I used to find it very difficult to say fuck off to something, and really mean it. To a situation, to people, to a guy I was dating, to someone giving me a hard time. I would just not have enough balls to. The only times I might have would have been to some inconsequential people or situations – things not worth remembering even for my own mind.
In the summer of 2011 I started working for Times Now as an entertainment reporter. I wasn’t particularly excited about entertainment, but I was beyond thrilled for having landed myself a job at all, considering I didn’t get placed at college.
My parents were overjoyed it was Times Now, the best English news channel and yada yada. I moved to Bombay, a city I loved, on a salary where I couldn’t even afford a chaulin Dharavi. I lived with my aunt and uncle in a super house in Bandra. My auntie made the most amazing food, and all my cousins lived just two minutes away, in parallel lanes, one after the other. Life was good. Generally good.
Before I knew it, I was working long, odd hours, chasing celebrities, standing outside hospitals waiting for them to either die or recover, just so I could go home. We were working 16 hours on an average – for a show that would sometimes get cancelled if ‘Boss’ decided to run his News Hour a little longer.
The terrible weather in Bombay would invariably get to me. Fighting for dear life, trying to get into trains, wading through knee-length water outside Elphinston station and the humidity that made me sweat like a pig were my least favourite things. I had started to hate the city.
Sometimes the summer breeze on the Bandra-Worli Sealink would be the only good thing about my day; sometimes it was the chaas outside the Doordarshan office, and sometimes nothing at all.
At work, I was just getting by, somehow scraping through each day to make it to a year. I realized I was becoming one of ‘those’ girls. The girls I hated. We were a team of nine women and one guy, covering Bollywood news – I couldn’t have expected any better. Gossiping and being a nasty bitch had started to come naturally to me. I might have realized then, but I hadn’t given it much importance. I can’t remember.
I started loathing celebrities because they made me wait. Wait for long long hours, with traffic being their only explanation ever. Three hours, sometimes four, and every secondof mine that they wasted, I only imagined the earth-shattering things that I could have possibly done. It made my blood boil. It made me mad. Time is money, especially in Bombay.
By the fourth month, I was tired of compromising on my sleep to go to Page 3 parties. I was very happy getting just janta bytes and escaped whatever exclusive interviews I could. I started going to work in my pajamas and ugly floaters just so I wouldn’t be asked to come on air, until one day my boss gave me a piece of her mind, asked me to pick an outfit from the green room, get some make-up on, get my act together and do my job. I had to do it, and I knew there was no escape. I knew I needed to survive it for a year, at least. It was the pressure that came along with any first job.
I was crying every other day at work, in the bathroom, along with a few other girls, who hated it there, but were in the same situation as me. Some survived it and made it big. The others didn’t. And I was one of them.
I was having regular disagreements on ethics with my boss, sometimes about voiceovers being taken from agency copy without giving them credit; I wasn’t allowed to switch my phone off, ever, and I had to be on ten million BBM groups that pinged all night long. I was falling sick too often and my anxiety levels were hitting the roof.
On some days, where news of national importance would be the highlight, our entertainment show would get cancelled, in which case we’d have to help out on the desk and cater to all the whims and fancies of Arnab Goswami.
Some were really odd meager jobs and some were so unethical, I questioned everything that would happen around me.
By then, I had met all the celebrities I enjoyed watching on screen. Hell I even saw Paris Hilton have a blonde moment, live – less than one foot away from me. The work was occasionally good. But I was done with the place.
Actually the only thing I thoroughly enjoyed was covering the NH7 Weekender in Pune that year. It was three days of crazy music, beautiful weather and lovely people.
I called my mother, howling, on Diwali day, telling her I couldn’t work there anymore. She wouldn’t understand – and she kept asking how bad could it really get. My father was very disappointed. It was my first job, and I had just about completed five months. They weren’t letting me quit, and I very badly wanted to. Somewhere in between explaining, and convincing, this ordeal turned into a massive fight.
My father said I could quit, but if I didn’t find another job by the last day of my notice period, I’d have to come back to Calcutta and do whatever they asked (which included being married to a random dude). I didn’t think – all I said was ‘Done!’
I was so frustrated with my job that even marrying a random guy seemed alright. My mother asked me to wait until Diwali got over, because she’s religious and thinks Karma works in weird ways for her. So at 12.01am I sent in my resignation, without a single thought about ‘what next’.
In the following month, I had huge fights with my boss, the HR people were sick offighting with me and I didn’t get any of my tapes. All the times I came on air, with the goddamn make-up — I don’t have any of those tapes.
HR wasn’t willing to give me my settlement because of my cockiness, the way I spoke to them was very brash, and I wasn’t willing to concur to anything they said. They even threatened to find out about my next employer and tell them about my ‘behaviour’ — they loved moral policing. All in all I was blacklisted from the Times Group. I think I still am.
That was the first time ever I actually said fuck you to someone/something, right in their face. It was the first time I was willing to let go of everything I had, where I would have nobody else to blame for my actions, but myself.
I was really really scared, but I felt equally empowered. I was afraid of the big ‘what next’ question that kept looming every second before my eyes for the next one month. I was clueless about what I wanted to do. I hadn’t applied for any jobs, I hadn’t even thought about it. I just quit that one on a whim without a game plan. In retrospect, I think it was a very stupid thing to have done, but I wouldn’t change anything about it.
Somewhere inside me, I knew things would fall into place, I knew I would manage, somehow. Some bloody how. I had to do anything to not go back home. A random dude’s picture in my mind kept haunting me.
On my last day at Times Now, I got an offer from Deccan Chronicle, which I later declined and joined Reuters in Bangalore. Quitting that job might have been stupid, but it was a brilliant decision. I only know now. Today.
That evening, my team still gave me a great farewell, we went to California Pizza Kitchen, had some good wine, went to Tryst, got pissed drunk, and partied our asses out before the night got over. There are some embarrassing pictures somewhere. At dinner, one ofmy colleagues said to me that despite our differences, she admired my balls. Ahem.
I knew it was time. It was fuck off o’clock.
For Janice, Renelle, Nupur, Shaheen, Atiya, Ilika, Janvi, Abira, Ilika, Payel, Veena, Mayur. Love you guys.