My editor tells me it is twenty years since The News on Sunday
began publication. I missed out the first couple of years because it was in early 1993 when Beena Sarwar
one day called me to write for her at TNS
. Until then I was writing for another paper which had not paid me for several months (it still owes me Rs 40,000) and I was barely eking out a living with my work for IUCN and WWF.
What TNS offered me was unbelievable: besides a reasonable honorarium for my piece and photography, my travel expenses were to be paid in full! Now, that was something only NGO journals did. No other paper had ever made such an offer. I jumped at it.
It was a great team to work with. The first stalwarts were Alefia Hussain
, Kamila Hyatt and Tom Maliti, the man from Kenya. Of course Sarwat Ali was a permanent fixture in the top floor office presided over by Beena. Since I was only a contributor, I did not really know the workings of the office, but whenever I was there I saw Beena marshalling her team like a military drill instructor.
One day, as I chatted with her in her office, Tom phoned in (no cell phones in those prehistoric days). He must have said something about being late or not being able to make it at all that day. ‘You shut up and get your ass here in ten minutes!’ Beena said into the phone and hung up. Tom was there in nine.
Having seen the performance, I said I was so happy not to be working for her. To me she had this to say: ‘You shut up and get your ass out of here!’ I complied forthwith. That then was the kind of outfit Beena ran. And we loved it. Now since the advent of email and not having to take my work in personally, I sometimes wonder if Farah Zia
handles the squad – much bigger than it was in Beena’s days – the same way. If she does, I say, bully for her.
The thing I like most of all about my relationship with TNS is perhaps best captured by that 1950s classic love song Gentle on my Mind. (If you don’t know it, enter Dean Martin or Glen Campbell and the title on You Tube). Mine has been an affair that, as in the song, gave me a great deal of freedom. I was not held captive with a certain number of pieces every month. I could write four weeks straight and then disappear for four weeks or more. And when I returned, there were no accusations. My piece was taken.
Not strange then that when Riffat Alam left TNS to join an upstart venture (was it 1995?) and offered me an honorarium far greater than what I received from TNS, I refused. The precondition was I would have to give off writing for TNS. In the event, that paper never even put out a dummy – and not because I had declined to write for it.
Eighteen years with TNS
has been my longest involvement with any paper or journal. It has been a greatly fulfilling journey. I have enjoyed working with editors who without making me feel unwanted have never cramped my freedom. It cannot ever get any better than that.
Related: Travel Sections
Labels: TNS, Travel Writing
posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,
At May 7, 2014 at 8:59 AM,
Foot loose, motorcycle diaries my favorite.
At May 8, 2014 at 8:04 AM,
Tariq Malik said...
Bravo! Never knew Beena is such an iron lady. Truly, as they say in Punjabi: Rah pia jaaney, ya wa pia jaaney. Nice encounters :)
At May 8, 2014 at 8:30 AM,
Salman Rashid said...
It was truncated because the Chief (Farah Zia) said it was getting too long. But thanks for the appreciation.
At May 8, 2014 at 11:26 AM,
Salman Rashid said...
Tariq, My friendship with Beena goes back to 1986. The Star eveninger in Karachi. Saneeya, Beena, Kaleem Omar, Feica were a great team and so much fun. I don't think anyone took that as work.
At May 8, 2014 at 12:29 PM,
It is a treat to work with honest people, may be they are tough regarding work
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