I was a regular contributor to DH and Women’s era, a very popular magazine for which I wrote short stories. My writing was not a result of great inspirational surges or flashes of genius. It was just a reflection of what I saw and felt. Writing is a skill I acquired like cooking, with a lot of practice, discipline and commitment. Many women tell me they want to write but don’t know where to start. I tell them to sit down take a paper and pen and start, like I did. It is that simple. If I can write, so can you. I am sure there are many women who have more interesting things to share, but I have got down to it while they have not. That is the only difference.
I wanted to expand my horizon and got into other magazines. The opportunity came when I attended a talk by Mrs.Vimla Patil, then editor of Femina, in Bangalore. She invited budding writers to send their work and promised to consider them provided they were good. A year after this, Srivatsa was transferred to Mumbai and I met Mrs Vimla. There was a three month leave vacancy in the office and she offered me the sub-editor’s job. I learnt professionalism under her and also the nitty gritties of publishing a magazine. She put me on interesting assignments and accompanying me on some, was Jitendra Arya, the well known photographer. Satya Saran, her successor, taught me the art of writing catchy captions.
The Femina office was always buzzing with celebrities. Sangeeta Bijlani (now wife of Azharuddin the cricketer) was getting ready to represent India at the Miss Universe contest. The young singing sensation, Nazia Hasssan, the bold and beautiful Parvati Khan fabulously ‘rich’ Shanaz Hussain…there was never a dull moment. But I preferred not to continue as a full time staffer because I wanted to go back to teaching. My initiation into freelance journalism was complete. There was no looking back. Mumbai offers ample opportunity with its floods of tabloids, dailies and periodicals. There is also so much happening that anyone willing to work hard, can file stories. I remember getting a call from Mrs Patil one evening to do a piece on discos and she wanted it the next morning. My brother-in-law, who was visiting us, agreed to accompany me and we went disco hopping till early morning after which I typed out the article and handed it in well before the deadline.
Deadlines are sacred in journalism. To deliver in time is the secret of success of a freelancer. The other is coming up with good story ideas. Mrs Gulshan Ewing was the editor of Eve’s Weekly (now defunct), another popular magazine. She encouraged me with many assignments.Ammu Joseph, Shola Rajachandran and Pamela Philipose, helped me refine them. Dilip Thakore who was editing Business India, gave me a break in business journalism. It was the most hectic phase of my writing career. I had a weekly column, in Bulletin, Evening News and Indian Post, a monthly column on short story writing and etiquette in Mirror, Features and interviews for Society, Savvy, Indian express, Times of India, Sunday Observer, The Hindu, Filmfare, Stardust, Industrial times,Mid-day and a host of publications which came and went!. All the while, I was juggling two jobs, home and busy social life. Srivatsa advised me to maintain a register of where I sent which article, when it appeared and date of payment and amount received. I was bad at organizing these things and he made me do it just like he made me write! My son Arjun, when he came home from Medical school on holidays, filed and indexed the clippings, and earned his pocket money.