They say you must never make friends at work. There should always be lines drawn between the professional and the personal. I don’t believe in it. When you are a journalist and most of your waking hours are spent at work, friendships are a given. You cannot escape from it. Add to the fact that you live so far away from home without immediate family or a support system, it is but natural to turn to those whom you spend more time with than your own family.
I’ve always been fortunate to be in a ‘fun’ workplace… May be it’s something to do with the nature of the job. Or maybe it’s do with like-minded individuals… Whatever the reasons, ‘I am certainly liking them…’
At the newspaper I worked at for seven years, the lines of friendship stretched from the Reporters’ Den along the long corridor to the dingy room where the Subs held fort (the joke was that we needed traffic signals to move about!). Sometimes, it moved a floor up to the Advertising Studio and the Advertising Department where like-minded people joined the circle. Here many friendships were formed, and a lot of fun had.
Being part of a female population that was abysmally low in numbers meant that we were at the receiving end of some not-so-good-natured ribbing and leg-pulling. Oh! The kind of pranks that were played! I remember frantically searching for my handbag as I was ready to leave after my shift one night. After half-an-hour of seeing me search for it, my colleague, the Chief Reporter finally takes pity and leads me to the Editor’s room (who is busy drawing up a dummy for Page One, it is 11pm in the night for God’s sake!), opens his cupboard and pulls out my bag. The editor looked at the two of us in exasperation while I wanted to slink away in embarrassment.
I also made friends with journalists from other nationalities. I met the first Pakistanis in my life at the Times and some of the bonds still remain. We introduced them to iddlis and sambhar while they brought seivayaan and other delicacies for Eid. I once desperately tried not to retort when one of them said, “In this dress, you look like a smart Pakistani!” Well!
For me, it was like an extension of college life (I was only 23 at the time), and work was a whole lot of fun. All of us bonded over stories forgotten, deadlines that ended yesterday, homemade food or the soggy sandwiches from Sameer’s cafeteria downstairs. We were passionate about each story being exclusive (however inane, we had to ‘break’ it first!). We also had fights, massive ones, especially at the end of the day (when the edition would be put to bed!) but these were, within moments, long forgotten and we’d be back to walking hand-in-hand trying to pull fast ones on unsuspecting people from other departments.
We met outside too… for lunches and dinners… with or without the families. During many trying times, we were each other’s strengths… And when I finally decided to quit the job, the reactions were overwhelming. Some wept, others came home trying to convince me and the husband why I shouldn’t leave the job (the husband was rather amused by this!) and some others hugged me till I broke into tears myself. I realised then, I would be missing my friends more than I missed the job. The work was just incidental!
High-fives and hugs, punches and fisticuffs… these are memories that will last a life-time. Along with the friendships made, a few of those that remain strong to this day!
The present workplace is fun too… in every sense. With fun-loving colleagues, there’s not a dreary moment. Witty remarks, wild retorts, IPL and World Cup bets, impromptu ‘samosa and jalebi’ feasts… and you’d think that this was not an edit team but a bunch of madcaps in ‘permanent’ session. A lot of work happens too and happens together… If I have to work late into the night, the team waits with me… If I need a drop home… I just have to ask! Or even if the brat cries into the phone that he has done his exam badly, there’s some colleague/friend who will call him up and say, ‘Beta, it’s okay, you’ll do better next time,” and maybe also cheekily add, “Your mom’s mad! Don’t listen to her.”
Maybe, I’ve just been plain lucky!