I started this newsletter right after I lost my old job. Just like million others, I lost my job due to the pandemic. I feel disappointed with myself when I think about it now, for how eager I was to bring this newsletter out every week back then.
I kept doing a lot of research. I started learning a lot about the creator/passion economy. I started learning how journalists are making money as newsletter writers, getting paid for their work by readers who trust. I started learning how there is a possibility to be a freelancer or at least, have a plan to be one - even though it is extremely hard.
To look back, almost a year ago, it feels surreal. Those days when I didn't have a job, I felt lonely and above all, there was this deep sense of fear and uncertainty about what might happen. The fear of the unknown. It pulled me down a lot.
But what gave me stability was having a family around. Just staying at home, having food in the fridge and still being able to pay the bills - all thanks to my brothers. iI’s a privilege. In the seven months of being without a job, I spent hours each day sending dozens of emails to potential editors of numerous publications willing to hire me, worked as a freelancer for a dozen clients, kept sending thousands of cold story pitches to online news portals willing to accept my ideas. It was scary and exciting at the same time.
Now I have a job. I am in a lot better position. I am working at a newspaper that I truly admire. And in the process of reaching comfort, I eventually lost grip of this newsletter.
I realised that the fear of the unknown instantly stifled out as I had a cushion - a job at hand. Every month I get paid. Obviously, it meant, I need not be afraid of paying my bills.
Sometimes fear drives us to stick to a pattern, a routine - it's a motivating factor. I wasn't scared of being jobless anymore and that's why I am not ashamed to say that this newsletter didn’t feel like a priority anymore. No fear. Just back to the usual comfortable feeling when you have job security.
But I was gripped by another fear. Fear of death. Death of so many people in this pandemic. When you are at the news desk, working as a sub-editor, you need to keep reading a lot about the pandemic.
You are basically a chronicler of history, recording information, making sure it passes every round of fact checks, making sure it gets vetted by other senior sub-editors, and importantly, making sure it’s easy for newsreaders to read before it gets printed and delivered the next day.
It does sound exciting when I tell this to my friends. It is exciting. Sometimes people think that my life looks like a scene from the movie “The Post” starring Tom Hanks.😂 I love it when my non-journalist friends think of it that way. But being a journalist in times of the pandemic is pretty exhausting.
But to be very very honest, my problems are nothing compared to others like doctors, nurses, people who have lost their jobs or lost their loved ones due to covid and are struggling to make ends meet!
I just realised how things can change in a year. I remember the day I lost my job last year and how scary it was to live in a time of uncertainty. But I also felt super blessed that I still had a home and a family to keep things going. Eventually, I did get a job and here I am.
To still have the privilege to watch whatever OTT films/series gets released, to still have the privilege to order food online, to still have the privilege to complain about how the hack the world is going from the comfort of our home is one of the biggest blessings in life in this dark twisted times.
People ask, why can't you write something really good for once? Not that I have ever been asked personally this question but I do read a lot of comments by readers across social media: why can’t the media publish a positive report?
Of course, we do want to write about the good things that are happening to the people around us. But sometimes when you live in a really hard time, like the pandemic, the truth is bitter - it is always bitter. Journalists need to make sure people get to read (or watch) the truth just the way it is.
In the past few months, I have not been able to keep up with this newsletter (that aims to explore explanatory/solutions-based journalism) because watching people beg for oxygen on social media or hearing news about covid deaths among relatives, certainly felt overwhelming. It is just too much! All I ever wanted to do, as soon as I got back home, was stay away from the news cycle as much as possible.
This pandemic is absolutely frustrating and emotionally draining. Sometimes it seems like you don't want to do anything. Sometimes all we want to do is just take a deep breath and sleep.
All we want to do is just pause for a moment and think that tomorrow will be a better day. What happens is that we are tired - tired from all the chaos that is happening around us. Tired from the constant field of negative algorithms that are passing on our social media. The toxic news that keeps changing in a 24 hours cycle making us think that the world is burning. And when we think of all this mess that is happening around us, we don't just feel an emotional load but also feel physically drained.
This pandemic also made me think so much about death. We don’t care about death until and unless the people we know - family and friends - die. We pause, reflect, sigh and realise that you are on borrowed time. We can't see it. We don’t know when it comes but when it does, it demands to be felt. It demands our heart to skip a beat. It scares us. It makes us wonder - what the heck is going on with this world?
These days every family Whatsapp Group keep getting messages of someone known to us dying of Covid. After a point, I think people are just used to the deaths.
This pandemic, perhaps since World War II, have collectively made us humans - to be vulnerable. One micro-organism, bringing human intelligence, a species that has sent a man to the moon, rockets beyond our solar system - to its knees. That's death - that attention-seeking, cold unpredictable bundle of a mess.
However, this pandemic also made me think and admire people who still continue to do their work despite the harsh realities. Why do we do things that we love? We do that because it gives us the humane or creative spark - the joy - to fuel our purpose.
This newsletter gave me a purpose to know that I still had a reason to be in existence, in this field, that is otherwise dying of financial onslaught, severe unemployment, crippling advertisements, among several other heartbreaking factors.
Last year, my fears were the fear of the unknown. But this year, more than fear, it’s the mental frustration that weighs on my head - just looking at all the deaths, the economic upheaval - gives anyone the chills.
But here's the thing: I do want to get back into the groove. I do want to kickstart this newsletter, trying to figure out what the heck this is all about.
This newsletter, I want to make it big because I cannot think of doing anything else. This is my existence. This gives me an identity. And sometimes, we do lose our identity, in the process of getting to know ourselves - in the process of healing.
In the past few months, I didn't keep my promise of maintaining a regular rhythm of journalism but I do feel that sometimes when you live in a pandemic, I think its important to know when to pause... because what the heck, we have seen a lot of shit in the past one-and-a-half years! We have all lost so many people! Gimme a break!
I thought I could bring out my newsletter. But it turned out to be harder than I imagined. It just didn’t make sense back then after I had posted my last email in March. It seriously feels like a super long time, especially when you are in the lockdown phase.
Anyway, my point is, I didn’t have the passion or the urge to commit myself to do this: to work on my newsletter. First, I decided to push it - the next week, the next week, the week after that and then eventually it turned into months of procrastination.
Now though, I do hope to get back on the roll… back to learning, back to making mistakes, back to listening… more consistently though, at least on a weekly basis. I do hope you continue reading and trusting my work as always.
While I didn’t write my newsletter all these months, I was however busy writing feature reports for the BLink. Here are some of my personal favourites that got published in the last few weeks. I hope you read it.
Cartoons and Criticism: No laughing matter: Cartoonists have come under the scanner of the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre. Critics of the establishment — not just cartoonists, but activists, journalists, creative artistes and students — have been slammed with legal cases or arrests for expressing dissent. (Click here)
Bynge jumping into Tamil fiction: A new serialised Tamil fiction app hopes to capture those seeking to counter the lockdown with a good read. (Click here)
Storytelling time: 25 years of Karadi Tales: The Chennai-based publishing house marks its silver jubilee with virtual hangouts, audiobooks and stories from rural India. (Click here)
Covid-19 diaries: A day in the life of two doctors fighting the pandemic. Despite the tragedies that surround them, there is always hope. (Click here)
Book Review: "A book on Indian ghosts". Riksundar Banerjee draws from a rich repertoire of ghost stories to craft an encyclopedia of otherworldly beings. (Click here)
This marks the end of today’s edition. See you soon! Stay safe, wear masks, wash your hands, and spread love. Feel free to forward this email to your family and friends. 😊❤️
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