Saturday, December 3, 2016

'There's no point in talking to you'

Sometimes, life teaches you a valuable lesson in unexpected ways.

A few months after I took up my first newspaper job, in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1986, I was asked if I'd like to interview a famous artist. Naturally, I was elated. I was young and eager to prove myself. I said yes without giving the matter a second thought. I went to Jehangir Art Gallery, where my subject was holding an exhibition, and introduced myself. He wore a white bushshirt and stood with his hands behind his back. But before I could start, he asked me, rather curtly, "What do you know about art?" 


Well, my mother's side, they're all professional artists, you know. I used to sketch and paint myself. And I once appeared for the state Elementary Drawing Exam and failed. Of course, I didn't tell him that. Instead, I said, "Not much." 

To which he replied, even more curtly, "Then there's no point in talking to you" and walked away. 

I smarted under his unintended insult. Lucky for him I picked up the pen instead of the brush. I could've showed him a stroke or two and beat him at his own canvas!

Since that day, however, I never wrote more than I knew. But I'd learnt my first lesson as a reporter—stick to your brief. In today's world, it's called domain knowledge. Of course, thanks to the internet and social media, people seem to have an opinion on everything, and then again, nothing.

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