The John Grisham Novel and My Journalistic Life-I

I studied journalism with a hangover. In the early days at Syracuse, I aspired to be an investigative reporter with the New York Times or the Washington Post. I wanted to save the world by uncovering corruption and environmental abuse and government waste and the injustice suffered by the weak and oppressed. Pulitzers were waiting for me. After a year or so of such lofty dreams, I saw a movie about a foreign correspondent who dashed around the world looking for wars, seducing beautiful women, and somehow finding the time to write award-winning stories. He spoke eight languages, wore a beard, combat boots, starched khakis that never wrinkled. So I decided I would become such a journalist.

I grew a beard, bought some boots and khakis, tried to learn German, tried to score with prettier girls. During my junior year, when my grades began their steady decline to the bottom of the class, I became captivated by the idea of working for a small-town newspaper. I cannot explain this attraction….

I do not eat breakfast, and I’m usually not awake during the hours in which it is served. I don’t mind working until midnight, but I prefer to sleep until the sun is overhead and in full view. As I quickly realized, one of the advantages of owning a small weekly was that I could work late and sleep late. The stories could be written anytime, as long as the deadlines were met.

>>Well, now is the time to reveal something, with some interpretations as well. Earlier monologues were not mine. I don’t know the place called Syracuse, stated in the second sentence of first paragraph. I have never tired to learn German. And I have never owned a newspaper. But the rest are true to my life. How would you feel when you find yourself portrayed in a fictional character of your favorite writer? I feel amazed.

John Grisham, an American, has long been my favorite novelist. I follow his bestselling paperbacks with a great devotion. His novels filled with court-room drama and adventures of lawyers appeal me. Occasional inclusion of characters with journalistic background add flavor on the appeal. I thoroughly enjoyed his novel Painted House that doesn’t even utter the L word.

Once I wanted to be a lawyer, and that temptation is still with me. Once, I wanted to be a doctor studying science. After rejected by the Tri-Chandra College, I was forced to join Ratna Rajya College where some of my school mates were preparing themselves for the humanities classes. One of them, who happens to be a fellow blogger and one of the founders of this blogging site, Ujjwal had chosen Journalism as a major. I too choose journalism as a whim.

The main protagonist of the 2004 Grisham novel The Last Juror is a 23-year-old college drop-out named Willie Traynor. He is a journalist and owns a local weekly newspaper in Mississippi called The Ford County Times. When I encountered him the day before and read his confessions about how he became journalist and how he loves sleeping till late morning, I was simply amazed to find myself on him. I am him. Dinesh Wagle is Willie Traynor. He studied journalism in a hangover, I on a whim. He too was influenced by his friend; I too was by my friend.

I have never seen Grisham except in pictures pasted on the inside back cover of his novels and on the home page of Random House, his publisher. No need to say that he too doesn’t know me. They say the world is small and it’s increasingly becoming a global village. Even if they are correct, they don’t know how small it is becoming. Grisham knows the story of a Nepali journalist. He he he!

Here are some striking similarities between Willie and Dinesh. I too aspired to become a reporter for both of the world-renowned newspaper. More than that, once I declared to my American friend Roberto in Chitwan, Nepal that he will, one day, see me announcing important world news from the Atlanta studio of CNN.

I too have seen movies like those where reporters are portrayed in larger than life images. More importantly, I have worked with journalists like Bijay Kumar, one of the most charismatic scribes in the country. I would dream to be like him. When I read superb write-ups of journalists like Narayan Wagle, who by luck, happens to be my editor now, I would personify myself as him. When I think of a good reporter, the image of Narayan, with ravaged pants and dirty trekking shoes that were in such situations because the star reporter would spend most of his time in remote parts of the country would pop in to my mind. When I see famous TV reporters and newspaper journalists, I would think of being like them one day.

Well, as Willie once did, I too have beard and they attract lot of comments from my colleagues. Some ask me why I am having beards and some want to know why I am becoming so lazy. Some compliment me by saying that I look handsome with beard. Kiran Chapagain, a college mate and a fellow journalist at the Kathmandu Post thinks that my beards remind him of Osama bin Laden, worlds most wanted terrorist.

Another important similarity between Grisham’s Willie and me is that we both love our bed so much that we miss our breakfast. I too don’t mind working till late night but I haven’t seen a sunrise for a long period.

Willie is the owner of a weekly paper. Before finally joining a daily newspaper Kantipur a month ago, I was working for a weekly paper. In fact seven years ago I kick started my journalistic career with Tarun Weekly. Then I went to Bimarsha Weekly. Then to a fortnightly, called Nepal Magazine, which eventually turned into a weekly six months before I left that to join Kantipur. By the way, I had to struggle hard to save myself from being a college drop-out like Willie. After nearly 4 attempts, I finally to get through a research subject of journalism last year and got the bachelor’s degree.

Creations of fiction declare that they are just fiction and anything described in the book have nothing to do with reality. Let it be it like that. I don’t care even if Grisham writes based on my real life!! You must be thinking that I am kidding. And you are right. For the time being, I have many pages of The Last Juror to turn. I am already enjoying it.