17 October 2012

One year at ‘The Nation’

October, it seems is a month for arrival.  Late October, i.e in the second half, I might add.  I joined the Sunday Island on October 20, 2000.  Before that, my involvement in newspapers was limited to a few political commentaries written for the Island and I think one for the Daily News.  That was in the early nineties. 

I still remember the first article.  It was published on September 23, 1993, the twentieth death anniversary of one of my favorite poets.  The article was titled ‘Pablo Neruda: Resident of the Earth’, borrowing from the title of one of his collections.  Thereafter I wrote a few pieces under the pseudonym  Janaranjana Mithrasena, with a view to transfer political credit to the group I was associated with at the time, Janatha Mithuro (Friends of the People).  There were a couple of articles on IIMI.  That’s the ‘International Irrigation Management Institute’, which now goes by the less dressed ‘International Water Management Institute’ and who knows, may one day tell us its real name, replacing ‘management’ with ‘thieving’ or ‘robbing’.  

I also remember a rather long article on the visit of Pope John Paul II, titled ‘Let us prey (or the story of an unabortable pun)’.  Another, on the death penalty or rather a polemic against the practice, was rejected with the curt ‘you will have to start your own paper to publish this kind of stuff’. 

As a student in the USA, I helped start a monthly paper called ‘The Cobbler’, following an agitated outburst at bad reporting from the campus paper, ‘The Cornell Daily Sun’.  Ayca Cubukcu, a brilliant undergraduate at the time and now holding a Doctorate in Anthropology from Columbia University, emailed a few ‘beautiful people’ (in her book) and said ‘let’s start a newspaper and let’s call it “The Ithaca Nightly Moon”!’  It wasn’t daily.  It wasn’t a better version of a campus paper. It was about community and solidarity, local initiatives and contestations of global processes.  I left Ithaca 4 months and 4 issues later.  Ayca and her friends kept it alive for more than a year I believe. 

I returned in August 2000 and twiddled thumbs until Tilak Samarawickrema spoke to Manik De Silva, Editor (Sunday Island) about the possibility of me working for him.  And that’s how it started.  October 20, 2000.

I won’t talk about the exits (several of them), but just the October arrivals.

In October 2007 I joined the Department of Government Information. 

And last year, on the 17th of October, I returned to ‘The Nation’.  Time passes and we forget our arrival days.  Even a weekly paper has daily work.  And so I went from October to October and would have not written this had not someone else remembered and sent a ‘best wishes’ email.  Rifkha has memory and I am grateful. 

Today is another day.  I came on a Monday and a year later this is a Wednesday is a very different kind of week.  That’s how one grows into a paper or a paper grows on one.  People too.  That’s common.  We not just move around each other’s lives, but walk through them too. 

‘The Nation’ is not a heavy paper.  It is lighter than both the ‘Sunday Times’ and ‘The Observer’.  In terrms of grams and kilograms.  It is not cardboard.  It is not the best in the world, but I think we do a decent enough newspaper, against serious odds, including the fact that we had to deal with the un-selling tag ‘pro-government’, which any discerning reader of newspapers would dismiss as unadulterated rubbish. 

It’s been a nice year and that’s got to do with the interesting work but more than that, the colorful, spirited, talented and capable people I am privileged to work with at ‘The Nation’.  Won’t name.  Don’t need to.  They know and I know and that’s all there is to report this Tuesday morning of an anniversary I almost forgot.  


SANDIKA said...

Congratulations & all the very best 'the contents of a print reveals a lot about the age generally but this Nation look so mature in its analysis and young in look. according to my knowledge a paper does not have to be heavier what is important here in this Nation is that the heaviness of its contents' the things discuss'

Happy & fruitful Anniversary !

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