My Claim to Fame

Living in Mumbai we are fed with the latest scoops, pictures and stories of cine stars day in and day out. No matter what newspaper you subscribe to you are assured a daily dose of the Bollywood stars’ lived, served fresh every morning. The Mumbai edition of The Times of India dedicates a ridiculously large portion of its daily news coverage to these stars. When The Hindustan Times began making inroads in the Mumbai market, it commenced with an extremely limited coverage on the latest in Bollywood but gradually took to publishing a quite a lot more, because of public demand, we were told. A TOI loyalist since forever, I was forced to switch to HT because I just couldn’t read any more of whose dating whom and whose throwing a party and whose had a tiff with whom. I think each person who makes an appearance on page three looks like his /her life depends entirely on being covered by the media. It probably does. Reading about these people and their antics made me think of the times I made a few brief appearances in the print media. The appearances were so brief and so far between, that I assure you this post will be a short one! :PSometime during school one of my friends, Shweta was writing an article for the Times of India. She used to freelance on a regular basis back then. If I remember correctly, it was a collection of opinions of people from a cross section of the society on actresses endorsing products on television or something on those lines. Being a good friend, she was kind enough to include me in her research for the article. So one bright Sunday morning I received a phone call from her. A brief telephonic interview ensued. A week or so later the article was published and as promised my opinions were mentioned in it. Aaha! My claim to fame. That too at age 14!! What could be better? I was happy to have my opinions printed but the happiness was short lived. My name was written as “Nadira”!!! Shweta explained that the editor had never heard my name before and so replaced it with a more believable (or so she thought) name!! So that was my first brush with fame. A few years later sometime in first year college I was covered by the print media again. This time without my knowledge. I used to study in DU and would travel  bus everyday. Not an easy feat I assure you. During the monsoon that year it rained so terribly that the approach road from the bus stop to the college got water logged. I waded through the water that morning to reach college. The next day the newspaper carried a picture of me along with a few other people wading through the water. That was most certainly not the prettiest of my pictures. In fact it was a downright ugly one and yet it was on the first page (bottom half of the first page but the first page nevertheless!!)on the TOI. Great! The one time I make it to the first page of a popular national daily, I look like a partially drowned rat. The next time I made it to the pages of a newspaper was in the final year of social work. For my block placement I choose to work with an organization in Dadar that liked to describe itself as a “resource centre for women”. Don’t ask me what they meant by that line- I couldn’t figure that out in the one month I spent with there! What I did figure out was that the people working there didn’t know either!! Of the innumerable options that I had before me I chose this one because I thought it would be a good idea to work with an organisation with a feminist bent. Previous to my block placement I had worked with families and children in various settings. I thought I needed to broaden my horizons and try my hand at a completely different approach to social work. A week with the organisation and I realised that I just didn’t fit in. I was never the hard core morchadhaari feminist and working with a few wasn’t going to turn me into one. There was a protest by all women’s organisations on the government’s decision to ban dance bars at that time. Being a student I participated in practically all the activities that were being undertaken by the organization. The organization wanted to be a part of this protest and so I too got sucked the whole thing. Along with a few staff members I went to Azad Maidan and join a massive (or so it seemed to me)group of women shouting slogans and marching towards the large gates of the maidan. Everybody who was remotely concerned with women’s issues was there. I was trying my best to lag behind so that I wouldn’t be covered by the cameramen floating around. But as luck would have it, someone shoved one end of a big cloth banner in my hand and asked me to hold up the banner. All I could say was “Who me?!!?”. At the earliest opportunity I passed on the banner to someone else- I didn’t even know who she was. All I know is that she was willing to hold the banner and I was more than willing to give I to her. I bumped into one or two course mates from social work. They seemed to be pretty cool about the morcha. Apparently I was the only one there who was getting all awkward and uncomfortable. The insanity didn’t end at slogan shouting at Azad Maidan. We walked with banners, slogan shouting etc etc all the way to the Police Commissioner’s Office. Whoever we were supposed to meet there refused to come out of the office and so someone in the burgeoning band of women decided that we should all sit on the road side till such time that the government official comes out to meet us. Within a flash of a second the morcha had turned into a dharana. Superb! I think we sat there was some 40 minutes and all the while my thoughts were centred on finding the easiest and quickest escape route. I made a conscious decision to sit under a big shady tree ( so that no photographer/cameraperson spots me) and choose people I knew were not feminists but were stuck in this rally just like me for company. The following days newspaper saw a picture of yours truly on page two sitting under a tree and trying to look invisible! Post- block placement, one of the professors brought up the issue of my pic. in the paper and that ensured that those classmates who didn’t know were enlightened too! I think I even got teased a bit for this particular appearance for a week or two. Not even one of my supposed claims to fame have been any good. I think this is a conspiracy (This particular line has been “inspired” by our dearest Lalloo Prasad Yadav). The media simply hates me!

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