Let’s start from the very beginning.
A couple of weeks back, my editor calls and congratulates me. It takes a while for the news to sink in. I’m told that I have been awarded the Laadli Media Awards 2011-2012 for gender sensitivity in reporting under “Best Feature article on the Web” for my article Boy’s don’t cry (published in The Alternative). I wonder if I did a good deed today to deserve the good news. I decide the answer lies in the mango milk shake that I treat myself to.
I’m told I have to travel to Thriuvananthapuram on October 6 when the award will be given away. I realize I have my first semester exams beginning from October 8. I wonder if God is playing a conspiracy here. I decide to answer the rhetorical question by deciding what to wear at the award ceremony.
I board my train to one of the southern most parts of the country from Mumbai, thereby committing myself to a train journey that lasts almost 36 hours. A little more perhaps, as I’m told that the train is late by 2.5 hours. I curse Indian Railways for giving me a terrible back ache and sleep deprived night. My foul mood vanishes as I check into the hotel that I’ll be staying in, the one that Population First and the organizers have arranged for the awardees.
The D-day has arrived. I’m introduced to other award winners. They seem intimidating, at first glance. Gradually, the ice breaks. I realize that most are veterans, faces I have seen somewhere before or names I have read elsewhere. It’s amazing to look at the work for which they’ve been awarded. The awards are being given for print, web and electronic media for stories on gender sensitivity. I recognize there are so many angles to look at. It’s a wonderful revelation.
Listening to the awardees talking to their husbands/wives, I feel a strange sense of youth. I feel younger than my age and revel in the fact that I am still, in fact, a student. I chuckle with that thought in mind, as I sip the complementary coffee.
We are escorted in a bus and as we reach the venue for the event, other guests and audience start pouring in. There are more people than I had fathomed. That makes me nervous. I thank my common sense for not having worn a sari, as it would have been yet another cause of anxiety for the night. I take my seat and sit with utmost anticipation.
The function begins with a wonderful performance of Panchari Melam, a percussion ensemble, that lasts for almost 30 minutes non-stop. Kerala is personified in the performance and I make a mental note of ReasonsForLikingKerala # 86. Organizers give the welcome address. Most of it is in Malayalam, a language I do not follow, but I figure the speech largely talks about gender sensitization. I also sigh in sorrow that I haven’t been able to pick up Malayalam yet, despite repeated attempts. I try not to think of things not achieved in life, when waiting to be awarded for something I have achieved, in actuality.
Presentation of awards begin. I pay utmost attention to each story that has been awarded and clap in enthusiasm for the winners. I also panic deep inside as I wonder the possibility of tripping on the stage. My probability tells me that it is completely possible. I hum a favourite tune to while away such pessimistic thoughts. I don’t have much time…coz they announce my name.
I walk to the stage with as much confidence as I can muster. I’m congratulated on stage by the chief guest, as I collect my award and certificate. I smile at the camera with over a hundred thoughts racing in my head. I look at the audience, silently hoping and praying that my family would have been there to witness this achievement. I realize I’m missing them more than I thought I would. As I walk down the stage, clutching the heavy award and the framed certificate, I feel numb and proud. I make another mental note of counting the number of people who had a role to play in making this day happen. I promise myself to treat them with mango milk shake (or strawberry, if they aren’t a mango fan) when I meet them next. I smile at that thought. It’s a smile of elation. It’s a smile of relief. It’s also a smile emanating from nostalgia.
Several other acts (comedy show, one-act play, dance performance) follow. I watch as intently as I can, but my mind is yet to recover from its numbness. All the awardees are then escorted to another hotel for dinner. I grin in delight as I see the buffet. I realize I have been hungry all day, as I serve myself some authentic Kerala food. I end the day with the taste of lovely Gulab jamun in my mouth. Life seems blissful.
I wake up the next morning to catch my return flight to Mumbai from Trivandrum. I have too much luggage and that annoys me. The award and certificate have become an extra baggage and I dread to think of the hassles at the airport to let it be permitted inside the flight. They are more heavy than I thought. A co-passenger at the airport offers to help me with my “luggage”. We introduce ourselves and he happens to peek inside the jute bag containing the award. He gasps and says that he can’t believe he’ll be sitting next to an “award-winning journalist”. I laugh like a maniac. I then realize that an “award-winning journalist” isn’t expected to behave that way. I don’t know how to respond, so I smile simply. It’s the best response to any question. Also pretty escapist, I figure.
As I wait in line for boarding the flight, I spot Prof. Ilina Sen. She’s one of the faculty members at the Centre for Women’s Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (where I’m currently a student). I walk up to her and ask what is she doing in Trivandrum. She says she came with her husband to attend the Kovlam Literary Festival. I shake my head in disbelief of not having even known about the event (attending a lit fest has been on my To-do list for a while now). I sigh, as Prof Sen’s husband Dr. Binayak Sen walks in. I’m delighted as we shake hands. I ask him about the literary festival. He tells me that it was good. I see him carrying a jute bag that says: “Kovlam Literary Festival 2012.” I wonder what books he must have bought there. Again, I smile at such wonderful thoughts.
I share my cab back home with Mr. and Mrs. Sen. I’m too tired to think of anything. All I want is some food and sleep. I have an exam to take tomorrow, I tell myself repeatedly. I buy a cheese and garlic croissant for lunch and head home. I knew it was only cheese that could ease some pressure off me. I’m now in the middle of understanding biological determinism, as I write this. Don’t even bother to Google what it means. Let’s hope I achieve yet another feat tomorrow: passing the exam. Cheers! +_*
Edit: Click here to view TA’s kind write-up on me after winning the award. :->