As a journalist, I am sorry to say I have had a pretty cosy and dull career. I have never been threatened, kidnapped, arrested (as a journalist, I mean, I have been otherwise arrested for consuming illicit liquor and breaking the prohibition law), detained, interrogated by the police, terrorists, army majors.
The only time I was anywhere near danger was during Mrs. Gandhi's Emergency, when this particular column was stopped. Though it was stopped by the editor, who was worried about his paper getting into trouble with the censors, and not by the Emergency government.
Still, when the column suddenly stopped appearing and there was no explanation in the paper (Busybee is on leave, etc.), people (readers) though I had been arrested, like our friend Sunder Rajan and Kuldip Nayar (look where he is now, the fruits of arrest). Father Joe Pereira, the singing priest, who was then at the Wodehouse Church, even had a mass for me. Catholics have these things when people die or have disappered and are presumed dead.
Then, one evening, Father Joe was me at Churchgate, buying cigarettes. "What are you doing here!" he said. "We though you were put away." And that was the closest I came to being arrested.
Later, when the censorship was relaxed a little, though the Emergency was still on and looked like going on and on. I was asked to resume the column byt stick to writing about birds, bees and flowers. One day I wrote about the messages that were pointed on trucks during the Emergency, messages saying – "The nation is on the march." That was stopped. So I myself stopped writing.
There are other things that I have not experenced as a journalist. Other journalists talk of how they have been threatened to lay off certain subject by the underworld, the police, the home ministry. Nobody has ever threatened me, probably because nobody really reads me. Even proprietors have not told me not to write about anything, so there is no chance of resigning. Unlike Vinod Mehta, I do not carry my resignation in my pocket. I do not carry any money in my pocket also, because I do not get paid the amounts that Mr. Mehta does… when employed.
And I have never been offered a bribe. So I have never had the opportunity to be honest and selfrighteous and refuse.
Except, perhaps, once. I was going to London for a holiday and a Congressman offered to look after my bills there. He told me that I would not even know who was paying my bills, but they would be paid. At that time I did not know about NRIs.
I refused. Possibly not because I was being honest, but our Taj had just opned its first hotel there and offered to put me up free for a few days. I though that was better idea. Enjoy their hospitality, then come back and write a few paragraphs about what a nice hotel they have in London.