My unforeseen journey as a scribe

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Nava Thakuria-

I never imagined to be a journalist (not to speak of a sports
reporter) but destiny had a special script (prepared in a bad mood)
for me. After appearing in the final year examination in Assam
Engineering College (1990), I went to meet our unique Physics
Professor Surendranath Medhi (many believe him as a most modern
Assamese short story writer, Saurabh Kumar Chaliha) at his quarter.
Medhi Sir, a thin gentleman with a soft voice, was however a terror
for many AECIANs (as he was a very strict teacher after Principal AK
Padmapati Sir). Going to his residence and talking to him about any
issue was a rare phenomenon (probably a very few AECIANs can claim
so). Medhi Sir believed that I would produce at least one full-length
movie (I was known as a ‘famous director Nava Jyoti Thakuria’ without
any film). But till then Medhi Sir advised me to work in a newspaper
and asked me to approach Chandra Prasad Saikia (then editor of newly
launched Assamese daily) for a job in the news desk. I thought it was
a good idea to kill time till I get an engineering job. Medhi Sir
perhaps assumed that the experience of working in a newspaper would
help me understand the ground reality which would be useful in my
personal life (also as a filmmaker in future).

Next day, I left the college hostel (near Sundarbari of Jalukbari
locality) by a rickshaw to arrive in Maligaon (then it was allowed),
where I stayed for some years in my elder sister’s residence. For a
few days I was in my village and received warm wishes from our
relatives and friends (incidentally I was the first engineering
graduate from our village Bhojkuchi in Nalbari district). Soon I
returned to Maligaon and started my ‘mission possible’ to be a
reporter. First day, when I approached CP Saikia Sir and expressed my
interest to work in the newspaper, he reacted sharply- journalism is
not for you (read for a would-be engineer). When CPS Sir asserted that
being a professional journalist is a tough job, I pointed out that I
would like to continue my engagement in the daily for some days only.
CPS Sir was impressed with my version and asked if I could translate
sports news into Assamese. I was not sure but said ‘yes’ to him with
all my confidence. Then CPS Sir called a senior sports journalist
(Subodh Malla Barua) and asked him to nurture me as his assistant.
Thus my days as a novice scribe began in the small news desk room of
Natun Dainik.

The teleprinter in the room was roaring continuously. Many seniors
were busy sorting out their work. I was asked to sit at the corner
using a wooden table. Subodh-da brought some sheets of paper from the
teleprinter (through which the national and international news were
received) and asked me to translate into Assamese. Most of the news
was related to cricket, tennis and chess. I had no affection for
cricket (still not doing) and hardly followed tennis or chess related
news. As a football fan myself (always pretending to be a reliable
footballer in school and college days), I tried to find news of
football and translated those first from English with all my
efficiency and dedication. Subodh-da used to look at and tell me- you
have to work on other news as well ! He also told me to go to Nehru
Stadium from time to time for reporting on sporting events. During
that time Nehru Stadium was the only center of various sports
activities. Both football and cricket matches were played there. Some
indoor games along with the swimming events were also organized in the
stadium. Moreover, the campus supported a number of offices belonging
to various sports organisations, sports persons and sports

During some very important cricket matches in the stadium, I proposed
to Subodh-da in advance to assign me to report from the outside
(because I could not follow the rules of cricket). I mostly reported
about the viewer’s excitement inside and outside the stadium along
with the organizers’ comments. Sometimes, I prepared light stories on
sports events. CPS Sir liked those pieces and appreciated me. He
himself wrote editorials on extraordinary sports personalities with
spectacular descriptions (it’s rare in Assamese media till today). CPS
Sir was also fond of classic movies and wrote intriguing pieces
regularly on the world of cinema. It inspired me to write on cinematic
issues also. Meanwhile, Jayanta Kumar Das-da rejoined us and he took
the responsibility to look after the last page (dedicated to the
sports). As Subodh-da had already left for Dainik Asom, Uday
Borgohain-da was inducted in the sports team. Slowly I started
dedicating more time in writing on cinema, theatre and visual arts
(now mostly on socio-political developments and environmental issues
of northeast India).

During that period, I had an unexpected tour to Mumbai (then Bomby)
with Samarendra Sarma (photojournalist of Assam Tribune) and Pankaj
Bora (then a sports reporter in Ajir Asom and now an entrepreneur). I
was travelling to Kolkata (then Calcutta) to attend an international
film festival in Nandan cultural complex. While boarding Kamrup
Express, both Samar and Pankaj insisted that I accompany them to
Mumbai. In reality, they had an extra ticket in Gitanjali Express from
Howrah. During those days, it was not necessary to identify the train
passengers with documents to the train ticket examiners and hence I
could easily embark in the train. We three young reporters had an
amazing experience in Mumbai and Pune while covering the national
sporting events. Every evening, we faced the real challenge to send
news and photographs to Guwahati. It was my first visit to Pune, where
I went again after some years to join a month-long appreciation course
in the Film and Television Institute of India with Bitopan

My days as a sports reporter get reminisced with the year-long
celebration of 100 years of sports journalism in Assam with a series
of spectacular programs. The centenary celebration began last year
commemorating the day when first ever news related to a football
competition was published by Asomiya (a weekly news magazine mentored
by Chandra Kumar Agarwala) on 1 July 1923. Assam Sports Journalists
Association (ASJA), which is affiliated to Sports Journalists
Federation of India (a national affiliate of International Sports
Press Association-AIPS) has taken the lead to begin the celebration on
2 July which also coincides with the World Sports Journalists Day. The
auspicious day is observed globally to honour all sports journalists
around the world and also brings awareness about sports journalism to
the common people. The global sports journalist day was first observed
in 1994 by the AIPS. The sports journalism today is not limited to
physical newspapers alone, but also engulfs news channels, digital
outlets and social media space.

I am no longer a sports journalist now but remain in the profession
for more than three decades amidst all difficulties. Most of my
classmates have a better life today as successful engineers in their
respective fields, but surprisingly many of them have grown older
(unlike me!). A few of my college friends now looked pale, tired and
depressed. I get scared often while talking to them (as if they are
waiting for their premature departure!). The reason behind my
proactive daily schedule reflects the inherent influence of my
profession on my space (that perhaps compelled destiny too to soften
on me). The hard life for a working journalist always teaches one to
bear with numerous limitations and face challenges relentlessly. That
preaching has benefited me enormously (like many others in the media
fraternity) and the spirit of sports in my early days came as a
reward. Long Live Sports Journalism!

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