Paritosh sat inside the conference room, along with four other journalists, while Mr. Baraskar blabbered, “Our news channel has gained significant popularity and boost through our aggressive reporting methods and well-crafted stories! Folks, we need to keep this momentum going on! Over the last couple of months, we have garnered a significant nationwide viewership and that has brought us under the limelight! I hope all of you understand what I had explained in the last forty minutes. You would now disperse across various parts of the country to cook up interesting stories so that we can telecast them for our hungry audience!”
As the short heighted, overfed and excessively dressed Vice-President, Mr. Baraskar finished his speech with an air of victory, Paritosh innocently raised his hand and asked, “Sir, can you explain to me what exactly needs to be done?”
Shekhar looked at Paritosh with a shock. “What is wrong with him!” thought the young journalist.
Mr. Baraskar sat down on his chair with a thump and an irritated expression on his face. He sighed, “Everyone other than Paritosh and Shekhar please leave. I hope the rest of you have understood my points!”
As the rest of the team moved out from the room, Mr. Baraskar pulled his chair closer to the table and said, “Paritosh, my boy, you are a fine young photographer who has been doing an excellent with our company! What is it that you are having difficulty in understanding?”
Mr. Baraskar looked at Shekhar sternly and continued, “Shekhar, I hope you understood the work assigned to the two of you?”
Shekhar gulped down some water from a glass in front of him, nodded his head and remained silent. Mr. Baraskar was feared by most of the staff and the audacious question from Paritosh has tickled his anger!
Mr. Baraskar controlled his emotions and spoke in a calm yet stormy voice, “Both of you are supposed to go to the Village of Savalipur. A leading political party has requested us to cover a story there. The representatives of the party have done some development work in that village, including the construction of an Open Air Amphitheatre! Ahead of the elections, they want us to cover this story and show how happy the villagers are!”
Mr. Baraskar looked at Paritosh for a while and then added, “Mr. Paritosh, you would capture fine photographs and videos of this story, including smiling faces of those wretched villagers and Mr. Shekhar would pen down an excellent speech that he would deliver in front of your video camera!”
Saying the above lines, Mr. Baraskar got up, followed by both Paritosh and Shekhar. Before leaving, the big boss finished in a somber voice, “Best of Luck! I hope everything is crystal clear!”
Two days later, Paritosh and Shekhar arrived at their destination, fully equipped with all their equipment to cover the much anticipated story. As the duo got down from the car, the first thing that caught Paritosh’s eyes was the ramshackle condition of the entire village of Savalipur. The dilapidated houses, the dirt strewn broken roads and dingy localities. The poor living conditions of the residents was a stark contrast to the so called development work done by the political parties. Acres of land being utilized for tobacco plantation was the primary source of occupation for most of the poor villagers. It was well past midday and the sheer backwardness of the village struck like a shining armor in the faces of these two journalists.
“This is our so called developed village that we would be covering as a leading story in our news channel!” exclaimed Paritosh.
Shekhar laughed satirically and said, “Look around brother! Look at the community hall over there and the adjacent playground that has been newly decorated! Look at the Open Air Amphitheater for cultural activities!”
Presently, a few members of the political clan arrived and one among them said in a macho voice, “So you guys have arrived! As per the instructions of the party headquarters, we would assist you in completing your work. Tonight, you would be staying in a room we have arranged within the school building. We would take care about your food and other necessities! Now follow us…”
Paritosh and Shekhar passed a quick glance at each other and then followed instructions. For the rest of the day, a weird drama unfolded and the two of them participated in it like mute lieutenants. The villagers were like puppets and the political workers made them perform different acts of glee, with intermittent speeches of praise, in front of Paritosh and Shekhar. The spectacle reached its zenith when the villagers were provided hired clothes and were made to sit inside the Amphitheater and a performance was enacted by a group of entertainers! Shekhar and Paritosh captured everything in their report.
In the evening, as the duo retired within the school campus and sat down for a little refreshment, they heard a commotion. At a distance, within the campus, somebody was screaming at the top of his voice, “You hooligans! I will kill you all! You monsters, nobody would be able to save you from my wrath!”
Presently, the man appeared from behind a pillar and hurried away through the main gate. A group of boys, dressed in dirty school-uniforms ran behind him while screaming, “Long Live Kammo Ganjawala!”
Paritosh caught one of the boys, perhaps the one who was the most enthusiastic amid the crowd, and said, “Hey you, what is your name? And what is all this nonsense about?”
“Hello! I am Sachin, I live here in this village. That man is our only teacher in this school! He is supposed to teach us everything… from English to Sanskrit!” replied the boy with a grin.
“Then why are you guys teasing him?” added Shekhar wryly.
“Sir, his actual name is Kamlesh Paaniwala… However, the whole village knows about his fondness for smoking weed! He does it throughout the day, almost! This has won him the name of Kammo Ganjawala! We have a great time during school hours teasing him by his new name! He is mostly in a state of hallucination and cannot catch us!” replied the boy with an even bigger grin.
“Kammo Ganjawala! That’s innovative!” replied Shekhar with a loud laugh.
Paritosh didn’t feel like laughing and let the boy go away. He felt a remorse at the visible juxtaposition between the raw truth and the veiled reality they were capturing on news media.
Evening fell and a cool breeze started to blow. Shekhar and Paritosh sat on the roof of the school building to prepare their report. A while later, a group of boys, led by Sachin came around in the adjacent playground. It was perhaps time for their evening foolery. With nothing else to do in that rural setting, the boy engaged themselves in doing nonsense.
Sachin sat on a stool and screamed on top of his voice, “Welcome gentlemen! I welcome you to today’s episode of DHOKLA SAMACHAR! The source of energy in this episode originates from the delicious DHOKLA made by our very own Chulbul Kaka! Everyone must taste those fly ridden delicacies!”
Following the above announcement, he began screaming about different wild and imaginary jokes that were supposed to be pieces of juicy news snaps about the current lives of the villagers and their worsening conditions. A few boys enacted scenes while Sachin recited his speech. The other boys clapped, while some of the elders laughed sardonically on understanding the jokes about their own pitiable state. Soon, many ladies gathered around the playground and watched the peculiar performance of the young boys.
As the performance ended, Shekhar and Paritosh came down and went near the boys. Paritosh asked, “Why do you call this mockery as DHOKLA SAMACHAR!”
Sachin looked at him and replied, “Sir, when I grow up, I want to become a news reporter like you! I wanted to do this performance with the hope that the two of you would notice me and maybe, one day, you would ask me to come to your office!”
Paritosh felt pity but didn’t say anything. Sachin continued, “Have you seen a DHOKLA? It looks bizarre, tastes awesome and sounds dangerous! The entire concoction surrounding it has a contrasting sense and nobody can understand what it is, until one tastes it! Then again, the question remains… why do you have to call it DHOKLA… as if it is an ATOM BOMB! Such is my news reporting…”
Saying the above words, Sachin kept grinning and looking at Paritosh and Shekhar. Paritosh replied, “You are naughty but you are an intelligent boy! I am sure someday you would become what you want to be…”
As Sachin went away, Paritosh looked at Shekhar and said, “Brother, are we doing anything different from what this young guy was doing! We are covering a highly backward village with the camouflage of development so that it gets a taste of political achievement! It’s just like the DHOKLA!”
Paritosh became serious while speaking and continued, “We, as journalists have a responsibility towards the citizens of this country! However, what we are doing is simply a matured version of the foolery that these kids were doing! Yet, I don’t know how I can come out of this and become more responsible! Can I save my job and do my duty? Can I get a platform where the uncut truth ever be spoken out? Will the lives of the residents of this village ever improve? Will these kids ever get proper education and become free from the clutches of Kammo Ganjawala? This place needs a proper school, proper sanitation, proper employment and not a decorated Amphitheater!”
Shekhar was speechless but listened to everything that was being said. Paritosh sighed and added, “I guess, the shady world around us has taken away the soul of journalism! We don’t have the spines to say NO!”
He sat down on the broken portion of a wall adjacent to where they were standing and asked, “Anyways, what is the title that you are giving to our news report here in Savalipur!”
Paritosh stood up in surprise while Shekhar took his camera, deleted the videos and photographs and then tore away his own notes.
Shekhar looked at Paritosh and answered with a smile, “I named it… DHOKLA SAMACHAR!”
Paritosh exclaimed, “What?”
Shekhar took up his things and started to walk back towards the school building. He faintly replied, “There is always a point to start afresh! Let us make a beginning. From tonight, I quit! I know you would do the same! I know the two of us can do so. This evening was an eye opener for both of us! Even though our step might be insignificant, but I am sure our souls would remain true. Someday, more people would follow and an honest fraternity of journalism would bring out the truth and only truth in front of the masses! Till then, Goodbye… DHOKLA SAMACHAR!”