I never imagined to be a journalist (not to speak of a sports reporter) but the destiny had a special script for me – and must had prepared in a bad mood!
After attending the final year examination in Assam Engineering College in 1990, I went to meet our unique Physics professor Surendra Nath Medhi (many believe him as short story writer Sourav 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. Going to his residence and talk to him for 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 film (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 who was then editor of newly-launched Assamese daily Natun Danik, 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 should be useful in my personal life and 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, 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. 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 a would be engineer)”.
When CPS sir asserted that being a professional journalist is a tough job, I only pointed out that I would like to continue my engagement in Natun Dainik for some days. 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 teach and nurture me as his assistant. My days as a media person began in the small news desk room of Natun Dainik.
The teleprinter in the room was roaring continuously. Subodh-da brought some papers from the machine and asked me to translate into Assamese. Most of the news were related to cricket and tennis. I had no affection to cricket and hardly followed tennis news. As a football fan myself, I tried to find all news of football and translated those first from English with all my efficiency and dedication. Subodh da used to look at me and say: “Nava, you have to do other news as well!” He also stated that I have to go to Nehru Stadium soon for reporting on sports 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 at the stadium. Moreover, the campus supported a number of offices belonging to various sports organizations, sports persons and sports journalists.
During some very important cricket matches at the stadium, I proposed 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 viewers’ 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 description (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 as well.
Meanwhile, Jayanta da (Jayanta Kumar Das) rejoined us and he took the responsibility to look after the last page which was dedicated to sports. As Subodh-da had already left for Dainik Asom, Uday da (Uday Borgohain) 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 Bombay) with Samarendra Sarma, photojournalist of Assam Tribune and Pankaj Bora, then a reporter with Ajir Asom and now an entrepreneur. I was travelling to Kolkata (then Calcutta) to attend an international film festival. While boarding the Kamrup Express, both Samar and Pankaj saw me and insisted to go to Mumbai with them. In reality, Subodh da missed the trip for personal reasons and they asked me to accompany them. During those days, it was not necessary to identify the train passengers with documents and so I could easily embark in Geetanjali Express from Howrah with Subodh da’s ticket.
We three young reporters had an amazing experience in Mumbai and Pune while covering the events of National Games. It was a challenging job for us to send news and photographs every evening to Guwahati. It was my first visit to Pune, where I went to participate in a monthlong appreciation course inside the Film and Television Institute of India campus few years later with Bitopan da (Bitopan Borbora).
Now, I am no longer a sports journalist, but remain in the profession for more than three decades amid 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 look 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 to soften the destiny too). 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.