Weekend Extra!: From full-time Journalist to full-time Yoga/Fatema Rajkotwala

03 Jul,2015

Some readers of MxMIndia may be familiar with Fatema Rajkotwala’s byline. She was an excellent writer, but journalism didn’t interest her much. She tried her hand at instructional design, went gallivanting a bit, tried to organise a marathon, until she was sure that Yoga was her calling. On the occasion of International Yoga Day, we asked her to provide a few exercises that people in the media can do given their long hours at work. Instead, she wrote this first-person account. Read on, in the first of our new weekend extras.


By Fatema Aliasgar Rajkotwala


They say, you can’t quit the media world. What they don’t say is that it will seep into you. It’ll make a cosy cacoon within the centre of your being and keep whispering beautiful, exciting stories – stories that you witnessed, of characters that you knew or knew of. It’ll then start growing into your system in a way that your veins will be full of it, your ears will tune out the rest of the world, your eyes will zero in on trending news and your mind will be a database of stories and profiles.


They say you can’t quit smoking either. Or resist the double-edged sword of marriage. Or adventure sports. Or any addictions, right? There are so many things to get high on as a kid these days, why not get high on excitement and glamour, you say. Sure, I wholeheartedly agree. But…


When I joined a publishing house in 2007, I was freshly out of college, had stars in my eyes about journalism and wanted to see my name in print. We were a team of three girls, all summer interns and a senior who was just a year older. It was a blast! We unhesitatingly spoke of periods and boys, make up and diets, till our middle-aged editorial coordinator would get embarrassed and skulk out of the tiny room. Our magazine did well for the company so we were sort of privelaged. We were the ‘girls’ who would waltz into press conferences “like a boss” and be all snooty and prim. And busy. Oh, we were always busy. Busy is your social currency that lets you boast about how good you’re at your job without having to say so. We were always running from this interview and back to office or from this five star ballroom to the next or from home to office because it was about to be mid-day and half a day’s pay would be cut. We always had a change of clothes, heels and cellphone chargers in office. Hell, we had a spare of half our make up in office. Food delivery restaurants knew us by name, PR interns tried. Parents and kind editors reminded us to eat. Family was surprised when they saw us home. There were Goafests. CEOs and celebrities were on speed dial. 9pm was early evening. I was always broke. It was absolutely fabulous.


Why then, am I talking in retrospect? Why is this not my current reality? Why, or how did I quit? Why did I want to? This last question always makes me cringe a little. “Wow, you were a journalist! Why do you want to switch?” I’d tell you, stranger/interviewer but then shall I ask you why you chose to get married or don’t have a child yet or work as an HR? Pfft, anyway since you’re reading so far, I’ll tell you. Because I didn’t want to pay the toll anymore. The long nights and hard work was never a problem. It was the emotional tax it levied. The constant irritability, sleep deprivation, hotel buffet food which tasted the same, coffee to sleep, coffee to stop from falling asleep on your laptop, alcohol enthusiasm, the apathy, cynicism, gossip, power games, the constant sense of urgency, as though your life is one big, looming deadline… I could go on but you know. May be you’re rolling your eyes but you know. I knew too and I couldn’t ignore it.


Let me give a disclaimer, albeit an obvious one. Not everyone has to have the same sordid experience I did. Or, from an enlightened perspective, the same brilliantly, exhilarating, life-altering, coming of age experience I did. Journalism taught me to be brave, to be prepared, to be inspired, to run after life. For many, it is a life well-spent. Me though, I knew I was at the wrong place. I had the aptitude, I’m repeatedly told, I had the ‘works’ but I never felt like I belonged. I often felt like an imposter, playing a role, talking like a journalist is supposed to.  I barely remembered names of people or companies I was to track, leave alone the murkier details. I was always laughably idealist, foolishly naive, gullible and unnecassarily moralistic. After four years in journalism, I thought it’s time to let the dream go. Last year, I decided to take a year off. In the media world, they call it a sabbatical but I was not in the media world either. I was sort of just wandering around. Writing, that used to be a love, a form of expression and creativity, had lost its sublimity for me. And when I was out of a job last year for a long time again after the 2008 recession without the urge to even start the tedious process of applying, I decided to use this time and join the seven-day camp at the Yoga Institute at Santacruz in Mumbai.


Funny how things work out because  they don’t. I had found this institute while at work a year ago and thought, the commute would be too taxing. And a week or month’s camp as a prerequisite! These people didn’t have jobs, obviously, I had thought. A year before that I had inquired at Kaivalyadham for their teachers’ training course but that very year the course wasn’t conducted. My brother has been an Iyengar student since years so Yoga was a part of my home. My father would do pranayams and a few simple asans and a headstand every morning after praying. I was a brown belt in Karate and my sansei used to make us do a 45 minute intense asana session as a warm up routine without calling it Yoga. So when the 7-day back to back routine began, I was more atuned to the discipline and philosophy of where I was than I knew. Those 7 days were all I needed to make a permanent switch. I knew I wanted to learn more.


If you’re fortunate enough, there are a few turning points in life you come at and you never look back from there. I never felt more belonged. Samkhya philosophy, Bhagwad Gita sessions, a study of the Yoga Sutras, the history and background of Yoga, anatomy, book discussions, practical meditation and mindfulness techniques, simple, light food and vegetation and trees with scampering squirrels all around. I was always a good student and a teacher had arrived.


I know what you’re thinking though – what does doing Yoga have to do with philosophy or any of this! Yoga is for hippies or thin people or movie stars who have to be bodily obsessed or senior citizens who have the patience for something that boring. Right? Or maybe you love your job and even exercise every once in a while. You need to gym – to lose weight. Or build muscle. Etc. Sure, may be you do need to shed weight. But why then are all our friends stressed in general? Why are Vipassana centres booked for two months in advance? Why is the age for diabetes, obesity and cardiac disorders falling alarmingly low? Why are we walking depressed to work every Monday? Why are we earning and yet feeling like we don’t have enough?


If you’re still with me, you’re listening. You’re listening because you have felt this but don’t want to think about it. You think you’ve fallen short somewhere, made those mistakes, done that wrong, need to keep working to right it. Me and many other campers felt our first shocking realisation during the 7-day camp was that we’re postponing our happiness. To that promotion, or life eventuality that is anything other than our today. We’re running behind a tomorrow, away from a yesterday while constantly ignoring our real now. We want to find quiet and calm but we don’t want to close our eyes for a minute and be with ourselves. We want inner peace but we don’t have all day. We’re sharp and snarky but our egos bruise easily. We want constant stimulation in the form of mindless entertainment but we don’t have time to listen to nature. We want to drink and legalise marjuana but we scoff at an exercise buff. I did too. That was before I discovered how lovely it is to be pleasantly tired.


That to me, is Yog. Not Yog-ah. This article is not for firangis who know they’re refered to as ‘firangis’ because sadly, they know more about our heritage and culture than we bother. This article is not to preach about the benefits or lifestyle corrections that Yog entails. To me, it was a means to find myself in the process of knowing myself, reconcile with expectations and realities, accept and forgive, correct perspectives and restore a faith long lost. Today, with the rising awareness and cool quotient attached to joining a Yoga class, I hope we realise that it is only through the mind’s acceptance and flexibility that we achieve physical health too.


From discovering Yoga through Shavasana as Yoga Nidra as an iPad podcast to training to be a Yoga teacher, I’ve only learnt to respect this ancient wisdom more and more by the day. Even if you think it’s an exercise to be fit or if you think it’s hocum – experience it once. If you’re ready, you’re teacher will be there. There’s only forward from there on. See you in class!


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One response to “Weekend Extra!: From full-time Journalist to full-time Yoga/Fatema Rajkotwala”

  1. Anmol Patel says:

    This is lovely..so inspiring 🙂

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