Article Published in THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Seen My Piece?

Navtej Sarna

There comes upon the best of us a time when we want to show off. We want to tell the other chap just how much spin we have on ourselves and how we got it. Tell him that if it weren’t for the cruel, inexplicable buffets of destiny, our names would dot the paragraphs of history, outshining minor characters like Napoleon and Caesar.

None of us are, I suppose, above this occasional frailty but perhaps no one is more susceptible to it than the scribe. Especially guys like me whom I term the Occasional Journalist. The kind of chap who writes a monthly middle and believes that on that particular day the rest of the paper is but an addendum whose sole purpose is to provide sides to his middle.

There are many ways of pushing oneself on to the other unsuspecting soul.

First, the casual approach. This calls for nonchalance of a highly cultivated type. The newspaper is left open on the blessed page in the house. The chances are that someone will walk by, wonder loudly who on earth has left the newspaper around untidily and shove it at the bottom of a neat pile. Sigh. On other occasions the unprotected precious page shall be adorned liberally with daal stains. But, sometimes, on those blessed times someone will glace at it, spot the byline and then its time for the self-deprecating remark and the modest blush. Nothing vulgar about it, you see. All grace and style.

The casual approach has variations. Sometimes it has to be done with a heavy hand. You’ve got to lay it on thick to make people believe that you are not just one of the crowd. That you go places and do things. Sometimes, the Occasional Journalist keeps his last piece in the back seat of his borrowed car. Very often, the occupant of the back seat will pick up the paper, crumple it, chew a corner or two and leave it among the foot mats. At other times, he shall merely sit on it. But there is always the chance that he will find the conversation lapsing and in the pauses that hang heavy, he shall read the byline. At this stage, bring in the “shrugging-the-shoulder” bit.

Of course, if all this doesn’t bring home the proverbial bacon (though I’m dashed if I know how this can bring bacon home) then the direct approach is called for. Give it to them between the eyes. And follow, with one to the jaw before they have a chance to recover. Pick up the paper and say: “I say, have you seen this? What! You don’t get this paper! A gap in your essential reading, ole chap. They’ve got talent. This, for instance…”

The direct approach too has a variation. At traffic crossings… though I admit that you have to be a bit desperate and very brazen to do this. See the guy in the next car. Tired and a trifle fed up with the demands of modern city life. Hand him the paper with your piece marked in red. Chances are that he’ll read at least the byline. I doubt whether it’ll make his day. But you never know.