“Do you want to write something about Jehangir?,” asked my wife. “Sure,” I said. As a newsperson, who has worked for the last 14 years in maniacal newsrooms – that is my standard response – when I am ‘processing’.
So, what exactly was I processing here? The passing away of a former boss – an Editor with whom I’ve had the most disagreements with in a year than the rest 13 put together, or was I was just shocked, stunned at the suddenness of this news? Maybe, it was a bit of both.
I met Jehangir in the fall of 2009. I’d quit my job at NDTV a couple of months ago and the alternatives hadn’t turned out to be all that I’d hoped for. ‘Economic Downturn’, everyone would say in despondent tones. But not this man... Jehangir S Pocha immediately put you at ease – he wanted to know what music I listened to, and the book I was reading. I got a feeling he was sizing me up, but he wasn’t talking work.
And that was the way it was for the 9-10 months I spent at NewsX. Even when he was talking a story – he almost wasn’t. Like the time he drew on a piece of paper a map of China to explain the Uighurs were a Turkic ethnic group in China and how ethnic clashes in China were important even in an Indian context. Or when I called him ‘Mr Pocha’ at an edit meeting, and he said with a grin, “Call me, Jehangir, man”.
Edit meetings with Jehangir – even on a phone line – were like a Q&A session. Questions he asked and we answered – answers that inevitably led to the story being pegged differently. And most of what I know about India’s wonky subsidy regime or the whole hullabaloo over gas pricing is courtesy Jehangir.
But it goes beyond the Uighurs, subsidies and what have you. My 9-10 months at NewsX under Jehangir made me look at stories a wee bit differently or gave me the courage to say, ‘I don’t think it is important.’
Even today, when I’m regularly admonished for my choice of stories to play up or display – I find myself not overtly disturbed and even with the gumption to say “I didn’t think it made a difference to anyone’s life.” It is almost like that story on NewsX on record sales of liquor in Delhi that turned into how Indians were drinking more Cognac or how my defence of his dig at Bengalis was a innuendo-laden jibe at Mumbai’s ‘Khada Parsi’ – one that he took, as usual, with good humour and with a smile. Go with what you believe in and take everything on the chin!
I can’t claim to have known him well at all. Outside work (literally at the gates of NewsX), he’d sometimes bum a smoke of us... but then as I realise, I’m still ‘processing’.
(The author is Senior News Editor at NDTV Convergence.)