People always crib about their jobs – how it’s the same thing over and over again, why must one wear matching socks and uncomfortable shoes every day, and really, does it HAVE to be so early in the morning? I guess that’s why I consider myself lucky that I spent the first two years after graduation in a newsroom. I could wake up at leisure, walk into office wearing flip flops and each day was different because Karachi is a chaotic city and I was working on the city desk.
I was part of the original team (there is always such pride and affections associated with our ‘firsts’) Express Tribune got together. We started off with training, a couple of affable old Englishmen who taught us how to tiptoe the fine line between crisp, factual reporting and interesting, colourful features, which style to use when, and how to find stories tucked between faded buildings or in the memories of a 100-year-old shopkeeper in Empress Market. My favourite memory of those training days are the trips we took to parts of the city drenched in magic realism – the rusty crocodiles at Manghopir, Altaf Hussain’s house with its staid brown sofa set, the gnarled, swiftly-disappearing mangroves in green pools of water, the comfortable baithak at ANP’s office where we all sat on the floor and one of the more eccentric sub-editors ate a subway sandwich while Shahi Syed talked.
I also remember how difficult it was to identify your own name being called by the British trainers. It was the combination of their pronunciation of our Pakistani names and our ears unaccustomed to the curling British accents that always led to a 20-second pause when they called out someone’s name in class. Furrowed eyebrows, a quick glance to check with a friend if it was indeed their name and then the scuffle to the front of the class to get your graded assignment.
One thing I’ll always miss is the casual, busy environment of Tribune. Headlines being suggested across cubicles, bosses yelling comforting insults across the hall about misspelt words or too-long ledes, the surprising excitement of actually getting through to a minister and talking to them on the phone, the endless cups of tea and the sudden shouts of excitement about something new or strange happening, because when you live in a city of more than 19 million, something new or strange is always happening.
So really, it doesn’t matter where I go from here. I will always have a special corner in my heart where the first city page of Tribune hangs in a stately black frame.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2015.
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