Journo Jaunts

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By Pedro Naik

Ye olde paper is really losing its marbles. How else to explain the call I received from the editor? ?Pedro,? he barked, nearly blowing my head off as I put the receiver to my ear, ?stop all this frippery-trippery stuff right now! I want you to write stories for our business section. Your first assignment is on garbage.?
?But that?s an environment and civic issues story,? I protested. He was having none of it. ?Garbage is big business now ? the biggest in fact,? he retorted. ?Now get going.? So there I was, trying to make a story out of garbage rather than vice-versa, as is my usual practice. But how? The rubbish czar doesn?t give interviews. And then I remembered. In keeping with the visionary moves Goan business has been making of late, discredited yellow journos are being provided employment as corporate mouthpieces, providing a ray of hope for the future to hacks like me, who are fast approaching their sell-by date.
So there I was, at the gates of the mega-corporation, rather curiously named the Fermento Group. As I entered the plush office of the aforementioned journo-turned-corporate-shill, I was mystified to see the place done up like a faux Goan taverna, amidst which a Billy Bunterish figure sat on a reclining chair, sipping from a glass. Approaching him, I saw that he was dressed in a hideous flowered shirt and Bermudas, topped by a straw hat, looking like a bhaiyya tourist drawn by Mario Miranda on a bad day.
?Drinking at 10 am? And what?s with the costume? Off to the beach?? I asked. ?That?s how true Goans do it,? the fount of wisdom on all things truly Goan informed me. I made a mental note to change my trousers and shirt for something more in keeping with my ethnic background, and also to tone up on my feni drinking while I?m about it. ?Anyway,? he continued, ?let?s work on your story on garbage. And no defamatory stuff like you chappies have been writing.?
?But we only said that an experienced NGO doing things at a low cost was unceremoniously discarded for an overpriced proposal by a corporate group without any experience in the field, jobs for the boys and all that,? I protested. The corporate flunkey went red in the face. ?That?s entirely the wrong angle,? he gurgled. ?A good-for-nothing character who keeps putting legal spokes in the wheels of Goan industry was dumped. The chap quoted some paltry sum. So unprofessional. Garbage is money. Why do something cheap when you can earn so much doing it? This reveals his evil motives.?
?Tell me about your plans,? I suggested soothingly, heading him off before he started chewing up the carpet. He chortled, ?Where other people see problems, we see opportunities to build Goa?s economy. We are going to set up the biggest garbage dump in Goa. There will soon be an ordinance that every citizen must create 10 kg of garbage a day for us to process and turn into gold. And if that Sardar from Dona Paula baulks at the regulation, our bagman will once again go and get it signed.?
?But do you have experience?? I asked. ?Of course,? he grunted, taking another sip. ?We have taken fertile fields and mined them till they are fit for nothing besides dumping garbage. There are also significant synergies with our hotel business ? do you have any idea how expensive kitchen supplies have become with the recent price rise??
?What about future plans?? I asked. ?We will soon convert the whole of Goa into a garbage dump, bring trash from all over the country, and charge obscene amounts for processing it,? he concluded, even as he keeled over, overcome by the grand plans or, just possibly, by the effects of feni at 10am.
As I disconsolately started my scooter, I mused about my future. This garbage wheeze sounds good. I could do with some gold myself. Maybe I can convert my entire ancestral village into a garbage dump. As to experience, that?s not a problem. After all, I?m a journalist?

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.” His recent book “The Tide Will Turn” published by Steidl in 2020, is listed in New York Time’s ‘Best Art Books of 2020’. Alam received the “International Press Freedom Award” for 2020 from ‘The Committee to Protect Journalists’.

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