August 12, 2020

Teresa Rehman’s BulletProof makes you wonder on mums taking up extreme risk careers

Some of us as mums work at home and a few in addition work outside home. This could also mean managing both seamlessly or able to manage one better than the other. It’s time as mothers we recognize that no one fits into the ideal mum situation as to what needs to be chosen or prioritized  in life.

Likewise here is a mum who is an author, more importantly she is a journalist who has chosen hardcore journalism as her forte.

In her book, Bulletproof, the author-mum Teresa Rehman from Assam says, “ Journalism has split my life into several parallel streams; mother, homemaker and storyteller. My daughter is used to a mother who works in a jiffy, then comes back and drowns herself in a laptop. The younger one is too young to notice. My sister finds it annoying when I sometimes forget to change her diaper for hours or give her a bath when I am too engrossed in work.

From meeting several individuals who are trained to hold and use weapons, guns, bombs like it were an ordinary item of our daily life, the book Bullet Proof gives the reader enough points to ponder why did the author as a woman, as a mum chose this profession or take so much risk to get that story?

A short excerpt shared here, “ I check my phone for messages. I make plans for lunch as I finish writing my report. It’s difficult to work from home as one tends to lose track of time. I check the news browser and read about a bomb being sent to a newspaper office in Imphal, Manipur. I wonder if I will be able to handle if I were in a similar situation. I text my husband to tell him this. I have never had any safety or first-aid training.

I start pondering the next list of story ideas to send to my editor in Delhi. Just then the phone rings and one of my trusted sources on the other side of the phone sounds thrilled. He tells me that he has a scoop for me, but I will have to wait till the next morning. I will have to drive down to the highway towards Nalbari in lower Assam and then wait for instructions.

The next morning, I hired a cab and embark on my journey as directed. I am asked to stop in between a stone quarry and a primary health centre. I wait patiently for the next call and peer out of the car window. A lorry carrying sand passes by and I squirm as my face is smeared with sand particles. I am uneasy. Just then the phone rings again and gives me fresh set of instructions. ‘Proceed another 3 kilometers and then you will get a tea shop to your right. Tell the tea shop owner that you want the book.’

‘Book?’ I am perplexed. Did I come all the way to collect a book-a goddamned book? What kind of book must it be? Could it be a manuscript of a potboiler by a militant leader?

Nevertheless, I move ahead as instructed. After a point, I notice the tea shop. As I walk up, I can see the tea shop owner busy moving the ladle in a kettle. I can see boiled eggs laid out neatly at the counter along with knock-off brands of potato chips and candies. I am slightly out of breath as I hastily tell, ‘ I have come for the book’. The owner stops for a while and stares at me.  I guess he didn’t expect a woman to come and ask him for a book. He moves aside and makes a quick call. I have a feeling that he is trying to confirm.

Reluctantly, he turns around and picks up a packet wrapped in polythene from the wooden shelf and hands it to me. Finally! I have the ‘Book’ I make my way out and run to the car. As I make myself comfortable, I open the packet and see a handful of photocopies of meticulously written notes in Assamese. I am baffled. I start reading it. Patiently. It takes me some time to realize that it is indeed a scoop! I have the diary of ULFA leader Hira Sarania.”

Right from meeting dreaded militants to reporting from conflict zone to understand why individuals do certain actions or pursue certain causes, Teresa Rehman has over the years managed to beak many barriers. It is the work of a journalist and many others who work in extreme stress, conflict, reporting from areas that are secluded and flirting with the danger. She has even spoken of a her work making her be in space amidst firing and even seeing a psychologist with much reluctance, post covering a fake encounter in Manipur.

Mums and Stories loved it and it would be a must-read for mums to know of a few mothers who choose unconventional careers.



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