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BLANK VERSE: THE JOYS AND TRAVAILS OF REPORTING FROM A SLEEPY TOWN

When one sees Dehradun becoming the focus of attention like it recently became when it was chosen as the venue of the International Yoga Day event on June 21, one cannot help but recall the days when this town was not very newsy. Actually, hardly anything used to happen here which needed to be reported on the national level. It seems just like yesterday when I came back to the Doon valley to work as a journalist after having worked for about seven years in the national capital. When I had asked to be posted to Dehra, my editor at the Delhi office of UNI was shocked. “What will you write about from that sleepy little foothill town?” he asked, looking at me as if I had lost my mind. I was consistent in my requests and finally won a battle that had seemed lost right in the beginning. A small town in a corner of the large State of Uttar Pradesh –that is how Dehradun was looked at those days-where nothing ever seemed to happen except for heavy rains and the passing out parade at the Indian Military Academy (IMA). One could not keep writing about its schools, basmati, litchis and retired army and other Government officials. Yes, it was strange that a journalist of a national news agency wanted to write from the “town of grey heads and green hedges.” I was a little nervous too but something inside me said I could do it. So back I was in Dehra where I had done my schooling and spent my childhood and adolescent years. I would have to begin from scratch. There was just one other journalist from a national paper. The rest of the media was local and regional. Cable TV was a recent phenomenon and two satellite channels (or was it just one?) had begun transmission. There was no internet, no mobile phones and communication was yet quite difficult. I would struggle with the telex at the Head Post Office, courier my feature stories, walk long distances (there was hardly any public transport then in Doon) to meet people who would give me my stories, write them down in hand on sheets of A4 paper (I still have some copies of those handwritten stories with me) and wonder how I could send them as soon as possible to the head office. I walked about the town so much that I came to be called the “walking reporter”! I visited all the famous schools, scientific organisations and historical sites to write features. Sometimes people would help easily. At other times, I would have to explain the functions of my organisation and the entire system of news agencies and newspapers before they would share anything with me! As my features began to be seen in all the major national papers which people read in Doon, things began to change. As I was anonymous due to the system of the news agency at that time, it was gradually that it came to be known who was writing all those long stories about Doon. After a period of four months, my editor, who had been shocked at my request to be sent to Doon, wrote a letter to me which is one of my most precious possessions. He said that I had put the Doon valley on the news map of India. I was overwhelmed and inspired to do much better. Those were magical times. Without adequate technological facilities, I managed to do so much more than I may have done later. There was joy in every effort I made, every step I took. Today, Dehradun has grown. There are countless media persons, numberless channels and news publications. Some of the colleagues who worked with me at that early time meet me sometimes. We then recall all those lovely days when there was sincere friendship among media persons. There was no cut-throat competition and life was lived at a pace which gave us time to think in a more balanced manner .The town was like a large family whose members kept meeting frequently and were linked by the warm and  relaxed atmosphere of the valley. The congested city of Dehradun is not at all anything like the sleepy town which had made my editor wonder why I wanted to work from it. I am very thankful to him for having sent me here. I am also happy that I strongly believed that I would be able to do my job and make him proud. read more post… Saturday, 30 June 2018 | Jaskiran Chopra | Dehradun–

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