Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Four years ago — it rained that day

July 29, 2005. It was perhaps the most incessant rain of my life. I got down at Dhenkanal from Hirakund Express at 3.30 pm. I somehow reached a grocery shop-cum-PCO and sheltered myself under its roof. After much wait and frustration in communicating with Oriya people, I finally managed to hire a vehicle which took me to the institute. As the main building is located at quite a height and one actually had to climb up to reach there, I struggled to drag my luggage and kept going up on a narrow concrete path, completely drenched and exhausted with my newly-bought raincoat proving to be of little help.

When I was about to give up and sit down, I saw something. There I was — right in front of a wall reading “Indian Institute of Mass Communication – Dhenkanal (Orissa).” I had worked hard to be admitted to supposedly the best place providing training in journalism. I must admit the place is an absolute beauty with greenery and mountains all around. The campus is so sprawling and magnificent that once there, you feel like staying on forever. It looked like heaven.
Located on the National Highway No. 42, Dhenkanal looks superb mainly because its forests and mountains. The region is the gateway to one of the most ancient forest covers of Orissa which shelters elephants, tigers and numerous species of birds and beasts. The surrounding Sal forests came ablaze with the changing seasons making this district headquarters town focal point of trips to beautiful interiors. Still, I had no idea I was to often go out for mountaineering.

I noticed the town did not problems like erratic power supply and poor roads. Though it did not have CCDs and Baristas, it had small food joints — Food Plaza and Penguin being the most popular. The town had an ancient look to it with old building housing government offices. Some amount of development had a lot to do with students coming from different parts of the country. I was surprised to see a huge number of educational institutes in Dhenkanal.
I am not sure if it was conscious attempt but I tended to reach out to people who generally kept a low profile. Maybe I was feeling a little intimidated by the enormity of the place and the opportunity I had been presented with to have a go at what I liked the most and what I always aspired for. I was taking my time.

August 1, 2005.
The moment I entered the Conference Hall, I knew I was in trouble. While I chose to be a backbencher to escape the wrath of Associate Professor Mr Mrinal Chatterjee, he gave an angry look and announced, “You are late by six minutes. Next time, you do it again, you are out of the class and any repeat of this mistake will have you thrown out of the institute.” I summoned courage and said, “Sir, I didn’t know and was not informed of class timing.” This infuriated him even more, “The exact timing is mentioned on the hostel notice boards. Better keep your eyes open to avoid such situations.” Everything he spoke after that clearly suggested that he was involved with the institute in no uncertain terms and it was he and only he who called the shots on the campus. Right behind Chatteerjee Sir, there hung a huge board. It read: IIMC. For me, it stood for: Indian Institute of Mrinal Chatterjee!

Getting it all right
The next day, we were in our first class in the academic block. Chatterjee Sir was speaking of some of the most basic things about journalism. After a while, he asked, “Now, I’d like you all to tell me what according to you the definition of journalism is.” A whole lot of students stood up and gave their take while being boringly idealist. Most seemed to be on a mission to change the world, make it a better place to live in through their journalistic skills. They sounded more like activists, social reformers. Even as they looked to impress Sir, I again began to get nervous at the prospect of Sir asking me to come up with my take. Despite being there and almost done that, I had perhaps never thought of the definition of the profession I was so very proudly associated with.

Despite trying very hard, I could not think of anything which was different from what others said and at the same time made some sense. I almost wished to be vanished, to be somewhere else. I thought I did not belong. I was perhaps better off doing what I was doing back home instead of concentrating very hard yet failing to define my profession.

There was no escape route. It was too late now. Sir had not yet responded to the students. He looked to be searching for someone in the class. He said with a mischievous smile, “I’m told we already have a “journalist” among us. Yes, there he is. Darpan, you tell us what you understand by journalism.” I didn’t have a choice. I braced and stood up but my legs were again failing me.
Even though I had some idea about the topic, I had little faith in my ability to pull it off. I sort of said something to myself before I began in a low and terribly nervous voice, “Sir, after a lot of people have said a lot of things, it may sound pretty simple but I strongly believe that journalism is all about making people aware of what is happening around them and, in the process, if you happen to help mitigate some of the problems, you should feel good about it and move on. But primarily your job is to provide correct information. That’s all I have to say.”

To my utter surprise, Sir listened to me patiently and looked impressed too. He said, “This is what I wanted to hear. Correct answer.” He continued, “We are not here to reform the society. If we write reports keeping this in mind, chances are our bosses will not publish them. We have to sell our stories too. Doing our bit for the social society may be our long-term goal but it cannot be our day-to-day job. And we have to understand the difference between the two terms — job and goal.” He asked me to sit down.

I was hugely relieved. Though he continued with the lecture in his own charismatic way, I didn’t listen to anything. Or much of what he said did not register. It seemed I had just been spared a death sentence.
In the coming years, his lectures have continued. The place has churned out more journalists. All this while, we have covered some distance too. Lets’ salute the place and welcome the new batch!


  1. i still remember you giving that speech and MC liking it. and i still can't forget the way u answered me when I asked if you were working with HT already... if you think good about my write up, i must remind you that 'you' have been my guide throughout and most of the things I do have been influenced by you. Today, after four years, I thank you for being there!

  2. i'm a would be student of iimc-d... thanks for the post it is really informative... i knwo before going there what my teacher will say :P and by the way you write too well

  3. thanks. if you are actually a student of IIMc-d now, convey my gratitude to the place which kep us happy and curious those eight months!