So, a long time ago, about 2000 years to be exact I…okay I’m just kidding. It was near the end of the 2nd semester, 2019 when I, alongside my BJM classmates, got to participate in a 4-week long workshop with Alston D’Silva, the editor at Himal Southasian. Through the workshop, we got to meet a lot of reputed working journalists in the field like Tsering D Gurung and Pranaya SJB Rana from The Kathmandu Post, Subina Shrestha from Al Jazeera, and many more. On the very first day of the workshop, Alston made a few points about how competitive the field is. He didn’t say anything intense but just how we probably will get lost in the mad capitalist race and end up obliviated if we don’t create a place for ourselves starting now. His chill advice encouraged us.
On one of the workshop days, the guest speaker was Pranaya SJB Rana, the feature editor at The Kathmandu Post. After the session, I hurriedly ran towards him, tripped on the way twice, and almost smashed my head on the whiteboard but managed to ask him for his email address. Later that day I emailed him expressing how I wanted to apply for an internship (no idea where that confidence came from).
That week was packed with assignment deadlines because the week prior, I was busy watching puppy videos on Youtube. 5 assignments had piled up and were due the next day. I felt like a T-Rex trying to touch its toes. Under stress, I had completely forgotten about the internship that I had proactively applied for. I typed my first word on the blank page of a Ms.Word document and decided what I was going to do.
Eyes glued to the screen I inhaled nacho chips like there was no tomorrow and suddenly this dead guy’s chest ripped open and out came a disgusting looking alien thingy with tentacles squirting out green slime and his detached head with semi-open eyes turned into a spider thing which got blasted with a flamethrower. So, while this scene was going on, a loud email notification popped up on the screen to remind me of the internship and my soul left my body.
In the email, I was asked for my resume and some previously written pieces. At that point, I realized I did not have a resume, and then came chaos. I tried to find my documents inside drawers filled with bazillion papers that I never knew existed. I, for the life of me, couldn’t remember my school or previous college’s name for 5 minutes straight. Finally, after kicking my bedpost for the 25th time in frustration I got back my memories and I patchworked a resume in 15 minutes with the help of Google Doc Resume, attached a few essays in the mail that I had done for Nasala Maám’s English class and sent it. The next day I got a reply saying I needed to give a test and I was sent some questions with a deadline. Alston guided me a lot despite his busy schedule. I submitted my test and now the waiting had begun. A day later I got a call where I was asked to come to the office.
Here’s a backstory for situational context:
When I was five years old, I met with an accident while crossing a road which to date gives me PTSD and so ever since then I had never traveled alone. I always got picked up and dropped off by my dad or a driver and on occasions when neither were present, I always made sure to be accompanied by friends or friends of friends. I completed A-Levels as a 17-year-old who still used college transportation but at Thames, since college transportation was unavailable, I had no option but to use public transportation. I tried many times to crossroads but every time I stepped outside the sidewalk on the road, I got out-breath as the flashbacks started. It was terrifying at first and despite the embarrassment killing me, even as a 19 yr old, I used to ask strangers for help. My experience of traveling alone was limited to traveling from home to college and college to back home, I had no idea about the world outside Pepsicola where my home is, and Baneshwor where my college was. That accident which happened when I was 5 gave me a tough time socializing. I couldn’t physically go to a get-together or hang out with friends because I didn’t know, a) how to get to places and b) how to come back home, because of the fear of crossing roads, I had no idea about locations or routes.
So, the day came when I had to visit the Kantipur Office for the interview. That trip from Baneshwor to Thapathali was traumatic, terrifying, and horrible. I was nauseous, dizzy and my head hurt. That day I gave an Oscar-winning performance as I oozed confidence, like ready to burn the world down kind of confidence but on the inside I wanted to bawl my eyes out. The interview happened with the then Editor-in-chief Anup Kafle, I got the job and was assigned under Pranaya. Post-interview in the elevator leaving the building, I was re-thinking this life decision.
You know when you’re on the sidewalk of a road and you look left and right and wait for the perfect timing to run in that empty slot of the road to cross it? Yes, I did exactly that and almost got hit 7/10 times. I can’t judge time and speed correctly so I start off well but as I reach the middle of the road I see the vehicles coming towards me. Looking at that I get nervous and at this point, it’s too late to go back because vehicles start to move on the road behind. Now, halfway through I’m stuck as some cars with more speed will start coming in front of me causing me to take steps back and forth and by the time I grow the balls to make the run, it’s too late. Then, at this juncture, I wait for someone else to cross the road and help me get through.
On my first day, I was asked two ideas for potential articles which straight-up got rejected and then I was assigned to work on this article about the electricity wires on roadside poles situation in Kathmandu and for this, I had to read up things in Nepali newspapers for updates and call up officials. Now, I always have and still hate two specific subjects the most in my life, maths and Nepali because I NEVER get good grades in them. I tried for 30 mins to read one short article and I got the worst headache of my life, it felt like someone put my brains in a paper shredder. So, with a shredded brain I called up the officials and that guy spoke as if he were a hybrid child of Laxmi Prasad Devkota and a Nepali version of Emile Durkheim. Questioning my presence in that office as my self-worth melted away, I went up to Pranaya and I told him that I couldn’t do it, I was barely holding back my tears of disappointment. It had been a long day of failures and I couldn’t even make eye contact. I don’t know if it was because of how miserable I looked or if he was just busy but he very calmly told me to find another topic. I sucked in my tears and started looking for another topic.
My first month went smoothly but then came this ‘X article’ in my life. I won’t take her name but let’s call her Kim. While working on a specific article I had the misfortune of meeting this woman. I won’t go into detail but Kim misunderstood my article and accused me of sabotaging her image which of course wasn’t true. If I were “sabotaging her image and killing her career” as she so poetically put it, my editor with years of experience and an entire team of editors would have definitely noticed. It wasn’t my writing but her comprehension ability that was lacking. I remember while I continued speaking politely using respectful words, she on the other hand cussed, called me names, called my family names, and said disrespectful stuff about my editor. She threatened me on the phone multiple times that she would go to other media outlets and talk about it. I was terrified, not because I had done anything wrong but because it had only been one month since I had joined as an intern and I felt like I was bringing trouble to the company. Also, logically I thought that I was a 19-year-old intern and she was a public figure in her late thirties which wouldn’t really work in my favor.
I remember I was at a place to take another interview which was supposed to start in 15 minutes. No one, not even my parents had ever raised their voice at me in my life before and she was straight out talking filth. Few other people were mentioned in the article who were very supportive and pleased so I asked them to send me texts saying they liked the article and in no way was the article portraying them negatively. While I waited for the texts, I went to the parking lot and cried for 4 minutes straight, had a panic attack, and almost fainted. I sat on the floor, drank some water. 10 mins later I got the texts and had some backup proof.
I went and took that day’s interview trying to concentrate and look cheerful. I went back to the office, saw my editor, and immediately I knew I couldn’t speak at all, I was barely holding back another breakdown. I went to a cabin and wrote down what had happened on a piece of paper and left it on his desk. As I waited in the cabin, I sent him all the text proof I had. A few minutes later he came to the cabin and told me to explain what had happened again. Sobbing, I tried my best to form words and as I told him what she said and did, he said he believed me and that he didn’t need any proof from anyone. Honestly, when I heard those words it felt like I outran death. As he suggested, I took a few days off to recover from that, he told me to hand him the phone if she ever called to threaten again but out of fear I didn’t even pick up any unknown calls after that. I received many unknown calls which I never picked up and Kim didn’t go to any media outlets. I checked on her Facebook a day after the incident to see what she was up to and was shocked to find that she was out on a vacation. I was hurt and frustrated because while she traumatized me, she was out partying. This experience desensitized me, the filth she said and the trauma will definitely keep me unfazed if anything similar were to ever happen again.
In the course of my internship, I wrote several articles out of which many got front page spots. If I were to mention every single story behind those articles, it would literally be a mini-book. There were smiles, tears, laughs, gags, nightmares, pukes, nervous breakdowns, enlightenment, and just about everything. The people at The Kathmandu Post even after being so talented are equally humble, kind, and helpful. Whenever I needed help or guidance, whether it was Pranay or Anup sir, Bhrikuti di, Tsering di, Sanjeev sir, Arjun dai, Asmita di, Abani di, or anyone, they were always there for me. No matter how underqualified you feel, a healthy and supportive work environment just brings out the best in you and I am a living example of that. No matter what job, internship, volunteering work you do, if you do not get credit for your work and if the workplace isn’t supportive, just opt-out.
I moved on from Kim and did other articles which were great fun like the female bodybuilders, medical waste at hospitals and the last one was on traffic police. For the medical waste article, I visited many hospitals and saw the stuff you see in gore horror movies except I saw it and smelled it in real life. I puked and gagged my way through seeing rotting dead baby fetuses with semi-open eyes, amputated maggot-filled body parts (legs, toes, hands), and gazillion placentas. It was like a placenta town…that awful stench, things moving…yuck! you get the idea, I’m gonna stop here. That article felt like a true detective show where I investigated, found out shocking truths, and when I was asked to delete the photos from my phone as I found out something they didn’t want me to, I felt like a real journalist, like the ones we see in crime drama shows on Netflix.
To anyone reading this, I want you to know that there is never a ‘right time’ to start something. You are never too young or too old. I got this internship when I was 19 years old in my 1st year studying bachelor’s in Sociology. As someone coming from a very sheltered family who gets a mini heart attack crossing roads every time and who doesn’t go out much, I traveled alone using ‘Pathao’ to so many places in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and even went to Lalitpur, met so many strangers and got my writings published in a freaking Kathmandu Post newspaper! None of this would have happened if I hadn’t gone up to Pranaya to ask for his email that day.
Thames provides you with opportunities to meet working professionals in different fields. Make use of the opportunities, what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll get rejected? Ignored? Well, at least you’ll bag 1 out of 10 opportunities and that’s a start! The Kathmandu Post taught me that improvement is better than nothing and so, I now have dreams to intern or work at a few international newspapers in my life. My major will always be Sociology but that doesn’t mean I can’t do journalism on the side. I understand everyone has their own fears, limitations, weaknesses, financial constraints, or other problems in life which may put you at a disadvantage but at the risk of sounding rude, crying about it won’t get you anywhere. Give your strengths a try even if it requires you to come out of your comfort zone, at least TRY! to the best of your abilities so that when you’re dead, you don’t end up joining the Greek god of regrets, ‘Apollogies’.
Read other reflection articles by Sneha: (http://reflections.thamescollege.edu.np/?s=Sneha+Dahal)
Read Sneha’s Kathmandu Post articles: https://kathmandupost.com/author/sneha-dahal