Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Give and take

The other day, I got a call from a woman I'd interviewed for a story. She is quite a visible Bangalorean -- often seen in a daily paper's events section. Which is why I'd spoken with her in the first place!

Anyways, she said she'd called to invite me to her son's first birthday, to be held at a five-star hotel in two days' time. Call me a stickler for propriety or a stick-in-the-mud, but I'm not the type to attend such bashes. I know many people call it networking, so essential for people in the 'media' especially now that reporters don't just report news, they often make the news themselves. But such events are totally not my scene. So surprised as I was at the invitation, I made my excuses as best as I could, thanked her nicely, wished her a great party and all that. Then she asked: "Don't you do parties?" Out came the reason for her invitation. I did wonder why we were suddenly playing friends and acquaintances and I'd completely overlooked the fact that I am a member of the 'media'. Ergo, a reporter of events, big, small and page3. I got out of that one but she still had something in mind. She had won her last race, she said. She also had new photographs taken. So if we were doing anything about it, she had everything ready. Oh, we definitely will call you if we do, I assured her.

This woman, nice-looking, media savvy, and yes, famous in her own way, knows how to market herself. But how pushy is too much? And she's not the first person I've met who's like that. Last week, a woman called. Introduced herself as a fitness expert, said she'd noticed my name in our publication and wanted to tell me she was available for quotes, if I was doing fitness stories. The same woman had called me a couple of months ago with the same proposition. And she'd completely forgotten. When I pointed that out very politely, she didn't get the sarcasm. Unfazed, she told me I could call her if I needed anything.

Meeting such people always leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Not because they are bad people. Far from it. But because we're all part of the same give-and-take game. I call them, quote them, they call me to their parties. We're all on each other's speed dial. But only so long as I am still a journalist, working where I work now. If I was an earnest salt-of-the-earth type working for an ngo that wants to change the world by tackling domestic violence or fighting for acid attack victims, I don't think I'd get invitations. So, am I still a journalist or a quotable quoter? Sometimes, I think I'd rather not think about that.