employment, 52 per cent reservation is in place for backward classes under a 2001 State Reservation Act.
  • Haryana: The Haryana Backward Classes (reservation in services and admission in educational institutions) Act, 2016, passed on 26 May 2016, gave 10 per cent reservation to Jats and five other communities, including Jat Sikhs, Muslim Jats, Bishnois, Rors, and Tyagis, under the special backward class category. It has given another 10 per cent reservation to economically backward persons from the general category, which took the total reservation to 67 per cent, exceeding the SC-imposed cap.
  • Rajasthan: The Rajasthan Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointment and Posts in Services under the State) Bill, 2017, proposes a five per cent increase in the OBC quota. The bill raises reservation for Gujjars and four other backward communities in Rajasthan from 21 per cent to 26 per cent. With this new 5 per cent category, reservation in the state now stands at 54 per cent – above the 50 per cent legal cap. (Source)

How does this help the political parties?

If you go and attend their rallies, you will see that the leaders organise political meetings at areas where the reserved category people are dominant and ask for votes because they have provided reservations for them in schools, colleges and government jobs.

The claim of these political leaders are very simple: “I have made it easier for you to get admission in top schools, colleges and get a government job, so… vote for me”.

The worst part is, they are getting votes and winning elections on the basis of those claims. So more and more politicians are taking that route to secure a vote bank for themselves.

This has given rise to a different kind of culture: India has seen the rapid rise of class struggles from categories or castes that were not included in the list of ST, SC and OBC. Some of them are even resorting to violence to get what they want.

The castes that are still not included in the reservation list are demanding more reservation and they are organising rallies, calling for strikes and even resorting to violence when the government is not listening to them.

Currently, there are five major castes in India who are demanding reservations for them. Some of protests have even resulted in death.

Some of the political parties have even made this a part of their election manifestos.

The political party which has promised the maximum number of reservations and made it into a political manifesto ahead of election is Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress party, who is seeking a second term.

He has promised that the reservation in his state would be increased to 70% and this declaration is a part of his election campaign.

Reservation-In-India-Good-or-Bad

The Supreme Court is yet to give its verdict on the blatant violation of the guidelines that have been formulated by the…. Supreme Court itself.

So, you see India has already reached a stage where most of the appointments in government jobs and seats at government funded institutes are going to be there for the reserved candidates who, otherwise, wouldn’t qualify to study in these premiere institutes or get a government job on merit.

We are rapidly reaching a stage where only a handful of seats will be left open for general category of students or may be… in the near future, we may arrive at a point in time where some educational institutes or jobs will be closed to the general category forever.

As a result of this discriminatory reservation, the good students from the general category (millions of them) are now taking up jobs in private companies and studying in private education institutes which are not funded by the government.

A section of them are also migrating to other countries.

This “facility” of unreserved seats for the general category students in the private sector have not gone unnoticed to the political parties who are desperate to get votes.

So, some of them have now started demanding that seats should be reserved even in private companies and private education Institutes in India.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has already started lobbying for reservation[9] in the private sector and has even started tweaking the laws of Bihar so that companies are forced to hire employees from the reserved categories.

THIS IS THE REALITY OF CASTE, CREED AND RELIGION BASED RESERVATION IN INDIA. SOON THERE MIGHT BE EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTES IN INDIA AND DEPARTMENTS OF GOVERNMENT WHO WILL COMPLETELY SHUT ITS DOORS TOWARDS GENERAL HINDU CANDIDATES.

This will remain a reality unless a drastic decision is made to reverse it.

The Supreme Court of India is looking into the abuse[10] of the system and might decide to reverse it all.

We should keep our fingers crossed.

But a drastic reform to end reservations seems unlikely in a country like India where votes are sought and elections are won on the basis of caste.

Footnotes

[1] Reservation in India – Wikipedia

[2] Reservation in India – Wikipedia

[3] Concurrent List – Wikipedia

[4] Will Rajasthan follow 4 states that have exceeded 50 per cent reservation cap

[5] Quota should not exceed 50 %, says Supreme Court

[6] Will Rajasthan follow 4 states that have exceeded 50 per cent reservation cap

[7] Five Major Communities Leading Protests And Demanding Caste-Based Reservations Across India

[8] Siddaramaiah’s poll promise: 70 per cent reservation for SC, OBC for government, education sectors

[9] Nitish Kumar Wants 50% Reservation In Private Sector, Tweaks Bihar Rules

[10] Supreme Court to Allow Constitution Bench to Revisit 11-year-old Verdict on SC/ST Quota

This content was first shared on QUORA.

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Obituary

Sonika’s death: How Kolkata media is shamelessly shielding the accused

On the morning of April 29, the people of Kolkata woke up to terrible news — model Sonika Singh Chauhan and her friend, Vikram Chatterjee had met with an accident near Rashbehari Avenue in Kolkata. 

Though the car was a sedan, its airbags did not deploy because the car swerved minutes before the impact and was hit on one of the sides, flipping over.

The side that crashed was the passenger seat, where Sonika was sitting. 

This is what remained of the car, see the enormous impact on its body. Do you think this impact can happen if you are driving at 60 kilometres an hour? (Which is considered very high speed in the busy south Kolkata crossing, by the way).

The driver Vikram Chatterjee and Sonika, who were seen on social media partying some hours ago, were rushed to the hospital. Sonika was bleeding profusely and was declared dead on arrival. Vikram Chatterjee was released from the hospital sometime later with only first aid. The initial diagnosis said that there was no serious injury on Chatterjee.

Here is a picture of Sonika who was quite famous as a model in Kolkata and eventually wanted to shift base to Mumbai. 

Soon after the news went viral on Kolkata media, Vikram got himself admitted to another private hospital again complaining of uneasiness and pain.

He was referred to medical tests like MRI etc which eventually concluded that nothing is wrong with him other than the pain from the bodily injuries that he endured during the crash. 


Kolkata was grieving and the police started their investigations into the case. All was good till this case started taking a bizarre turn, thanks to the Kolkata media which initially didn’t raise any question about how the young model died such a horrific death. 

Vikram Chatterjee called a press conference and every media outlet in Kolkata attended it. There he claimed that he was not drunk and he wasn’t driving at break-neck speed. 

He wore a huge bandage on his head and claimed this in front of media cameras.

This is what he said.

A headline in one of the newspapers after the press conference

The national media raised its brows, questioned the authenticity of the claims. But the regional Bengali media continued to play referee even though it was very clear how and why the accident occurred. The defeating silence from the Bengali local media continued and continues today. They are not up in arms against the actor and merely reporting the developments in the story. No investigation was launched by a prominent channel, the way a national media would take it up.

Meanwhile Vikram Chatterjee surrendered before the court and was granted bail on the same day. The local media kept repeating and playing his words on loop that he was not drunk, neither was he driving at high speed (even though the police concluded otherwise).

Meanwhile, Sonika’s friends took to social media to express their anger, many of them eyewitnesses that he was drinking. Others were friends with eyewitnesses who saw Vikram drinking the night before.

Here, take a look at some of the social media posts.

Social media posts by Sonika’s friends and common friends

No, all this haven’t been able to move the Kolkata media who continues to play referee. He is not being referred to as an ‘accused’ and just as an actor.

His ‘exclusive interviews’ waxes eloquent of him and paints him as a loving friend who is crestfallen after Sonika’s death. Sonika Singh Chauhan’s death is being treated as a Greek tragedy with Vikram being the tragic hero.

Despite the fact that he is an accused and the reporting should be from the police investigation point of view (preliminary findings are already public), the vernacular Bengali media in Kolkata continues to remain meek.

We are so sorry Sonika.

The celebrity starved Kolkata media which lives in its own cocoon, hasn’t woken up to modern journalism yet. Most articles about celebrities that are published and aired are still complimentary and end up promoting the celebrity.

Most of these interviews are done by selfie-clicking journalists who want to party, wine and dine with the page three community and aim to get inside their social circles.

Fearless objective celebrity journalism is rare and hard to come by in the Bengali media in Kolkata.

I was a part of it once and I know this ‘domesticated’ beast well.

I am addressing this blog to the editors of Bengali media in Kolkata.

Please treat this as a crime. Please treat the celebrity as an accused. Please investigate the death rather than merely reporting the developments. Don’t try to shield the celebrity but bring out the truth.

You will get enough opportunities to lick boots but opportunities for true journalism come by rarely.

Seize this opportunity, dear legendary journalists.

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Obituary

Facebook takes down Arjun Bhardwaj’s profile after it was vandalised

I had told you before how a group of students were constantly and incessantly vandalising the Facebook profile of Arjun Bhardwaj.

They were posting memes, jokes and abusive messages in the comments section that were directed towards him and his family.

His teachers, family and friends were watching in horror as it was happening because nobody could do anything about it but constantly report the comments to Facebook.

12508895_10205572407773559_8006067308374567592_n

Arjun Bhardwaj who hailed from Bangalore and was studying in a college in Mumbai

More so, even before the investigations were over by the Mumbai Police, Facebook was, in a veiled manner, suggesting that Arjun had committed suicide which obviously was not helping the poor boy or his family.

It must be remembered here that once your FB account is turned into a legacy account (when Facebook is aware that you are dead), they take over the reigns of your account. There is an option of transferring the rights of your ‘dead’ account to your friends or family but only a minute fraction of the users have done that so far.

The reason is simple: You don’t know when you will die and you don’t want anybody to have a look into your profile page. Even you appoint somebody to look after your page when you are dead, the control remains with Facebook and they decide if they want to take the profile page down. 

It seems Facebook has realised what was happening on the boy’s profile. This is the same page where he last posted a video message before killing himself.

Here is a screenshot of the profile page.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 9.05.30 PM

A screenshot of the profile page that has since been removed

To add insult to injury, Facebook was even advertising on top of the page on how to manage a dead person’s account.

However it now appears that after the outrage, Facebook has pulled the profile page down.

While Facebook has its own policies regarding a dead person’s profile, right now there is no system of filtering abusive messages for a person who is no more there to defend himself. For this function, Facebook relies on the person handling your profile page. However, if you haven’t transferred the rights to anybody while you were alive, then Facebook has no system of preventing abuse.

Abuse on Facebook depends on a system of human reporting.

It is not clear whether the action of taking the page down has been triggered by protests and “reports” or it was a request put forward by his family or the Mumbai Police.

Whoever has done this, my heartfelt wishes to the person.

He has done a great service to the poor kid. It’s good that somebody finally realised that the dead need to be honoured and , ‘No ill can be spoken about the dead’.

He is now safe from the attacks of moronic human beings who have infested the social media platform.

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Obituary

Need help to report these morons on Facebook

A visit to Arjun Bhardwaj’s Facebook profile will tell you what is exactly wrong with today’s generation of college students.

Arjun, a college student, recently committed suicide by jumping off from the 19th floor of a five-star hotel in Mumbai’s Bandra.

Before killing himself, he went live on Facebook to record his act and even posted a tutorial which he called ‘Five Steps To Commit Suicide’.

He was depressed. 

But even as everybody who knew him are mourning his passing away, his Facebook profile has turned into a visible representation of all that his wrong with the students of Arjun’s generation.

Students, who are probably of the same age as Arjun, have come on his profile to post abuses for him and his family. I am posting one of them here.

Some have created a website pages with his photos etc and are openly advertising on Arjun’s profile to get more views. 

One website has gone a step forward, they procured the video from the caches and are letting people download it on their phone. Here is a screenshot.

It has not stung their conscience that this is a person who was ill and urgently needed medicines and immediate therapy.

Some students, like Punit Khuswaha, Virat Satish and Parth Shah have repeatedly abused Arjun and his family in the comments section. Sample this one. It will make your blood boil. 

or this one…

There are countless such comments on his profile and most of them by people of the same age group as Arjun’s.

They have posted memes, jokes, vile abuses and are constantly doing it as you read this blog. Some are instigating others to do so.

Arjun is not there anymore to defend himself. I appeal to all of you through this blog to go and report these morons and help us to clean up his profile. 

Most students — I see these days — are like the ones abusing him and joking about him. All they have are their obnoxious attitude and an equally vile point of view which doesn’t offer any room or respect for views and stands of others.

While most students these days live their lives online and nothing is worth their time except for parties and social media, I know that there is a fraction who still have their conscience intact and know the right from the wrong.

I appeal to all of them to go, hunt these morons down and report them. 

Let’s honour our dead.

There cannot be two points of views on that.

 

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Featured, Obituary

Mani Sir missed a deadline today

When he last came to our college, a little less than a year back, I couldn’t help but notice how much weight he had lost.

He was speaking softly and gasping for a breath as I offered him a seat.

He didn’t accept his customary cup of tea.

He declared that he wouldn’t be able to take classes at our institution for “a long time to come”. 

“Today was the last lecture with my Journalism students. I am going in for a kidney transplant in a month’s time. It will take some time before I am fit again to come for regular classes…”

Before I could react to the statement, he continued…

“…But I have completed my part of the syllabus and I will send you the marks before I take admission in the hospital.”

As I kept insisting that he doesn’t need to bother himself with either marks or completing the syllabus, he kept repeating that he was just keeping his date with the deadline.

“A deadline is a deadline and one must respect it. I have a deadline to complete my course and I haven’t missed it, you see. All along I have respected deadlines and there’s no way that I am not doing it now.” 

That was Mani D’Mello. My senior for many years who never missed a page deadline in his lifetime (It is the deadline when a newspaper page is sent to the printing press. Maintaining this deadline is usually the section editor’s responsibility).

As he went in for the complicated operation and later on, after the successful surgery, I kept on communicating with Mani Sir (as I always called him) over Whatsapp and occasionally, over the phone.

Sometimes we would discuss the news website that he was building. He always used to lament that he doesn’t have good desk hands to curate news effectively. 

Senior journalist Late Mani D’Mello

“Most of the youngsters don’t have news sense, you know. Lot of them don’t even have the concept of a news desk. I have to guide them at every step and rewrite their copies. Looking at them, one understands how online media will become in a few years. Online media is going towards chaos from chaos.”

Though he was unsure about where online news outlets were ultimately heading towards, there was one thing he was absolutely sure of.

It was years of acute work stress that affected his health.

“A journalist’s job comes with such stress that it might kill you. You cannot go on working under duress for such a long time. One day the work pressure will get to you. It was because of years of work-related stress that I developed high blood sugar.  Everything else was just an after-effect. If one worries about retaining the job all the time, how can one work? Tell me, which senior journalist is healthy today. Everybody has one complication or the other.”

Later, when I called him to find out how his operation went, he told me that he has set a deadline to “make a comeback.” 

He also told me that he had a successful implant and he was having immunity suppressants to let the new organ settle inside the body. 

“I have to be a little careful and not go out of the house and into public places. The doctor told me that I am susceptible to infection and that is the only thing I should be worried about. Give me a few more months and I will return to your college to teach. In the next academic year, I will be back. That’s the deadline I have set for myself.” 

I clearly heard him chuckling.

Accordingly, we prepared a fresh new Journalism course for him to teach.

Only this time, Mani D’Mello missed the deadline.

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Random and Twisted

How I conspired against my own wife

Location: Mithibai College, Vile Parle West, Mumbai

I had to wait for two hours outside Mithibai College to give her the news.

Clutching on a few blood reports from Lilavati Hospital, I was patiently waiting at the bus stand at seven in the evening because my girlfriend was in a lecture inside the college campus.

Earlier in the day she had complained of dizziness and exhaustion but she was certain that she was not pregnant.

When she came out of the campus and as we were walking towards the auto-stand, I broke the news to her. She looked at me in disbelief but never moved a face muscle.

It was a blank response.

The decision was already made even before the reports were out. We had decided to abort the baby.

A series of thoughts were going through my mind as she walked beside me in complete silence deciding not to hold my hand as we crossed the street. Clearly her mind was working on this alone. She was lost in her thoughts.

I decided to get lost in mine too.


(Rewind 30 days back)

Location: My apartment, Sion West, Mumbai

Even before she moved into my apartment in Sion (in the Eastern suburbs of Mumbai), she had discussed this with me numerous times. Given the fact that we were very active sexually, she had told me clearly that she wouldn’t want to have a baby.

She was in the broadcast industry as a reporter and she feared that getting pregnant at that point of time would adversely affect her career and she feared that she might not even have one, if she gets ahead with the pregnancy.

So, we were taking all kinds of protection during sex – yes both of us. While I always used a condom, I had an inkling that she used to be on pills.

But sex is a strange game and sometimes it doesn’t let you take preparations. It was not possible to say no to sex if you didn’t have a condom inside the side-table drawer. Also, as we had discovered, the fragile condom could not be trusted fully either. Hence the second round of protection.

Every now and then, I would buy a pack of those pregnancy kits and she would do a check. It was a kind of a game and we enjoyed it. Till one day, the results of the game appeared to have changed.

During those days when we were having baby issues

During those days when we were having baby issues

One day, after doing a check, we forgot to immediately discard it. It was on the bathroom table. A minute or two later, I noticed a faint second line on the indicator panel. It was a faint line. I told her immediately. She looked at me in disbelief.

“Let’s try once more. Go and bring me more pregnancy kits,” she ordered.

It was then a rerun of that scene in R Balki’s film, Ki and Ka: I went to the market and brought six pregnancy kits of different companies. Two of them showed a positive, two didn’t give a clear result and two more gave a negative verdict.

Our common friend advised a blood test – apparently the sure-shot way to find out.

I called her in office that afternoon and said that she needs to go for a blood test. That day, something major had happened in the city and she was busy with follow-up reports. She agreed for a blood test but only in the following week.

The report came three days later. It was positive.

That day in front of Mithibai college, we decided to visit a doctor the next day.


Location: Lilavati Hospital, Outpatient Department 

Both of us were standing in front of a doctor’s chamber at Lilavati Hospital. She had decided to abort the baby. I was not willing.

The doctor wrote something on the sheet. They were all vitamins etc. to support the pregnancy. But she insisted on an abortion.

The doctor said that an abortion is not possible at Lilavati Hospital. We will have to go another private clinic to get it done. The cost of getting the foetus aborted properly was not a mean sum.

We still agreed.

A week later, we decided to consult another doctor, a sister of a reputed former Bollywood heroine and a leading gynecologist at Lilavati Hospital. Her husband is considered a leading figure in Mumbai in the realm of IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation).

We were already late and she advised a USG (Ultra Sonogram). “Your baby has got a beating heart. Listen to it. Then come back to me again,” the doctor ordered.

Again a few days later (on her off day), when we landed at the doctor’s chamber for the USG. A strange experience happened.

There, we heard a sound; it was the sound of a beating heart. It was loud and clear. It was faster than a normal heart beat. The heartbeat struck my heart.

She was startled on hearing the sound.

After the USG was over, I spoke to her. Softly but firmly. I told her that I cannot have that sound muted. Ever.

sonika1

Before she left for Calcutta

The doctor had a very stern and clear advise. This is the first pregnancy and she wouldn’t advise us to terminate it. Rather, she said, medically it is unethical to terminate a first pregnancy because it might create issues later. She also said that we have to arrive at a decision fast because a delay might mean endangering my wife too.

We were through with our court marriage by that time too.

But she didn’t say a word.

She largely kept quiet for the next few days, going through the course of the days mechanically. I could see that she was torn between the baby and a career. She really wanted to be in office because she believed that her promotion is due. Sitting at home and nursing a baby was not her idea of life.

Five days later when she didn’t bring the topic up, I tried talking to her again. She said that she hadn’t arrived at a decision yet.

I decided to take matter in my own hands.

I called her elder sister in Mumbai and told her about her pregnancy. She told everybody else in her family. Her phone started ringing incessantly. She answered most of those calls in monosyllables and promised to call everyone back. She never called anybody back.

She clearly was torn between her career and her baby. Meanwhile, time was running out. Any further delay would mean more medical complications and of course, a very complicated abortion.

Unable to extract a decision from her. I took the drastic step.

I called my mother.

My mother was a terminal cancer patient and she was somebody who had never made a request to her. I have never heard my wife say no to my mother either. There was a great bonding between them.

My mother asked her to come and meet her in Calcutta. I was advised to stay back in Mumbai. My mother by that time was in no position to take a flight as the cancer had spread to her pelvis region from the uterus.

The doctors were not ready to operate on her anymore because she had already gone through more than 10 major operations (including one where we had to amputate her right palm). She was in a bad shape but she was strong as ever.

Five days later my wife took a flight to Calcutta. She came back after seven days – beaming, smiling and back to her old self.

She said that she will try to have the baby along with her job. But that was not the point.

The point was, she was ready to have the baby.

That was perhaps the happiest day of my life. The next few months were the worst struggle for her as she tried to straddle between her job and her pregnancy and things got complicated along the way.

That’s a different story.

In the first week of August 2012, I got a call from my mother at 10 PM. She wished me all the best for the baby.

During the conversation my mother told me that she wanted to listen to my voice for the last time. Two minutes later, she was out of breath.

My father said later that she was smiling the whole time despite being in severe pain.

She was at the newly constructed Tata Memorial Hospital in Calcutta.

She was in constant pain.

She also spoke to my father about the joys of becoming a grandmother for the first time.

By the end of August, I was in Calcutta to conduct my mother’s funeral.

On February 6, 2013, my son was born at Lilavati Hospital, Bandra, Mumbai.

The conversations between my wife and my mother are a secret to this day.

The first photo of Suhaan and Sonika. This was taken inside the Operation Theatre at Lilavati Hospital, Bandra West, Mumbai

The first photo of Suhaan and Sonika. This was taken inside the Operation Theatre at Lilavati Hospital, Bandra West, Mumbai

 

 

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