I never thought of being a journalist (not to speak of a sports reporter) but destiny had a special script for me (must have prepared in a bad mood). After attending the final year examination at Assam Engineering College (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). Visiting his residence and talking 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 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 the 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 (also as a filmmaker in future).
The 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). Soon I returned to Maligaon and started my mission possible to be a reporter.
The 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 teleprompter 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 was related to cricket and tennis. I had no affection to cricket (still not doing) and hardly followed tennis-related news.
As a football fan myself (often I claimed to be a popular football player in school and college days), 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 also! He also told that I have to go to Nehru Stadium soon for reporting 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 swimming were also organized in the stadium. Moreover, the campus supported a number of offices related to various sports along with the sportspersons and sports journalists.
During some very very important cricket matches in 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 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 joined us and he took the responsibility to look after the last page (dedicated to sports). As Subodh-da had already left for Dainik Asom, Uday Borgohain was inducted in the sports team. Slowly I started dedicating more time in writing on cinema and theatre (now mostly on socio-political and environmental issues).
During that period, I had an accidental tour to Mumbai (then Bomby) with Samarendra Sarma (photojournalist of Assam Tribune) and Pankaj Bora (then a reporter in Ajir Asom and now an entrepreneur). I was travelling to Kolkata (then Calcutta) to attend an international film festival in Nandan complex.
While boarding 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 visit in Subodh-da’s name. We three young reporters had an amazing experience in Mumbai and Pune while covering the events of the 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).
Now I am no longer a sports journalist but sticked to the profession today amidst all difficulties. Most of my classmates have a better life today as successful engineers, but many of them have grown their ages (unlike me!). A few of my college friends are now looked too tired, depressive and pale. Often, I get scared talking to them (as if they are waiting for their premature departure).
The reason behind my active days indicates the inherent influence of my profession over me and my space. The hard life of a working journalist teaches one to bear with all limitations (at least inspired not to collapse before facing the challenges). So, we do.
Moreover, I benefited from the spirit of sports in the early days of my profession. It’s a bonus for me. Long Live sports journalism! Joi Ho Assam Sports Journalists Association!