This is a moment of celebration. It is not the time to quibble over shortcomings or over petty insinuations. We are 25 years old and that in itself is a major achievement. To have built up and sustained a media organisation through its many ups and downs is no mean achievement.
And to imagine, when the idea was first floated, that we would travel so far is something none of us would have ever imagined. But we have! We have also shown our sceptics that `sisterhood’ in all its rainbow colours works!
Eighteen founding members got together 25 years ago and donated Rs 1000 each, a princely sum in those days, to create a corpus. Today we have a small secretarial team, a full time manager to supervise the kitchen and a staff that has stayed with us through our many ups and downs, and a corpus that has increased exponentially from then!
We have increased this by successfully staging an annual fund raising cultural event in collaboration with the ICCR that on occasions has proved a show stopper. We also hold press meets, have held badminton tournaments in the past as also table tennis tournaments. This year we had a scrabble tournament and some members settle down on a Saturday afternoon to play a game of bridge.
How did the IWPC come about? What were the reasons we all sat down to do some brain storming in order to create an all women media organisation? Suffice to say that the reputation of the Press Club of India, our neighbour geographically, was going through a low, and several women complained that they needed a place to unwind, work from and also where they could leave their kids as they went about attending press conferences and meeting deadlines.
Eighty per cent of the battle was won when former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao agreed to allocate this centrally located Lutyen’s bungalow to us. All kinds of rumours had been floating about the previous incumbents of this residence. And no, we did not resort to any jaadu tonas to remove those bad vibrations!
Several founding members preferred rather to sit down and map out a vision statement of how to run a kitchen on a shoestring budget. Furniture was donated by members, some chattais were thrown in
for good measure, and that is how this place was kick started.
Today we have close to 900 members who are working in print, web and television media organisations. We also have several outstation members. We have over the years emerged as a professional body which provides its members and other journalists a place to interact with people making the news as also to hold discussions on the burning topics of the day.
At a personal note, the IWPC has emerged as a home away from home. Celebratory events around the marriages of my three children took place at this venue. I find it much easier to meet with friends and relatives here and above all, it is the only place I know of in Delhi where I can sit on a patch of lawn surrounded by flowers, enjoy the warm winter sunshine and eat a plate of makki ki roti and sarson ka saag.
The library has an excellent collection of books. The computer room provides a comfortable space from which one can work. The National Media Centre just across Raisina Road provides better air conditioning and state-of-the-art computers. What they do not provide is chai and butter toast which is a must when one is writing out a story.
One of the highlights has been our Travel and Tour Committee taking the initiative to arrange for members to travel to different countries at rock bottom prices.
Groups travel once a year to different destinations and this has both a learning and an adventure curve to it. My trip to China was especially interesting because I got a chance to travel from Beijing on the Z 21 train that crossed through 3757 kilometres of stunning landscape including the Gobi Desert, the Kekexili Nature Reserve and the fascinating Namtso Lake with entire ranges of snow capped mountains in the background before we reached
Lhasa 42 hours later.
The IWPC arranged a trip to Syria in 2009 allowing us to see one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Our timing was prescient because some years later the country erupted into civil war.
A subsequent visit to Spain allowed us to view many of this nation’s amazing cultural hotspots including visiting Picasso’s Museum of Art in Barcelona. We also got a chance to spend several hours viewing works of classical and contemporary masters at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.
Most important, the sheer familiarity and conviviality of the place provides us with the kind of comfort level one needs to escape the high pressure world of journalism. For free lancers who can end up feeling isolated, it provides the sort of bonhomie that is a must to keep one’s morale up.
I have heard several members say it is a home away from home. I hope it stays this way.