The summer of 1990 in Bangalore. It was a perfect day as I walked towards my first job as a cub reporter in Deccan Herald with dreams in my heart, a prayer on my lips and brand new Bata slippers on my feet. I was going to meet the news editor for my first assignment. Apprehensive and excited I trotted up the stairs to meet a slightly old balding man sitting in the Centre of a big hall, and people on typewriters clicking away around him( For all ‘ye young ones, computers weren’t part of a journalists a life yet) Without looking he gestured to me to sit down, looked at me and asked me “You have come to meet your mother? Father?”- I replied an emphatic NO!- and introduced myself as one of the reporters selected after a grilling interview. Visibly surprised he smiled and said “you look like someone out of school”! I found out later that the smile was a near miracle which not many witnessed. He gave me my first assignment, a press briefing with a minister. He liked my first article and from then on took a personal interest in my career, but had the terrible habit of referring to me as “nursery school escapist’ everytime he spoke to me. Well I endured that, as I came to learn and love the newspaper office for all its din and bustle, fast paced mad activity with loads of fun!
Since I was the youngest entrant I was indulged as well as teased a bit. Sometimes the line of demarcation between indulgence and teasing was so subtle I dint know what to think. One such situation was when I was asked to do a series of stories on wildlife. When I entered the office that morning I found quite a few of my colleagues giving me knowing nods and smiles, which for the life of me I couldn’t decipher. Anyway the editor called and sniggering all the time told me to travel to Mysore to do a story on a particular species of a gorilla which was becoming extinct. This was a female gorilla. I took a train to Mysore and met my Mysore correspondent Krishna Vattam who with a smirk on his face introduced me to this creature and said- “Ok heres Sumathi!”..and laughed endlessly. After he caught his breath he looked at my puzzled expression and said “Gorillas name hahahaah!! is Sumathi!”. As you might have guessed my next day at office was a ragging session. But somehow the similarity dint seem to end with the name alone…ok before your imagination takes off..tarry a while!
The zoo authorities decided to mate this gorilla with another from a similar species just to ensure the species lives on. At the same time my father was looking for a “suitable groom” for me. No prizes for guessing my predicament! So they got in a French gorilla and at the same time I was introduced to a ‘prospective groom’ from the tyre industry, whom I refused to even speak to since he was overweight and bald. Well she refused to mate with the French guy too. The next was a German gorilla , She kicked him in the face injuring him and he almost ran from her. Well, my next prospective groom was a guy from BEL, who was so shy he kept looking at his feet. Well, you know I love conversation, so I decided we dint get along. Finally they got a gorilla named Polo.She accepted him. That was when I met my husband and said “Yes I will”!
After a few years I moved on from the publication, was on another assignment, and forgot about the whole incident. One fine day I received a call from my former colleague in Deccan and we chatted. The same day I received calls from quite a few other former colleagues from the same publication. Mysterious! I latched on to one of them demanding an explanation as to why I was top of their minds today. She said ‘Look at page 4 Deccan Herald today” . well my gorilla counterpart had passed away peacefully in her sleep…and thank god..I was alive and kicking!
The hands of providence had decided there were to be no more coincidences. This was one of my most memorable assignment as cub reporter!