Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Staying alive

(This was written a few days after the 26/11 attacks on Bombay. It was shocking to me how people used tragedy to gain mileage in different ways)

Three days ago, I received an email marked to the world and its chihuahua that read, "So… I did a blow by blow of the terror attack. Here's a link…. Hopefully this will do wonders for my career, even if not for my country"

I was shocked. It thought it was in pathetic taste. Leveraging on another's pain for your own gain is the worst form of self-promotion in my book.

The problem with tragedy, especially of the proportions that occurred last week is that some people regret being a part of the action, however peripheral it might be. For instance, "I could have been at
the Taj lobby when it happened… I just changed my mind last minute and chose to meet friends at Dragonfly."

The point is, you weren't… someone else was. And that someone else got killed. You didn't. So stop making it about you—it's about them.

But people want their 15 seconds—real or engineered. They also have different ways of reacting to something like this. Some, like the father or the husband spend all night staring at the television and smoking their lungs out. Others call or sms every number on their phone book. A few forward inspiring emails to their lists or initiate petitions, some start Facebook threads or groups, collaborate on silent protest marchs, holding placards, and the like.

The real people go out there and do the work. They seldom talk about it, unless pressed for information by people like us. They seldom facebook, blog nor mass mail their work to groups to say, "Look, here's my lens' view of what happened… just in case you don't read the papers." Or "This is my full-length interview with a commando or Mr. X who escaped from the Trident that had to be edited."

They just do the work.

Oye Richa Richa Oye

There was another message—an unapologetic kind… "My first film Oye Lucky Lucky Oye releases today amidst all the hatred. Please catch the film, because it's a labour of love.”

The message was from a girl who came to work with me in a magazine three years ago. She was straight from college and was full of zest, idealism, passion, hunger and the right kind of anger. Six months into the job, one day, while we were having chai on the landing, she told me, “I want to do something else.. and if I don't do it now.. I will never do it…"

I had grown to depend on her, so it broke me a bit, but I tried not to flinch, as I assumed she had a dream. "Go for it, " I said. “You must always follow your gut. What is it that you want to do? "I want to act,” she said.

I was speechless. Should I burden her with the usual clich├ęs of, “It’s not easy, you don't have a godfather or a filmi father… it can take years before you get a break..”

I didn't.

And thank god for that.

Because this weekend, when I took a break from gory images and shooting blood pressure to watch her film, she made me proud. In the near full-house, I saw her stealing the thunder from the lead actress. It was just three years after that balcony chat.

I was glad I set her free. It made me believe that if you want something real bad, it usually comes to you—that is if you do the work.

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