An award is recognition in Bangalore, India
“Yes!” I responded wondering who the stranger was.
“ I am calling from the Bishops house,” said the voice, “ I would like to inform you that you have been nominated for an award given to outstanding women by the Archdiocese of Bangalore. An official invite will be brought over to you, meanwhile, congratulations Madam,” said the affable voice.
Not one who is impressed by awards and the like, I carried on with my regular day, even forgetting to tell the rest of the family, till the bell rang one evening and two ladies stood at the door, with my invitation.
“ Do come in I invited, “ and as they sat down I was curious to know for what I was being awarded, as I wear several hats.
“ You are being awarded for your work on the environment,” said Mrs Roma Francis who was the chair- person of the event.
The one aspect I am most proud of is the fact that I am a recognised Science and Environmental journalist. I have travelled across the world as a fellow with various arms of the UN -- UNEP, UNFCCC, UNDP and UN Water and been educated on the various aspects of Climate Change and the Environment. It started while I was in Aarhus in Denmark where I won a prize with a story that I wrote for a competition, to the UN Headquarters in New York. Sitting in at one of the discussions in the magnificent UN building, Mr Banki Moon the UN Head, was chairing the meet and ministers from all over the world attended., My sleeping mind was opened up to the spiralling indifference of the human race to our limping planet Earth’s condition. It was time for me to use my skills to better use -- forget fashion, food and music-- all the stuff I regularly and mindlessly covered as a journalist. Let me use my Chief Sub position to better use and that’s where it all began. One prize and one opportunity.
After that, I travelled the world as a fellow, being educated about various aspects of the environment which made me realise I need to shift my focus towards helping the planet and educating my readers. Hundreds of journalists apply for these fellowships and we are chosen on our writing skills and the peg of our story. So it’s not just easy peasy to get called. No one will spend over a lakh on each trip unless they are sure of the journalists antecedents.
After my Masters in Europe I came back as Assistant Editor, an accolade given to me by the owners of the Deccan Herald, who were very proud of my achievement at the age of 48. Very few women have broken that glass ceiling in the newspaper business. It was exciting and a new experience to preside over the Edit and Op-Ed pages -- the heart of the newspaper. But soon just being a boss was boring, I needed to write. So I quit and joined teaching Mass Comm to students, being pressured by the then principal Fr. Ambrose Pinto whose pieces I would publish while in the paper. It was interesting straddling the academic and journalistic world. Pitting my skills against young 20 year old minds and sharing my education and experiences with them.
I still travel to various destinations though I have cut back and pick and choose meets which will be of use to me, like the recent one in Bangkok. There I was educated about the importance of Data Journalism in the context of Air Pollution.A huge problem area in India as our cities top the list of polluted cities across the world, alongside China. I have gained recognition in this field rather than all the others I work in.
It is because of my specialised knowledge and work in this field, that my college began a module that focussed on Science and the Environment, which I teach Post- Graduate students. It is good to see many students take up environmental topics when it comes to their final dissertation. It is then I realise I have made an impact and that all my efforts are worthwhile.
One never knows who’s life gets impacted as a teacher and maybe several years later they will come proudly with documentaries which they say has been inspired by my class. Like a student who at the moment is filming a documentary, on the importance of mangroves on our coastlines of India with a focus on Goa. One class which I held about them, has spawned this interesting documentary, which will educate those who chop off these wonderful trees, that safeguard our coasts.
So on Saturday the 9th I was feted and congratulated by the new Bishop Peter Machado and the former bishop who personally knew me -- Rev Moras. It felt good to be decked out in a saree which I rarely wear and listen to wonderful things said about me. Bemused I wondered if that was me at all as I prefer being down-to-earth. I guess once in a while, it’s good to enjoy the adulation and the praise showered on a lifetime of work.
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