First thing first. 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 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 journalists.
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 Bombay) 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 Borborah-da.
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 (without pursuing an engineering career) 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!