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   All that I ever learned about journalism (July 15, 1987)

writing and constructing reports and meeting deadlines and making contacts and interviewing people on telephones and covering events without actually being there, was in the Free Press. The Free Press Journal was my first job and my college of journalism. It has been so for many newspapermen.I started on a salary of Rs. 125, which, seven years later, when I left, had risen to Rs. 250. Plus, we got Rs. 50 as traveling allowance. Another Rs. 500 was divided among the reporters who wrote columns, mainly in the Bulletin. We used to call that muck money, because even then we knew we were writing muck.A normal day began with going to the police courts. I would leave the office in Dalal Street at 11 a.m., take a No. 7 tram from Flora Fountain to Girgaum, walk to the Girgaum Court, make notes from the morning's remands, pick up a couple of judgements, then walk to Charni Road Junction, take the No. 10 tram to Mazgaon, walk to the Mazgaon Court, make notes from the remands there, meet the lawyers in the library and pick up some cases from them, then take the A2 bus back to the office, type all the reports and give them in by 12.45 p.m. The Bulletin would be out in the streets by 2 p.m. The Evening News would come out about the same time. Then the chief reporter, Mr. T. Gopalkrishnan, would compare the two papers to see what stories we had missed.

The day would continue. Sometimes there would be the Rotary Club to cover at the Green's Hotel. They gave lunch then, even to reporters. And there was only one Rotary Club then, The Rotary Club of Bombay, none of your Mid-Towns and Up-Towns and Downtowns and Rotary Club of Khetwadi. And, for a long time, there were no Lions Club.In the evenings, I would cover meetings. Mr. S. K. Patil at Congress House at Kennedy Bridge, Mayor Pupala inaugurating a new line in Lambretta scooters, a deputation of Russian writers being felicitated at the Indo-Soviet Society by Dr. A. V. Baligha, Mr. Rajni Patel and Mr. Balraj Sahani, vote of thanks proposed by Mr. Russy Karanjia. Mr. Karanjia, I must say, looked as young then as he does now. I would come back to the office, type the report, give it in, go down for dinner, come back and sit down for cards with other reporters, the night subs after they finished their work.

Sometimes there would be dinners to cover, Mr. V. K. Krishna Menon at the Eros Restaurant, on the first floor of the present cinema, King Hussain of Jordan at the Taj. And, one week in six, we did night duty by turns. Hello, hello, fire-brigade, where is the fire? Or the night I was on duty when India's first atomic reactor became critical and a frenzied riot broke out at Bhendi Bazar.

Seven years later, I joined the Times for double the salary I was getting at the Free Press and half the work. And I stopped learning.

 
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