Discovering BOMBAY, Discovering Journalism
Shruti Parmar discovers a little more of Bombay as two distinguished journalists-share their experiences
I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing two Journalists as part of being a Mass Media student at Sophias’, both who have recently retired from full time Journalism. Firstly I spoke to Ms. Sunaina who has been a Broadcast Reporter for about 16 years with Doordarshan in Mumbai and secondly Mr. Bernard Imhasly, a Swiss national, who has been South Asia Correspondent for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper and based in India for more than 17 years. I was fortunate to be able to share in their knowledge, for even as they are completely different, in the true spirit of Mumbai and Journalism, I received a holistic perspective from both of them.
Both Journalists have a strong affinity for the city of Mumbai or Bombay as Mr. Imhasly preferred to refer to it as, because that is what it was to him. He said that like a person respects his history and the name his parents have given him, so is ‘Bombay’ reminiscent of the Portuguese and other influences, its history that must be respected.
(Note: I shall refer to the city as Bombay in this article.)
Both Ms. Sunaina and Mr. Imhasly agreed that Bombay has changed immensely. Ms. Sunaina wonders if it is the time constraints and growing technology has made it a less caring city. Mr. Imhasly on the other hand opines that the city has moved from its characteristic of being a port city, one that is welcoming and open to different things especially people. The city for him has become less cosmopolitan and more politicised.
From the varied experience that the two Journalists have had covering issues of National and International significance, they both spoke too us about the Bombay Riots of 1992-1993. Mr. Imhasly told us about being in Ayodhya at the time of the demolition and coming to Bombay to cover the Riots. He talks about standing in the balcony of the Shiv Sena supremo’s bunglow as the city was burning, only to find the man sipping beer, completely relaxed and happy at the work of his boys. The city lost all that it had stood for in those Riots. While recounting the work of starting the Mohalla Committees by Inspector Julio Ribeiro being crucial to mending the city’s diverse fabric, Ms. Sunaina told of how she saw a caring aspect of the city in a middle aged woman distributing vada pavs to the over-worked policemen, very courageously during that tense time.
One learns a lot of lessons in having had a career like Ms. Sunaina and Mr. Imhasly. Mr. Imhasly told us that facts are sacrosanct and that we have a greater responsibility towards them as the time pressure increases in modern journalism. He told us that as a reporter our duty is to fight clichés – iconoclast i.e. to break pre conceived images and attitudes, to understand where stereotypical behaviour come from (poor civic sense of Indians due to the high division of labour, our circle of responsibility has shrunk). To not become part of the story, but have a physical and time distance from it, to be a clear observer (unlike the 26/11 coverage). He also said that if one is not careful, one can become quite cynical in this profession, as one routinely sees misery, violence, cunning and dishonesty – one can lose faith in human nature. However the human dignity that one gets to see may also develop a certain compassion within us that would balance the repetitive view of most situations.
Ms. Sunaina, asked us to stay away from armchair journalism; to go , see, feel and understand the situation, differentiate it from a non situation, transport the readers or the audience to the location/ situation and therefore, to tell a good story. When we asked Ma’am if Journalism is a worthy profession she summed it all up in one shrug, “Heck! It’s the only way to live!”