Monthly Archives: August 2008

Searching within

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All the media companies I have worked with have never made an effort to cultivate leaders from amidst their own. I say cultivate because all or rather most companies look and identify people from within, groom them and try and help them makeup their shortcomings.

But in newspapers, magazines and all its affiliates (I am not sure of television and the electronic media), if you cannot or will not suck up to your boss, forget leading a team or a division, you will most certainly be sidelined — treated like you aren’t wanted. I have seen many examples of this where your own colleagues look at you in pity because they are unhappy one of them is suffering but secretly glad it’s not them. Promotions are always sought on favourites or rather not given to people who don’t toe your line.

Of course my first thought (and argument) was that ‘come on, just because you did not get along or be happy, does not mean any one cannot.’ But I see my friends who are still in media organisations and get promoted as the time comes. But hardly any are ever taught how to be a good leader, how to teach by example, how to fair and just, how to promote young talent etc. Nobody makes an effort with you to try and fill your gaps. You are either great or just don’t exist.

Thanks to insecurities galore, bosses in media organisations treat you like shit, see that some where along the way you find your way out and realise that it’s an effective method. So when the day comes for you to promote young talent, you follow the benchmarks set by your boss. It’s not wonder then that our journalists always complain about unfair bosses. And scoff at training sessions and leadership workshops. What’s to learn about being a suck-up eh?

It’s when you take up a non-journalism job that you realise that you don’t have to always go on the defensive when you are wrong and you can make mistakes. They aren’t forgotten, especially depending on the magnitude, but your peers and superiors don’t sneer at you, for them. People can actually be polite even if they have to tell you that the job isn’t well done. Earning respect does not neccessarily equal earning some war medal. There are groups that will sit with you, actually listen to you and arrive at a developement plan for you. You can go on the record about something you don’t agree with. You will not be crucified. Leadership skills are harnessed and skillfully sharpened. It isn’t held against you if you say you need to leave early. You aren’t made to feel a heel if you ask for leave.

Like any place, politics prevail here too. But here every one is accountable for what they say or do or select or make. So a bad rating or a favourable review sees audits and explanations are out there for everyone to see. Transparency makes the whole process bearable.

Actually the whole rant started when I read this and realised no one in media actually cares about polishing the existing people. For an industry driven by creativity, it thrives too much on unrelated but affecting factors.

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Old habits die hard

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‘My mother says’ is a very favoured phrase of mine. Not that I like it a lot but I certainly use it a lot. Half my sentences on an average day begin with it. Since the other half are directed to her, they don’t matter. But not that’s not the point.

As children, my sister and I, forever got scolded for two pet peeves (pets of my mother) – one was chewing food with our mouths open and the other was dragging out feet as you go along. I used to get thwacked for it, especially the latter. I was sure my mother was just making up excuses to hit me. Because I never heard this famed chewing and/or dragging (not to assumed that these sounds are made together) “Pach pach nako karu!” (Don’t make that sound .. the one that is a direct result of chewing with your mouth open) or “Pai ghasoon chalu nako”  (Don’t drag your feet) were favourite refrains and the cause for many a smack. For the longest time I didn’t believe such sounds were even made.

But, now as a grown up, when I see people around me who do chew with their mouths open, I have to carefully school my face to not look disdainful. For whatever reason, they may not be chewing with their mouths closed. These are seniors around me, bosses and managers and even dad’s old friends. And I feel like seeking my mother and thanking her for those thwacks which don’t let me realize how ghastly my manners could have been and how deeply some habits are ingrained.

Now when I hear some one drag their feet while walking behind me on the road, I almost turn out and in the tone not unlike my mother’s (then) I almost yell. And then shake my head seeing how close I come to becoming my mum.

A strange notion of safety

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Some days ago I was in the company of a room full of gay men. No, it wasn’t the much-talked about march… it was just another party. The room was full…chock full, I should say. A big room filled to the brim with every kind of stereotype associated with gay folks and otherwise.. dressed to nines, stud-like, dressed like women, pot-bellied-could-be-mistaken-for straight-laced husbands – all kinds.

And I have never felt safer. Nobody ogling at me.. or brushing past me or even really giving me a second look. All the men I met were polite, actually listening to what I was saying and assumed I was journalist (since I was in the company of them). Those who came close enough for an introduction made such a production of it that I was better off as a wallflower.

In retrospect, I am inclined to believe it must have been something in my head but through the evening (or rather late into the night), while drinks spilled around me and various beings tangled, I was almost a dispassionate viewer, wondering why regular (or should I be saying straight parties) weren’t like this.

The one observation that hit me strongly was how aggressive each and every man was at this party. Strutting men passing groups of men so studiedly lounging and giving each other the looks …. hot, wanting and no mistaking it. Nothing coy about it. No wasting time in idle chatter or summing up. Just get to it…

When I mentioned this to the friends I was with, they had an answer ready. One, in particular, was emphatic. ‘We are never this open or uninhibited when it comes to our real lives and the point of these gettogethers is after all, to meet like-minded people. So nobody wastes time in idle chatter.’

At that moment, I realised how distorted the lives of homosexuals could be.

Nothing to file away

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Some mornings away,  I was sitting in a bus that, as usual was packed to its seams. It was trudging along and stopped at every bus stop and when it seemed no more could be taken in, more climbed in. Old people, pregnant women, school children, women in finery all were just climbing in to escape the downpour that has been lashing Mumbai for the last few days… even weeks.

The bus was stuck and people falling all over the ones sitting. Some time earlier when the bus wasn’t all that packed, I was attempting reading a book. The book, being slightly existential in nature, wasn’t really giving me the required hook. So I remembered an old friend once telling me how she filed her nails all through her journey from Vasai to Churchgate.  I thought why not? My nails could use some filing.

I took out the filer and started away. But within 5 minutes I felt acutely conscious. after being stared at and put it my filer away. I actually felt a little strange. Here there were people who couldn’t stand straight due to the sea of humanity (or its sized equal for the bus) had entered the bus and I was merrily filing away nails like I was ensconced comfortably .

I still can’t figure that one out…