Twenty five years ago, when I first stood at the gate of 5 Windsor Place it did not look inviting. It still had yet to be allotted to IWPC but had been identified by the Coomi-led house hunting team. Tall grass blocked it out from view. It was cloaked in eerie silence made worse by the dark of late evening. A dim light stole out of a window. I peeped in and saw men squatting on the floor playing cards! A man came out saying this was a CPWD dump and out of bounds for outsiders.
In the tenements behind the bungalow I met a girl who rented the room that went with it. She disclosed the house was a lottery and gambling den. The information was discreetly passed on to the concerned authorities and 5 Windsor Place was finally ours. The first sweep of the property by this girl (who agreed to work for us in exchange of rent) and me raked in a number of lottery tickets!
We had a property but no furniture, no bank account and not even an IWPC constitution. As the first general secretary of IWPC (the office bearers had been put in place at a meeting held at the Press Club to introduce the idea to women journalists), the challenge was daunting but exciting. Three days of the place becoming ours we met for the first ever meeting in the IWPC premises. We brought durries, cushions and mugs and tea flasks from home.
The room was filled with laughter, bonhomie and dreams for IWPC! I unveiled the first ever IWPC name plate which I had got done that morning by a painter sitting under a tree in Gole Market. He was the cheapest and the clincher for everything because our kitty was only Rs 18,000 contributed by the 18 founder members. It was nailed on the right-hand pillar of the gate amidst spontaneous cheers. Our first treasurer Harminder Kaur then took us to the bank to open an account only to be told that we need to first have IWPC registered! That began my exercise to get a constitution and endless trips to the office of the Registrar of Societies. The first draft was rejected because I had forgotten to replace ‘he’ with ‘she’ when I copied from the constitution of another society.
Our first lot of furniture came from a five-star hotel which was being renovated. Coomi and I requested the owner to donate the discarded furniture to IWPC. He agreed and we picked up all the best chairs and tables. They are still in use in our dining hall.
The founder members built the IWPC with the spirit and labour required to raise a child. We had
made our space individually in our profession and knew the challenges well. We now wanted to collectively help those following us by creating not only a professional forum but also a place to network, form a support group for each other to meet challenges exclusive to women journalists, share our despair, frustrations and our joys.
Today the IWPC is all that… a favourite of women journalists, providing in a secure and tastefully done up environment inexpensive meals, a workplace, space to rest, network, meet friends, entertain male colleagues, sources and even bring their children along if they have to keep an eye on them while meeting professional demands!