Few days ago, I tried to watch a much-talked about documentary in CNN. I acted upon a bit of information sent out to my inbox. It read: CNN will be airing the documentary "The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl" on Feb 10, 11 and 11 pm (Pacific Time). I found out the time difference and slunk off to my home so that I won't miss it. But, because of the load shedding, my dream was deferred.
That day, I had printed an article titled Bittersweet Symphonies published by Jewish Journal. In a dim light of a candle, I went through the moving piece that enriched my knowledge on Daniel Pearl.
I was working in McDonalds in UAE when I heard the gruesome murder of Pearl. Reading Gulf News, a leading daily from Dubai, I was not only aware of who this Wall Street Journal reporter was, but was also rudely reminded about how difficult and challenging a calling like journalism could be. At that time, I was considering rejoining my former profession i.e. journalism.
From what I gathered from English newspapers, I talked about him with my reporter friends back in Nepal. My interest in Daniel was revived by blogger friend Ghanashyam Ojha who is also a Daniel Pearl Fellow 2006. He encouraged me to apply for Alfred Friendly and Daniel Pearl Fellowships 2007. I made it among the finalists but was not selected as one of the Fellows for 2007. I consoled myself, saying: Maybe better luck next time.
Like most of the Nepali journos, Ghanashyam also realized the power of blog while he was under the Fellowship in the US. We communicated through emails, exchanged ideas and finally became good friends. Ghanashyam has dedicated his blog to Daniel Pearl. But, I have a caveat: topical blog is okay but most of the times, your content doesn't support the title which looks a bit awkward. Nevertheless, it felt good to find him among Nepali blog fraternity.
Ghanashyam provided me a book I was desperate to read: At Home in the World. Danny's father Judea Pearl had gifted it to him during his Fellowship. Since I never stumbled upon Danny's write-ups when he was alive (I came to know about him only after his death), I was eager to read his dispatches from different parts of the world. So, I went through his pieces and decided that he may not be a great journalist but he surely was a great human being. Somehow, I also found similarities between his stories and mine (not only the first alphabet of our names!). To me he seemed to be fascinated by ordinary things and not much enthusiastic about political reporting. So I am. I was a political reporter for Drishti Weekly for a couple of years. But, I found my niche in feature writing on human interest, lifestyles, music, art and literature. I really enjoy doing suchlike stories.
The book has an invigorating Foreword by Danny's widow Mariane. She discloses her first impression of Danny at Journal's London office: "I could tell he was a fast thinker, constantly synthesizing new ideas. He was a man who was going to illuminate my life. Sharing his existence would be like turning the pages of comic book."
But unfortunately, Danny's existence turned out to be short-lived. He was kidnapped on January 23, 2002 in Karachi, Pakistan while investigating a story. He was murdered by ruthless terrorists.
The ensuing stories datelined in Middle East, London, India and the US are a nice read. The photograph of bespectacled Danny with his distinguished smile propels us to daydream that he was never murdered. Though, he died four years ago, his spirit lives with us and will live in upcoming generations of courageous people who also love humanity and defy the cultural boundaries.
Among the stories, my favorites include: Two stories datelined Tehran: one on rock songs and other on Iranians' craze for US visa. Similarly, a piece on pearl diving songs being the cause of singers' blindness is superb. He has produced a beautiful story after the confusion on exact beginning of Holy Month of Ramadan. The piece on biggest Iranian carpet is hilarious. Finally, Danny's problem with Massachusetts Motor Registry is a must read. Ghanashyam tells me he relived Pearl's experience. He underwent almost similar experience of bureaucratic dillydallying. He juxtaposed that situation with Nepal's bureaucratic hurdles. Like Danny, he turned that bitter experience into a beautiful column for North Adams Transcript, the daily where Pearl began his journalistic career.