Monday, August 23, 2010

Dear Diary

(This is fictional. A silly little short story I'd written for someone a while ago, in hopes of getting published, but sadly, it was rejected. Hope you crack a smile... even a little one?!)

Dear Diary,

I gave in my article to the boss today. He grunted, as is usual fashion, and told me he’d get back to me. My heart was racing the entire time and even coffee didn’t slow it down. But that was, if you can believe it, the best part of the day. In the afternoon he came to our room again. At first, the entire edit/op-ed page was furiously typing into our (pretty old) computers, that we didn’t even notice. Then suddenly, without warning, he told the op-ed editor that the main piece for the day had the intellectual equivalence of a rasogulla and could not go. This got me really happy. I stole a look at my watch. It was 5pm, far too late in the day to commission another article. So, this meant, I calculated, that each piece would shift up the page, leaving a gaping hole. And perhaps, I thought, raising an eyebrow, mine could fill that hole.

The room was tense as op-ed editor and edit editor (lets just call him ‘Boss’) had a silent fight. How can you say that, she cried, the writer is a well-respected political science professor from Chandigarh! He taught me when I was in college, she added. I think she was trying to build her case but I suspect that did more damage than the Chandigarh part. Boss was unmoved and mumbled something and left the room.

So here we were, stuffed in our little edit room, with nothing but the slow hum of that damn A/C. You know, there is also no privacy, so Facebook is out of the question. I know this for a fact because once, during lunchtime, I sneaked a peek at last weekend’s pictures. One of my senior colleagues walked in right when a picture of me drinking directly from a champagne bottle loaded. Enough said. Also the reason I can never update my friends about the crazy things that happen here.

The room felt quiet. Then someone offered their support to op-ed editor who bravely brushed it off. I was wondering if it would be too insensitive to offer my article as filler, but decided against it. You know, I started in my most concerned voice; I do have a piece that can come to the rescue today. Op-ed editor ignored me. Go to Newsweek, she ordered, see if Fareed Zakaria has a new article we can use.

Damn you Zakaria. You already have Newsweek. Can’t you give me this little paper?


Dear Diary,

We had another fight in the edit room today. Op-ed editor commissioned a piece from some uncle in Chandigarh. Boss clearly saw this on the system and came by. He said it was overreaching. Whatever do you mean, she asked, offended. It is like a transvestite that wants to vote twice. I started laughing although I wasn’t even sure I got the joke. Two angry glances later, I pretended to drop something and hid under my table.


Dear Diary,

So today I decided that I would gather up the courage to ask Boss if he has even read my piece. The first time I went to his desk, he seemed to be writing the day’s editorial. I got distracted by the fact that he had set Microsoft word to a green background and then chosen a incredibly childish font to type with. If you ever needed to know how to make terrorism fun, this is it.

A little while later, I returned to hover when I found op-ed editor at Boss’s station. She was, quite sarcastically, asking him if today’s lead met his intellectual sensibilities. Yes, yes, he grunted, I trust your judgment. She seemed a little confused by this.

I wonder if he trusts my judgment, I… well, wondered. Boss, I asked hesitantly, have you had a chance to read my article? I can work on the end if you like. This was met by silence.

As you know, Diary, I am obsessive and I think Boss knows it. He looked at me. Kept looking. Then said, no, I actually haven’t read it. By then I had completely forgotten what I came for. Well played Boss, well played.

But in the evening, while we waited for the designers to make the final pages, Boss came to our station. Over the shoulder of op-ed editor, he asked her if she really wanted to keep the main headline. Why, she asked as if she had been stabbed, what is wrong with it? It stings you like your junior colleagues wit, he said, looking at me. I’m pretty sure that was a serious dig at me so I pretended I was shooting him with lasers from my eyes. I think I won that round.

Dear Diary,

Today was really exciting! It was 6pm and Boss came into the room and told op-ed editor that her lead article was fantastic. As she beamed and beamed, he added that it was so good he was taking it for his page. Leaving us with, as usual, a gaping hole.

World. War. Three.

Dear Diary,

As I walked to the water cooler (fine, I’ll be honest, a cigarette), I saw op-ed editor go into executive editors room. She was never seen again.

I’m kidding. Jeez. She came to the room and told me she was taking a few days off. She looked really upset. I didn’t want to make a faux pas, so I simply nodded.

Then Boss came into the room. After she left. So I’m quite sure he had been watching the coast. You are responsible for the page now, he told me. I know you are new, and young, and have the attention of a fly, but I think you can do it. A Bengali fly, I asked, because that would be a compliment? No smile back. Fine, I’ll be honest, just a Bengali grimace.

I did complete the day, thank-you-very-much. He did change all my headlines, but what the hell. There were no typos and I left work on time. Job well done.

Dear Diary,

It has been four days since op-ed editor has gone to an undisclosed location. I joke; she is sitting at home. I even sent my mother’s sari-wala to help cheer her up.

I went to show Boss the final page before sending it for printing this evening. I went to his desk. He wasn’t there though a detective novel, almost finished, sat on his chair. I went to the executive editors office. They liked all my headlines and actually complimented me.

Using the moment to my advantage, I ventured, so Boss, have you read my article? I will, he said dismissively. I really wish I had superpowers. Evil superpowers.


Dear Diary,


Today Boss called in the afternoon. He admitted, quite sheepishly, that he liked my article. He then offered to help me structure it better so that the argument is stronger. He also suggested I find some more data to back up some of my claims.

Well, hello there. In honor of this great moment, I have cancelled drinks tonight and will work instead.


Dear Diary,

Guess who came back to work today! Everyone was quite happy, including me! I missed the company. It seems Boss and op-ed editor have made up and everything is as it should be.

Except for one thing. My revised piece, which was meant to go today, was held back. I think Boss didn’t want to force my article down her throat on her first day back. I can respect that. I said nothing, and did all.


Dear Diary,

You won’t believe what happened today. Boss finally told op-ed editor that I had written something quite good, and that it should go as lead on op-ed. She read it and agreed! I was so excited.

You get your picture on the op-ed page as well. The photo department called me downstairs to shoot something. I didn’t know if I should smile or not. Why? Because from here on this is the picture that will be kept on file every time I write. What if I write about murder or something really sad, and in my picture I’m grinning like a jackass? In the end I settled for a little smile. Later I realized one of my fangs was visible. So not ladylike.

Anyway, it was 6:30pm. We had the articles on the page. It was looking good and I couldn't wait for tomorrow when everyone I know would open the paper to see me! Suddenly, op-ed editor says that I should go as second lead since the other writers were far older and wiser than me. Sorry, she said, but sometimes you have to suck it up. I nodded away.

But I couldn’t believe it. This was totally unfair. I felt like I should get a little reward for holding down the fort while the grown ups fought.

Boss had come to check on the progress so I tried to appeal to him telepathically. I didn’t work so I tried to give him the whole big, sad eyes routine. Baited and hooked. He didn’t want to say anything to op-ed editor, clearly, so he just kept standing there. After a while, he took the computer from the designer and changed my headline to something quite provocative.

Everyone will look at that first; I know it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: well played, Boss, well played.

Dear Diary,

So everything is back to normal at work. We had a meeting in our little room and the first twenty minutes went in asking the Boss to decide for us at what temperature the AC should be set at. I said it should be eighteen degrees because with so many people in the room, it is at least twenty-two by the time it gets to me. Mr Cold Feet over there said it should be put on twenty-five. So I said why don’t you wear a sweater to work. And he said because it’s June in Delhi. And I said, well you just made my point for me.

Boss seemed to enjoy the passionate fight, mostly because he didn’t give a damn.

I had another idea for an article but I know it won’t be printed for at least another two weeks so I should sit on it. Mull it over. Not be impatient.

Of course, that means I did none of the above. I asked op-ed editor if she thought my idea was good. She gave me an obligatory nod and told me to go ahead and explore the idea. So I chased Boss down the hall.

I started to jabber on when he told me this wasn’t a good time. He had some problems at home. Later when I went home I sent him a message asking him if everything was okay. He said, forty-two percent it was.

Okaay.

Dear Diary,

You might have figured out now that the life of a junior op-ed writer is a lot of chasing and a little writing. I’ve had to walk up and down the corridors of the office so much that I’ve stopped wearing heels altogether.

So as things stand, I have submitted my second piece to the Boss. He has grunted and said he will look at it. Articles from Chandigarh have started to resurface. I can only guess that it will take another monumental blowout to get my lovely fanged picture and byline on that page again.

Ain’t life grand.