The Pull of the Zeitgeist

Like the pull of the zeitgeist the need for a women’s press club was strongly felt by each woman journalist 25 years ago. With long working hours and small children, women journalists felt they needed a place of their own where they could have professional interaction and leave their children in a safe environment of a crèche. The initial membership fee of Rs 1000 each from 18 founder members provided us with working capital for the initial expenses. The first big challenge was to have independent premises. The Press Club provided us with a paradigm– to seek government allotment.And we got 5 WindsorPlace. I became the first treasurer. The challenges for the clubwere farfromover.We needed to generate funds and invest them judiciously over time to generate enough income to make the club sustainable. There was a total commitment among the founder members to make it a success so initially, each one coughed up a refundable amount Rs 5000-Rs10000 to augment the corpus and have enough funds to pay the rental and make the club functional. Whatever resources were at the disposal of individual founder members, in terms of contacts, surpluses at home was pitched in – crockery was provided and bought, furniture was organised from Hyatt hotel, and a big conference table from FICCI to have the bare-minimum furnishing. There was total camaraderie and during functions – we nevershied away fromlending a helping hand to the kitchen staff as we did not have adequate funds to hire more people. This was the beginningandthe restis history. I was then working with the Delhi Bureau of Eenadu and Newstime and had put in 17 years in journalism. Having worked with relatively

smaller magazines and regional newspapers, I had immense opportunities to cover hard beats. Among states Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan among political parties the Janata Dal and the BJP, among ministries Defence, Home Affairs and External Affairs, and events of national and international significance, like the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka, coup in Maldives and earth summit in Brazil. I never felt discriminated against as a woman journalist. On the contrary, my editors were very encouraging. In my opinion, if you were good at work, gender did not come in the way of opportunities. While every beat I covered was a great opportunity, two are etched inmymemory.Covering the politics of the BJP that led to their steady growth from two members in 1984 through the Ayodhya movement. The second was covering the brewing politicalsituation in Punjab that led to a full-blown insurgency. Punjab was the greatest challenge and learning graph.Little did Ithen realise,that I would be a witnessto historical developments of a period whose echowill be feltfor decadesto come andwill equip me with contacts, information and understanding of politics of a people and a state that willsustain my interest fortherestofmylife.
My first book happened because of my editor. One fine morning in 1984 I received a note from my editor of Newsmag,D.M.Silvera afterOperationBlueStar. “Do a book onBlueStar.With your contacts and understanding of Punjab, it is a life-time opportunity.” Blue Star Over Amritsar, now in its third edition, was followed up by 1984 Lessons from History, Intrigue and Conflict in Centre-Sikh Relations, and two coffee table books – on the Golden Temple and Anandpur Sahib. The third one on Guru Nanak is under print and some more on Punjab are in the pipeline. For a journalist, to be at the right place atthe righttime is the biggest opportunity

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