Sunday, January 01, 2006

An Editor Calls It A Day

Every calling is great if greatly pursued

A tall and lean and thin guy was admitted in Amrit Science Campus, Lainchaur aka ASCOL in the winter of 1990. Apparently, he either wanted to be a doctor or an engineer, as a science student is generally expected to be. But, as fate would have it, he opted for an entirely different career.

He transfered his second year to Mahendra Morang Multiple Campus, Biratnagar and appeared in exam from there. Like most other Nepali lads, after completing his certificate level in Biratnagar, he embarked upon a journey to Kathmandu, obviously looking for fortune, fame and beautiful future. This journey, as it turned out later, was a catalyst for one of the most widely read bylines in contemporary Nepali journalism.

Yes, I am talking about Sudheer Sharma, erstwhile roving reporter of Himal Khabarpatrika and until recently energetic editor of Nepal Magazine. His (abrupt for us, but for him well-planned) decision to call it a day as editor was received with shock and awe by his staffs, acquaintances and well-wishers alike. It triggered a small scale tsunami in Nepali journo fraternity. It's my privilege to mention that I've known him for almost a decade. We worked together even after he left Jana Astha Weekly (which I briefly joined) and joined Kathmandu Today magazine. Then, leaving (rather baffling) my the then colleagues Sudheer, Rajaram and Nishchal behind, I boarded a Qatar Airways flight for UAE work for McDonald's. Sounds weird ? In retrospect, that was not entirely a wrong decision.

But, coincidently, while I was making innumerable burgers in the UAE, he seemed to have scooped one story after another in Himal Khabarpatrika. I was in touch with him even during my vacation trips. In sum, as a close observer of Sudheer phenomenon in Nepali journalism, all I can say is its unbelievable how soon he leapt in his career whereas others are merely creeping. What is this Sudheer phenomenon in Nepali journalism? I'll try to explain.
Sudheer, as saying goes, started from the scratch. Though, he was an avid reader of magazines, novels, newspapers etc. (in other words, he devoured all the printed words) in his school days in Dhulabari, a small town of Jhapa near Indo-Nepal border, he started his career as entertainment reporter for now defunct Parda Weekly in 1994. Later, coincidently, his one of the areas of expertise in reporting happened to be Indo-Nepal border dispute. As a rookie reporter, he was reserved, kept distance with other reporters and focused chiefly in his job. Initially, in his full-fledged magazine journalism (in his terms magazine-karita), he indulged in investigative reporting.

When I returned back and decided to rejoin journalism after 4 year hiatus, he stood by me. His period as assistant editor and later editor of Nepal Magazine, as they say, is a history. While in Himal Khabarpatrika and most importantly in Nepal Magazine, he established himself as an adept reporter of Maoist insurgency. He, however, has unquestionable journalistic acumen in other areas as well. In the last issue of Nepal Weekly in his capacity of editor, he writes in Notebook column: "People often blame that Nepal Magazine gave undue coverage to insurgency (Maoist). Of course, we gave priority to the ongoing violent conflict. In my opinion, we should give more, for this issue has become the biggest challenge our nation is facing today." However, as a leader of a newsmagazine, he was not flawless. He left the team in the throes of its remarkably progressive period. One Achilles heel (that I believe he possesses) I could not stop from telling: Though, he invariably encouraged teamwork, he was a lone wolf. He primarily focused on his own job and gave least time in observing, criticizing and evaluating his subordinates.

By leaving Nepal magazine, he says, he is carving a new niche. If so, it will pave a way for other journalists as well. But, if he is disappearing from the scene, he is going to pay a heavy price. Media person's fame is fickle. If you are out of sight, you are out of the mind of readers. Readers are the real assets and you have to be present to exhort and awaken them. Finally, I wish him good luck for future endeavor and hope this renunciation will not be his professional obituary.

Note: After a hiatus of a year and a half, Sudheer has rejoined Nepal Weekly as editor.

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