The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, October 12, 2003

Life Ties

Profession and personality
Taru Bahl

WHEN Mohit walked into Kalpana’s room, the first impression she got was of someone who looked vulnerable and lost. All her maternal instincts were aroused as she gave him a patient hearing. He was out of work, he had not cleared his State Administrative exam, he girlfriend’s family was threatening to marry her off elsewhere unless he could come up to their expectations. He was confused but he had this burning desire to "do something worthwhile since I believe I can make a difference, if given a chance."

Kalpana, a counsellor, knew that not many men could open their hearts out and reach out to a complete stranger without worrying about appearing like wimps or losers. She found him sensitive and dignified. At the end of the hour-long meeting, he found her far more helpful than he had dared to hope. Besides, talking to her made him feel as if he could rebuild his life soon and find something challenging enough to channelise his energy and dormant capabilities. Although she was a stranger he got the feeling that she believed in him and was going to help him find the opportunity that could make or break him.

She saw promise in the poems and stray thoughts he had penned in his most anguished moments, and immediately called up a publisher-and-editor friend of hers. She fixed up appointments for him and by the end of the day he had an editing assignment with the publishing house and a series of short articles for a leading magazine. Before giving in his articles, he met Kalpana and was surprised at the kind of fine-tuning she did to the final copy, even though editing was not her field. Extremely grateful, Mohit couldn’t stop thanking her. At that point it seemed as if he had entrusted her with his life.


Once the stories got published and he gradually began to build a network of contacts for himself, meeting other fellow journalists and seeing from close quarters what the profession was all about, he found himself magnetically attracted to the profession. When a new newspaper was launched, he called upon Kalpana, asking her if she could help. The intervention helped. Though the salary was not great and the job didn’t take into account his earlier experience, he decided to take it up on her advice. She felt that since there was this burning intensity in him to do something, he could use the written word to put across his idealistic notions.

For a few months Mohit kept in touch, sending her copies of stories which were well received. Gradually, the communication became erratic before fading out altogether. Through the city grapevine she heard stories of how he had become arrogant, high-handed and conceited. She knew that the system was geared to tempt and corrupt since the media did play a powerful role in shaping organisations, individuals and start-up companies. Journalists were wooed in style, pampered and, worst of all, their excesses were tolerated. Mohit had apparently found this experience irresistible and over a period of time turned into an unrecognisable creature. His innocent boyishness was replaced with a cocky rakishness. From what Kalpana heard, he was in and out of relationships with his young trainees, even though he was married to his childhood sweetheart. He had come a long way from the sincere small-town boy she had mentored.

She heard of how he had got a young recruit from a five-star hotel suspended simply because he had been denied a particular brand of coffee at 3 am. He had seen to it that the SSP had spoken to his general manager and had his services temporarily withdrawn before dawn broke. It appeased his ego to see that he could "fix people" if they displeased him. She also heard that he was on the payroll of a business group that had political connections. He was "their man" and was amply compensated.

Why did she feel bad, even though she was pragmatic enough to know that over a period of time one’s profession did shape one’s personality? Had she not seen her own father who had served in the Intelligence becoming more and more guarded and suspicious over the years? Or her uncle who was a professor who loved to launch into long-winded, one-sided tirades on society, economy, polity and the general state of world affairs? Or her sister, a finalist in the Miss India contest, who could not think beyond beauty and fashion?

Maybe her sense of hurt stemmed from the fact that she felt he had betrayed the confidence and faith she had placed in him. Yes, to know that she had erred in her judgment hurt.