I always dreamt of being a journalist, in fact my Ma swears that I told her that when I was seven. Always preternaturally precocious. So when I joined The Statesman as a trainee reporter and was assigned the crime beat I was in heaven.Nothing deterred me not late duty till one at night, not going to cover riots and murders. The story was the thing and I always wanted mine to be substantive, splashy and was undaunted by gore.
Though it was pretty scary to cover the Naina Sahni tandoor murder case and be the reporter who scooped the second post mortem of the body by staying put at the morgue for nearly the whole night. Or face tear gas shells while covering riots because I was obsessive enough not to maintain a safe distance. Or be the reporter who got yelled about at the commissioner of police’s press conference.
My friends and relatives thought I was mad because I like Meera lived for the thrill of the scoop. And, no amounts of page 1 fliers were enough.
After I moved to the Indian Express investigative bureau after a stint as the London corespondent of The Statesman the canvas of the stories just got bigger. From Delhi Police I was doing special stories on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate and the Intelligence Bureau. My passion for the scoop was undiminished. Whether it was the final report in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case which brought down the then government or the eyes only report which proved that Pakistan had been occupying Kargil for three months and it was only shepards who tipped off the Border Security Force (BFS). The fact that the IB was writing fake letters to newspapers in the name of real people to try and influence opinion and fake encounters. I think the kind of stories I did and my passion for hard investigative stories led to to write a murder mystery investigated by a fiery and feisty reporter Meera who works in a newspaper.
Coincidence much. Also the fact that I have always been addicted to reading and specially thrillers.
lived for the thrill of the scoop. And, no amounts of page 1 fliers were enough
I had gotten bored of TV journalism after doing my own one to one show for five years. How many interviews could you do? A desire to see if I could actually write beyond a word limit and create a gripping story were the main motivation. And, my partner in crime was my wonderful editor who turned in to a friend Vaishali Mathur of Penguin Random House. We both put our heads together and plotted and the result is Daddy’s girl. Meera the investigative reporter is fiery and feisty yet very fragile and idealistic about journalism. She brings her value system to her job and the unfairness of it appals her.
Meera starts out by seeing everything as black and white but, while covering the double murder she realises that nothing is really black and white. Most things are muddled like most people. That’s been my experience as well with a lot of wonderful sources who risk so much to be able for you to tell the story. I developed a lot of respect for policemen as a crime reporter. For one they work awfully hard. Meera had a similar graph.
Journalism makes her grow up and that’s pretty much the case with me as well. The joyful take away for me was that I was still as passionate and idealistic about journalism as when I started out all bright eyed and bushy tailed.
I still think that the core of all journalism must be to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The rest is just public relations. It’s not our job to tell the world what good those is power are doing but, to speak truth to power and make it accountable.
When people these days attack journalism using filthy terms like presstitutes it appals me. Journalism is hard and nerve wracking and good journalists need to have unlimited courage.
That’s a quality Meera has and as this is a series we have planned we will see a lot more of the courage and investigation of Meera and the machinations of the power world she covers.
As for me both Meera and I are proud presstitutes. So bring it on.
Author of Daddy’s Girl, Swati Chaturvedi (@bainjal) tells SheThePeople.TV why she wrote this book
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