Huda ul Nisa
And so a dream comes to fruition. A 24 year old, blue eyed, bouncy Photoshoped- lookalike of a young John Travolta walks into the editor’s chamber at CNN-IBN, New Delhi. “We have a job for you,” the editor tells the young man.
AabidShafi had been dreaming of this time since his days in 9th grade. “It was an incredible moment to hear these words,” he recalls with a smile and a sparkle in his eyes as if these words were all he had wanted to live for.
But then, Abid realized, it was just a small beginning in his profession as a journalist.
Aabid’s romance with journalism started when he was in school. “I began following the happenings in newspapers and magazines when I was in 9th grade,” recalls Aabid. How did it begin so early when kids of that age have other things on mind, I ask Aabid. “For that I credit my father.” Aabid’s father is a teacher. So taking his son beyond the routine learning at school was a natural part of his upbringing regimen. “He would without fail bring home newspapers and magazines for me to read.”
Aabid also tells me he would keenly follow news on TV. “In those days there was only DD News available in our area and I would hardly miss out on the news.” He shares an interesting thing. “I would watch the news and then imitate the newscasters. It all started from there,” says Aabid.
After matriculation Aabid took up science, but soon realized there was something wrong with this choice. “I knew science wouldn’t make me a journalist.” Willy-nilly he carried on and wanted to switch over to media studies after passing 12th class. But, he tells me, there was a serious problem. “I had no clue how to do it and what media studies actually meant.” So Aabid set himself in the research mode and hit upon Baramulla College which runs a Bachelor’s programme in media. “I spoke to my father about it and he said, ‘Fine, if that’s your choice, go ahead’ and I did.” So, how much does Aabid value this support from his family? “Oh, I’m thankful to my parents. They have been incredibly supportive all along.”
Soon Aabid got admission at Baramulla College in 2007. His quest for fulfilling the dream of being a journalist was now so near. Yet, suddenly it became so distant. Almost a lost one.
A high intensity public uprising broke out in Kashmir bringing with it curfews, lockdowns, arrests and killings. “I found it difficult to study in such a disturbing situation,” confides Aabid. And so he decided to move out of Kashmir.
The decision landed him in Bangalore where he took up a grad course in journalism from Bangalore University.
What was this journey like from a quiet smalltime village in Kashmir to a bustling metropolitan city? And how did Aabid, a rather shy boy of 19, adjust to a happening new lifestyle? “Oh it was such an enriching and learning experience,” Aabid tells me with a gush of appreciation. But he hastens to add, “Adjusting in a metro city is not easy. It’s costly and it’s fast.”
Any turning points in college, I ask Aabid. From a somber mood, he breaks into a generous smile. “The turning point was studying literature during my bachelor’s. It was part of the journalism course. In the beginning I didn’t like it, but gradually fell in love with it.”
After graduation, Aabid was back in Kashmir in 2011 where the political upheaval had now subsided. He joined the post-grad course in mass communication at Kashmir University.
Aabid counts other reason for coming back to Kashmir. One, he was feeling homesick and two, he didn’t see many options in Bangalore for pursuing journalism as a career. “Out there, the vernacular press is dominant. You have to know the local language for that which I didn’t.”
But Kashmir has its own share of problems. A good job in media with a handsome pay packet is almost impossible to find here. But, while Aabid’s batch mates are still looking for a break, Aabid hit the lucky button at the right time and at the right place. After doing his PG in 2013, he interned with CNN-IBN in New Delhi. And soon, the organization took him in as a correspondent. Aabid worked closely with a TV team both in and outside studio.”Apart from reporting, my role was to enhance the community of citizen journalists. I also did stories for a weekly television show.”
After a stint with CNN-IBN ,Aabid moved to another media biggie Times Now in Mumbai. “At Times Now I was a reporter at the output desk. I used to make news packages, write scripts, tickers and prepare rundowns.”
From Times Now, he moved back to Delhi where he joined Quint.com, a digital media organization where he is currently working as an engagement producer. He has to output multimedia stories on different online platforms to trigger maximum audience engagement. Hopefully, Aabid will continue there for some time.
But I am curious to know why switch jobs so quickly. Aabid tells me with a smile and a wink, “I am sure nobody will ever lose a big opportunity. Right?” Sure, who would?
Aabid says living away from home may fetch you a good job, “but it has a downside too.” He had to struggle to get accommodation when he moved to Mumbai to join Times Now. “It was very difficult to find accommodation because of being a Muslim and a Kashmiri. You have this problem everywhere in India.” Aabid’s says his colleagues helped him out there.
Aabid recalls another incident when his sister was critically ill and his family didn’t inform him because they thought he would get worried. “I had no clue about her illness. I got to know about it after I was here on a holiday.” Aabid gets a little serious about living away from the cozy comforts of home. “Yeah, many a times I feel homesick and the best way to fight that is to call people back home. It has now become easier, we can do video calling and stuff. But it’s not easy to stay outside all alone. I miss my family, relatives and friends and that’s why I am here after every three to four months.”
Having worked in a competitive professional atmosphere, Aabid has a suggestion for youth who want to make a career in media. “They should equip themselves with skills that are required in the online arena. Besides that, you need to know how to do video and multimedia stories for online platforms, because that’s where the future of journalism is.”
Lastly, how does AabidShafi describe himself? “Complicated and introvert,” Aabid tells me with a self-mocking smile.
Well, I think I should leave it there.