By Frederick Noronha
Maybe because I’ve been at it since the age of 19, I tend to believe that writers, journalists and media persons are a crucial requirement in any society. Good, conscientious, non-egoistical, non-cynical and hard-working writers (it’s not easy to manage all that, of course) can really help to understand society, focus on its problems, and even work to find solutions. In the world, they can play a role in advancement.
Every state, every city and every village too needs its own reporters and writers. Getting started can be easier than you think. More so, if the person starting out is curious about people and events, and is himself (increasingly herself these days) well read too.
Oddly enough, the jobs and opportunities that are available might not be often advertised. It is up to each one to find out which publications have vacancies, and which jobs match closest to their dreams and desires. Sometimes, one may not quite get what one is looking for, but that time can be spent in learning new skills.
If you want to sabotage your own chances, then start asking questions as some people do nowadays – about the salary expected in your first job. Sometimes, this figure can seem demoralising. In our times, we started at `300 per month in 1983, which was even then quite a small figure.
What beginners need to understand is that what you earn when you start may not at all be related to your long-term earning potential in the long run. Journalists from Goa have ended up working quite satisfied in the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, Singapore, Papua New Guinea (the Murdoch papers tend to pay big sums), Bombay, Beijing, Toronto, and even Australia.
Over the years, the chances of the youth in Goa entering the writing ‘business’ has grown. Ours might be one of the first generations in Goa which could earn a livelihood from full-time writing. Before the 1960s, one needed to be a very affluent gentleman—preferably, a lawyer or doctor- to be able to enter writing.
Things changed as the media opened up. But Goa still remains small as compared to the big cities, which offer far more opportunity, better scales, and more potential to switch jobs.
Not only in journalism, but also in other fields of writing, opportunities have indeed opened up quite a bit. When I encounter MA students who only think of a teaching career, it is personally frustrating to realise that they could be skipping out on a career that could be interesting, eventful and rewarding (even if there admittedly are many other faster ways of making money) only because of their lack of awareness or determination.
Writers like Victor Rangel-Ribeiro, the US-based Goan author who wrote his first novel only at the age of 70 (now he’s in his 90s), have played a key role in encouraging young people in Goa to write and mentoring them too. Till date, you can hear stories of how the opportunity to attend his (or some other) workshop in town helped create writers and authors. They would have otherwise simply missed the bus.
Those who write in Konkani often narrate about the encouragement they received, even one generation ago, from veterans in the field. Feedback sent on a postcard to them helped build their interest in writing.
Sheela Jaywant has edited and compiled a book which puts together the experiences of many people, explaining their entry in field of writing.
There have been other initiatives too. St Xavier’s at Mapusa was one of the first colleges to begin media education. Initially, it was tough. Over the years, the quality of their students and training has grown.
In the 1980s, Fr Planton Faria of Cuncolim was organising his Sunday mornings media part-time classes in unused Panaji school classrooms. At one stage, a tiny periodical was open to the idea, and we jointly tried to mentor young people in the media field, in a not-for-profit manner. That initiative saw (it may not be due to the effort itself) one grow into an author, another into managing a start-up to promote writing and a third who is an RJ on the airwaves.
Of course, you could argue that these people achieved success because of hard work, in the first place. But does Goa offer enough opportunity to its young people in this field?
The classic example one remembers is about how a young village boy (literally still in his early teens at the time) got interested in computers and the internet, and through that, with the newspapers. He became a village correspondent of some newspaper and managed to dramatically draw attention to the acute shortage of emergency health support (then) in his village in Bardez.
Last week, one got the chance to interact with young students who might just catch the writing bug. They were eager and keen to enter the field. At least a couple of authors interacting with them told them how they got started: a teacher encouraged them. True.
Getting youngsters and students interested in writing might not be as difficult as it seems. But, for that to happen, their teachers themselves need to be interested in it first.
The toughest part might be in understanding how to go about it, and having someone’s guidance. To my mind, the youngsters in Goa are as talented as anyone and can do well in this field if given the chance.
It’s indeed pleasurable to see the glint in the young eye when they start enjoying the process of creation. I remember the days when, as an eight-year-old, I ‘won’ half-a-UK-pound from some British children’s magazine. After this, I was fascinated with the idea that one can actually earn from writing, an activity which some of us tend to appreciate anyway. Writing can be addictive too.
For a start, teachers can go beyond assigning students to write ‘essays’ on various theoretical and dull subjects. Instead, they could create a school magazine which focuses on the history and geography of their local region, interview villagers who are achievers in any sense of the word, or discuss books they’ve read, and even write something about issues begging for attention in their locality. Such a magazine could even become a collector’s item, in the locality from where it emerges.
At the end of the day, every society needs its writers and creative people. Encourage someone to enter the field, or just join it yourself.