Are we the same? | Tejas Harad and Philip Wilhelmer

Are we the same? | Tejas Harad and Philip Wilhelmer


I learnt to read when I was about seven
I have read and read since then reading whatever material I would come across my
relatives used to say if you continue to read like this you will go mad one day
five and a half years ago I became a father for the first time I looked at my
daughter with tears in my eyes welcome I said you
have mastered the first challenge you were born in the right place it was the
best feeling bringing a baby to a safe country we packed our things and brought
a daughter home with us she was going to live in a spacious flat in a liberal
flourishing city named Vienna my interest in reading was nothing short
of a miracle reading served a very practical purpose
in my small Indian village students read takes books for the schools and adults
rate shop names Holdings and sometimes bank letters that was it two reasons low
levels of literacy and lack of access there were no books in my house and no
library in the village but I would go to great lengths to find storybooks
newspapers and other reading material my daughter is now five years old and she
has never experienced any harm recently she became anxious what does it brexit
she asked my wife my wife explained to her that this means that Britain wants
to leave Europe and those two don’t get along as well and our daughter thought
this was like a war we were quick to comfort her not here not now we live in
a peaceful society war happens elsewhere and books well she has plentiful
and she started to write very early on just her name and reading comes very
natural to her you can already tell my parents bought me a bicycle when I was
about 13 I was allowed to take it to school but not to the bustling town that
sold newspapers my own small village did not have a newspaper stall one Sunday
afternoon when my parents were asleep I sneaked out of the house and went to the
town to buy newspapers I came back with three newspapers with that colorful we
came supplements I felt like a king returning with spoils of war except I
had to enter my house stealthily and nod in celebration thankfully my parents did
not find out and I kept repeating my secret expeditions I used to be a
skateboarder when I was a teenager my goal was to become a pro rider or at
least a photographer for one of the magazine’s I loved
Thrasher Transworld the 90s were a good place for skateboard media I was not
interested in general news why would I hanging out with friends smoking
cigarettes partying the only thing I knew of my future was I was going to get
out of this small town skate party moved to the city when I was 15 I decided to
become a journalist I was enticed by the magic of words storytelling and the
ideas of journalism I started gathering information about what course to study
in college how much it would cost and how to apply for it I was going to be
the first person in my family to get a college degree I took no particular
interest in studying I finished some courses though and I knew how to work I
got a job one day at the radio station simple job pick up the phone and let the
presenters in the studio know if anybody interesting was on the line I had no
particular interest in the radio station itself though I found mainstream media
boring and very tasteless I wanted to work in English media not my mother
tongue Marathi when I moved to Mumbai in 2008 and studied college I used to write
better than most of my classmates who had a clear advantage of caste and class
I’d spent the last few years really working on my language fluency and
writing skills after some weeks working at the radio station I discovered
something intriguing before lunch the office started to fill with people
carrying microphones and recorders they were very loud they started to tell
stories about what this Minister had to say at that press conference or how the
colleague from TV had messed it up again by asking a stupid question now these
people seemed interesting despite being one of the best students in my class I
started my career with low self-esteem after finishing my bachelor’s degree I
took up a job with a music website in 2012 as a reporter but it lasted only
three weeks I could not cope with the work environment there I was the first
journalist from my family I had no role models all the journalists at my
workplace were middle class and upper middle class English educated urbanites
they were far away from me in their culture lifestyle and social
background I did not have the cultural capital to blend in with them but I did
not quit journalism I kept my head low and continued working I found out the
and interesting people at the radio station were journalists and I quickly
managed to join them working the rats from a low-level Regional reporter on
the phone all day long – one of those guys that come back from an appointment
and let everybody in the room know how this and that went horribly wrong for
this in that person and basically how cool I am soon enough I realized I am
not cool at all my job is and I kind of stumbled into it I have to admit on the
29th of March 2019 I got an email an email that made me a celebrity in the
local media I had received a journalism fellowship and soon I was going to fly
to London and then to Oxford I was simultaneously excited and nervous
I had never stepped out of India actually I did not even have a passport
my wife sent me to Oxford I felt like I needed a break but I knew
I couldn’t leave her at home with two kids there one in five now but she
reassured me everything was going to be fine she said hard still but fine so I
took this opportunity very hesitantly probably but I made it
Tejas we both made it yeah we did in the beginning of October I met you Philip
and 12 other journalists from across the world I was a bit scared before setting
foot in this country I did not know what to expect I was going to be in the white
man’s land it is intimidating to come to a place like Oxford you meet the most
brilliant people of any profession there for example when I looked at you tatius
I saw a brilliant young man from one of the most interesting countries in the
world India seems like half startup half superpower whereas I come from the old
world Austria talking to teachers opened up a whole new perspective for me when
you look at people from a distance they seem so different from you you feel like
you will never be able to relate to them but after spending two months in Oxford
I have realized that that’s actually not true
people are people more or less the same everywhere they have the same anxieties
vulnerabilities and also dreams my feeling of intimidation has gone now I
feel much more confident this fall I became aware of my privilege as a
Western journalist we have no caste system for example colleagues from other
parts of the world may face censorship paychecks
never arrived you’re on the constant attacks the only thing I can do for them
report give them the spotlight and let the world know what they endure