Ranjona Banerji: Every balloon meets a prick one day

08 Aug,2017

By Ranjona Banerji


We buy six newspapers a day and have access to a huge number of Indian and foreign news channels on television. This is not counting social media and the internet. And yet, if you go off the news, as I have recently because of a death in the family, nothing untoward happens. The world does not end and even if it does, watching the news is unlikely to limit the final impact.

To me, this occasional distance from the media and all that it offers is a necessary reminder of how unimportant we – and here I mean journalists – are. Much as we are pumped up with our own pomposity, no one really misses us that much when we are gone or absent. Think of news anchors you were addicted to, think of columnists you had to read every week. A few shows and a few columns missed and sometimes you forget your addiction.

No wonder when we were young, senior journalists constantly reminded us that today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s streetfood wrapping. And it has happened to some of us. Order a sev puri and there’s your chutney-smeared face or byline staring back at you. These incidentally are the days before TV was invented. No, really.

And yet, the ego of the journalist remains unbeatable. The higher the post, the more the hot air and puffery. Some people were empty to start with, made the most sound and rose to the top using guile, chicanery and physics. We all know them but we also know where we stand with them. Far more disturbing are those who started off normal but with each additional post and promotion, acquired a higher sense of self-importance which translated to arrogance.

These are the journalists that other journalists hate dealing with the most – especially those of us who are freelancers or retired or semi-retired and occasionally want a column or article or two. To ask for a favour from a former colleague is sometimes more unbearable than boiling oneself in hot oil. You know immediately who is gold and who is dross and who is wheat and who is chaff.

Often someone who once depended on you while you were working together can easily turn into an arrogant ass. It is one thing to be humiliated by a stranger, as a journalist you are used to that. It is quite another to be treated like garbage by a former colleague.

I have recently heard some terrible stories and had a slightly disturbing experience myself – and it was while asking for a favour on behalf of someone else. Quite unnecessary arrogance where a simple “no thanks”, or even just “no”, would have sufficed.

For myself, I apologise to anyone with whom I have ever behaved like this in the past. And to avoid such examples of bad behaviour, I limit myself to people I know very well when I ask for favours and they almost always come through. This guarantees that my own ego is intact! But less facetiously, it reminds me that there are decent people around.

Thankfully, I just had a wonderful polite experience with two senior journalists in two major newspapers – one I know very well, one I know hardly at all. It warmed the cockles of my heart.

For the other hot air exponents, I don’t want to be nasty (okay I do) but perhaps you need to be reminded that the world of journalism is terribly unpredictable and topsy-turvy. And every balloon meets a prick one day.


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Every balloon meets a prick one day”

  1. editorsunil says:

    the height of this arrogance was an editor of times of india claiming to be the second most important person in the country, after the prime minister.