December 11, 2009

My internship at The Hindu

Day 1 of reporting: Covering the inauguration of nth ATM of some bank at the back of city railway station. Duh! Specimen of an insignificant event, but still just how mighty proud I was! Back at work; working almost after a gap of five months.

“Hello sir, I’m from The Hindu,” is how I introduce myself at all the events during those five weeks I interned with the paper. Oh yeah, baby! There’s a legacy attached to the brand name, The Hindu. There’s the pride, the respect. Oh yeah, I loved every single moment of my internship with, yes, The Hindu!

Not knowing Kannada, thus messing up events, caused embarrassment and disappointment more than once in the first week. But then appreciation for my byline stories more than made up for it. My five weeks at The Hindu were like a roller-coaster ride, full of ups and downs.

Caribbean bliss
Had the privilege to cover a wonderful dance and music performance by a troop from Trinidad and Tobago. Man, oh man… Just how ecstatic, blissful, delirious the whole atmosphere was! Their performance had stripped the audience off their worries, made everyone lift their bums up and sway to the cool tunes of Caribbean. I remember how I had got senti and wanted to cry!

Sexy surprise ;)
And then there was this fashion show. Ahem ahem… Over the phone I was told that it’s a press conference by Elder Health Care. “Old people must be grumbling about lack of facilities and all,” I had thought. Didn’t take any pain to look nice that day: wore an old, loose t-shirt, dirty black shoes, didn’t shave. How does it matter to grumbling old folks, right? Wrong.

When I reached the venue of the press conference (Hotel Taj Vivanta, 5-star!) I was puzzled as to how could poor, old, grumbling people afford such a lavish venue for their press meet! There were huge boards of some fashion awards. I immediately started feeling conscious. I wondered if I had come to a wrong event. And then I noticed. At the left-bottom of those huge fashion awards posters and banners was mentioned the name of the sponsors of the awards — Elder Health Care. This company has launched some German cosmetic brand, and to promote that they are holding these fashion awards.

“Man! They should have briefed me about the event! I’m looking so shabby!!” I kicked myself mentally, becoming more conscious upon seeing the models. There were stick-thin female models (four or five), all of whom looked the same. Guys had nice biceps. Hmmm…

It was kinda embarrassing when the fashion show began, what with those similar-looking female models flaunting their endless legs right in front of me, literally at an arm’s distance! Catch-22 situation man, you could neither look/stare/drool at them (you’ve got to be modest) nor could you look away (it’d seem rude). Can you imagine my embarrassment when the finale was announced? "It's time for swimwear round!!" The emcee announced and my face turned into a deeper shade of red.

Just for food
Then there were these non-events where the only saving grace was the awesome food at the end. Like that event by an ethnic group about handicraft. My goodness! It required immense patience to sit there and bear those endless PowerPoint slides about past-present-future of some type of shawls, fabric, whatever it was, that I’d never be interested in. Had it not been for free sandwiches and other nice stuff they had arranged at the end, I’d have surely returned back to the office a very irritated boy.

Special games
It was disgraceful to see the shoddy arrangements done for the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports. Not only were the concerned people careless, they were also remorseless. It was utter disgrace to see how these top-class international athletes were facing humiliation because of insensitivity of Indian bureaucrats. Shameful! I was agonised! The good point was my friendship with Akito, assistant coach of Japanese team. Nice guy, I learnt a couple of Japanese words from him and taught him a few Hindi words (hehe, he had difficulty pronouncing dhanyawaad). It was kinda nice, though, to see how everyone from Kenya to Japan felt that there was too much spice in their food!

Neighbourhood is the name of The Hindu’s fortnightly supplement that focuses on one particular part of the city. Featurish, has short writeups about whatever slightly known place there is. Man, I absolutely desisted it. The moment these articles were assigned to me, my mind used to writhe in pain, begging to say “No, please, no!!” I was completely clueless as to what to write about Youth Hostel, Sunday market at some place, chor bazaar, wedding cards… Ugh! I never wanted to do it, but did it just because I had to. Ugh, that was the worst part of the internship — Neighbourhood articles!

Damp squibs
To my great disappointment, two of my stories that I thought were among my best and would win me accolades, drew me flak. “Everyone’s gonna talk about me, my writing, when the article comes out,” I used to think. They turned out to be damp squib. While my ignorance was the reason for the first one, for the second story, the story is a bit confidential to put in public doman, and I insist that it’s a great story.

Another three could-have-been-great-stories never saw the light of the day. One suffered because of my hesitation in approaching (disturbing/irritating/pestering) the source. Other two got sacrificed because of my striving for perfection. All three are great stories, no doubt, but when time is of essence, you’ve to let go of your personal preference and submit whatever you have. Had I done that, I’d have had three more excellent byline stories. Sigh

Others involved
Oh boy, PR people can be really annoying. That good-looking, soft-voiced PR girl at IISc just drove us crazy by her drive to give us some “gift”. Pen drive, Parker pen.

Also, it was a pleasant change how I was treated at beats. No one used to give a damn when I used to go as “a journalism student from Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media” but now I was from The Hindu, the way every one received me was amazing. How people change when our stature changes!

The work atmosphere at the office was great and to my relief, not even one-tenth as scary as it used to be at IIJNM. Fellow interns were all nice people, with whom I struck friendship. Food at the canteen wasn’t excellent, but I never got to eat much, as I used to obsess about submitting stories first. (I’ve lost weight further!) Staff members in the office were all very kind and supportive, and it felt great working there. After five months of freewheeling, I gave my all to internship. I didn’t take off even for a single day in these five weeks, used to go to the office early and leave late, seeking press releases, working on special stories. I’m highly satisfied.

It’s during the internship that I realised that my true passion lies in reporting. And it’s then that I realised that I have a flair for reporting, that I can find story ideas, and good ones at that, notwithstanding the two "D" grades I had got for reporting and writing in both sems in college. Atonement, I had talked of in an earlier post about IIJNM, and with this internship, I think I’ve achieved it to some extent. I’m satisfied. And proud. Because I’m from IIJNM. And because I’ve done a month-long internship at The Hindu. A successful, satisfying internship, to be precise.


Ragavendran R said...

I have a BA in English, unfortunately a third class. I'm a voracious reader and have a flair for writing and good English. How do I apply for an internship at the Hindu? I'm 26 years old.

Hemant Gairola said...

Hello Ragavendran. You'll have to go to The Hindu office and speak to the person concerned there about internship. They will tell you how to go about it. Usually it requires a letter from the person's college, stating that he/she is a student of this college and may be allowed to undergo internship.

ScorchedSea said...

Hello! I've recently moved to Chennai for my MA programme, so I'm quite unfamiliar with the area and language. Leaving area aside, how difficult would it be for me to work for The Hindu if I don't know Tamil? Are there any internships for which I wouldn't have to do reporting of events? I'm really nervous in such a new environment. Would be of great help if you gave me some pointers!