Dear Reader,

If things had gone as they were supposed to, I would’ve warned you today that next week’s newsletter might come in late, or not at all. Or that it could arrive with all the verve and blistering positivity of the Happy Bonus Edition I’d sent last month. You see, the plan was that my laptop and I would be plonked on a beach in Vishakapatnam next Tuesday evening, where I was supposed to, first of all, cover some cricket, and, more importantly, reinforce the awesomeness of my job on social media.

 

Alas, the stars haven’t aligned, the fat lady has gone to crossfit, and the bisibellebath has arrived without chips on the side.

 

It’s has rained incessantly in Vishakapatnam, and the entire tournament has been moved here, to Bangalore, where next Tuesday evening I’m going to be plonked in a cab with my laptop.

 

My last time on a beach was so long ago that it was still trendy to be a sapiosexual on Tinder. I could’ve used the trip, but on the spectrum of inconvenience, it’s a pinprick. In context of the story of the week, it is astoundingly insignificant.

 

It is written by Anuj Chopra, the AFP’s Riyadh bureau chief, and is a despondent meditation on the realities of conflict journalism. Chopra talks about losing a friend and colleague Shah Marai, an Afghani photojournalist, who was considered among the best. Marai was killed by a suicide bomber posing as a cameraman. The Atlantic did a tribute piece on Marai, a collection of his best photos of the endless war in Afghanistan, and it’s the photo story of the week.

 

I was first allured by journalism when the Mumbai attacks of 2008, widely known as 26/11, were being reported. I can’t remember clearly, but it was possibly Sreenivasan Jain who had me hooked to the TV from outside the Taj hotel, calm and steadfast with a rescue operation in the backdrop. The feeling was primal, and in 2008, definitely not influenced by gatekeepers syndrome and a sense of what “true journalism” was (which creeps in from time to time and is hard to fight) but possibly more to do with the imagined thrill and the overwhelming emotion from watching someone’s sense of duty. (Remember last week’s riff on Border?)

 

It’s been ten years, and that’s not the kind of journalism I’m doing. It’s not the kind of journalism I’m trained for, and it’s likely I’ll never write ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s biography, something I foolishly considered possible as an outsider in 2016. Truth is, I was probably as close to a conflict zone as I’ll ever get, when earlier this year I did a story from Sumbal, a Kashmiri town about 200 kilometers away from Pakistan. And the truth is, being subjected to two security checks by Omar Abdullah’s security team outside Kashmir’s only Gold’s Gym is probably the most action I’ll see as a reporter. They thought I could be a spy! Do you think Abdullah has really bad squatting form and the world’s being denied this secret?

 

Thankfully, the pangs of being a true journalist and the existentialism associated with that have begun to subside. I could care less what true journalism is, especially in 2018.

 

And I hope you’re from the same school of thought, because in the collection today is the best story I’ve read all week. And it involves a journalist’s investigative deep-dive on – I’m not kidding – how a majority of men enter bathtubs. With demonstrative illustrations. It has to do with balls. You’ll laugh so much.

Yours,

Varun

Articles:

Story of the week – My colleagues died reporting in Afghanistan this year. And yet it must be done.

Photo story: Remembering Shah Marai
Do men enter bathtubs on hands and knees to ensure their balls hit the water last?
A hunt for the best Pakistani food in USA
The art of losing to parents

Share this: