What a day job never taught me, that breaking off from it did.
For those of you who know me newly, I used to until some time back report news as special correspondent for a national television channel, anchored parts of a documentary series for the beeb reporting from Nepal Laos & Vietnam, before when I used to host a primetime show to say Goooodmorning Bangalore every morning on a popular FM radio station for four years. Before which I dotcommed at a business dotcom that shut down, before when I chiefsub-editored late city edition at a national daily for a few years..
(The context may be important if you wish to read on at all that is. Or a helpful hint to halt Right Now before the read turns unbearable.)
The TV job was as exhausting, exciting & exhilarating as it can get for a journalist; but I felt there was only so much I could take of 24x7ness in my life. The fact is I wanted to do kapal bhati in peace before I get called to do a live OB at 6am outside Vidhan Soudha while I still had one nostril and one-&-half eyes closed. Plus there was my young son Anirudh who I was getting to see lesser than the worthies I was trailing and holding a mike to for soundbytes. One fine day therefore, I stepped off the BreakingNews treadmill. Friends who heard called to ask, “Hey so what are you going to do now?” I was answerless cos I had no plans to goingtodo anything, no really.
The first few months, let me tell you if you have never ever had the pleasure of resigning from a job, are Bliss. Savings compensate for salary, dinners replace deadlines. But slowly the itch begins. When you have been a working woman all your life, and used to having a certain sum coming in every month how big or small, you start missing ‘earning’, no matter how lovingly the spouse & the family say it’s okay or “I will give you”.
Deciding what to do took up the next few months, as it did It to carve one’s own space and identity, now without the piggyback of the superbrand that one’s ex-tv channel was. But boy did I learn on the job, what all being ‘independent journalist & anchor’ entailed?
You overnight become your own project-finder, telephone exchange-cum-directory, appointment-fixer, taxi-booker, travel agent, invoice-maker, invoice-printer, envelopes-buyer, address-writer, post’er, courier, payment-followupper, your own PR, HR, brand-builder, and your own Appraiser, not praiser, and all this while juggling milk-buying, maid-helping, guests-entertaining, marriagebirthday-attending as you are “anyway in the house all day”. In other words, you turn Ms Raymonds.
Turning into Complete Woman is not a choice.. Now I can author a book, even the title is ready, The zigzag life of a freelancer. Sometimes you are flush with work & dosh, sometimes there is just nothththing on the radar for months. And when helpful friends whatsapp those freelancer PJs, you actually smile, because they are True.
But you learn and you learn. Who are you willing to charge less, who would you not mind doing even free as you know they are genuine, and who your inner devil says, charge proppper, don’t spare them!
But three years down, I wouldn’t change anything. I have had a few knocks, messed up things bigtime, missed crucial assignments, said stuff to ‘clients’ that I was too naive or stupid to say, but all that’s a good thing – Life you realise has cushioned you for too long. When you are on your own that you discover who your real cheerleaders are, what your support system is, and who are the ‘friends’ who you wouldn’t now bother being even enemies with.
Things that used to be no-go, Iam slowly learning to take on & nego. Yeah, Negotiate was a bad word for me, just as bad as it was to talk money. You get told women are anyway bad in this department, but the fighter in you wants to buck that trend and bring on the bucks:).
Well Iam no millionnaire right now, in fact many zeros away, but I can sure say what I have gotten super-rich with: Variety. Between being master of ceremonies at functions, speaker at a few, TEDx speaker at one, making documentary films, modelling for a brand of sarees made by Assamese women weavers, being a mythology storyteller on goddesses of India at a musical, moderating panel discussions for channels, mentoring adoloscents for a US Consulate programme in Chennai, getting asked to be on board of advisors at Symbiosis, motivational speaker to corporates, training journalists or being ‘facilitator from India’ at a few international symposia, there is a whole world of things to do if only you are ‘free’.
Signing off, this is how the last month of 2015 has been: Bonded with rural journalists in Lucknow as the newspaper Gaon Connection that they bring out turned 3 years old; with authors booklovers & noliterature-butlitfestloving socialites at the Bangalore literature festival; with a 64-year-old man in Ooty called Push alias Pushpanath Krishnamurthy who walked 450 km across Nilgiris in 20 days to make people aware of climate change; and with a man called Shahrukh Khan besides Vidya Balan & Shashi Tharoor at the IIMB leadership summit I anchored last weekend.
Now that looks showoffy. But just to say it’s taken a bit of work, to get this wholesome variety in one’s work, besides one funda I have followed; two actually:#gowherelifetakes. And #takewhatlifethrows at you, sometimes on your chin. Mine just happens to have a mole.