Everyday as I clock in to work, I say a little prayer. I seek the Universe’s blessing in my heart, "Let me be Your instrument to spread Love and Truth". And the day usually goes along fine. The day was going great today too. I was sent out on an assignment to interview expatriates on how they find Malaysia as a country to live and work in. I did a huge mistake, instead of looking for expats in Bangsar Village (because many expats live around that area) my monkey mind told me to go to The Gardens instead since it was much nearer in terms of walking distance. So I rang up the photographer and told him to meet me at the entrance of the mall. And as luck would have it, there were no expats to be seen and my photographer was running late for another assignment.
We searched high and low for twenty minutes and could only interview tourists and foreign students. In total we interviewed two people but there were still no expats to be seen! Many foreigners didn’t want to be interviewed and I was getting anxious and worried, not for myself but for the photographer as he was getting late for his other assignment. Finally we walked into Baskin Robbins and managed to find one expatriate. That made the total count of interviews to three, a good figure for an article. The photographer then had to leave and as I was leaving The Gardens mall, my monkey mind said, "Hey, you’ve already got 3 interviewees. One is an expat, the other two are students. Just change their age and occupation, and voila! They’ve become expats. Problem solved, you get to go back to office and finish up your work and go home early. Less headache for you."
I lighted my ciggie, and the monkey mind continued speaking, "Besides, it’s just a silly story about a bunch of expats trying to say how good the country is. I doubt it’ll even get published.."
I pondered on this and walked on the road outside the mall. As I smoked, that’s when my Master’s words hit me hard on the head. Smack!
"There is nothing wrong in reporting news, but report only the Truth."
His words echoed in my head like a Tibetan bell. I remember reading this quote before and today it flashed before my eyes. And then my Conscious said, "What’s the point of that prayer in the mornings, when all you’re going to do now is cheat? Pointless to say that prayer anymore."
I stood there for a good minute, my mind went blank. I took a deep breath in and immediately I came to my senses.
What on earth was I about to do?? I HAVE to rectify this at once!
I put off my cigarette and quickly went hunting for atleast two more expats in The Gardens. Published or not, I can’t produce a half past six story that contains utter lies and baseless facts.
I walked into the mall and I remembered that morning prayer. "Let me be Your Instrument. You work, through me." I said that prayer and went asking around foreigners if they were expats. None were as many were tourists. Desperate, I called a colleague to ask for directions to Bangsar Village from the mall I was in. He told me to take a cab and as I was walking to the cab station, that’s when I noticed an Arab man walking with his family.
My Conscious urged me to talk to him. I walked over and asked him, "Sir, are you an expat?" The relief and joy I got when he said yes, was indescribable. I interviewed him and wrote all he said, word for word.
Two down, one more to go.
The hunt for the third expat began. I walked for another 15 minutes. Walking aimlessly, just "feeling" the mall, trying to sniff out expats. I was feeling adventurous, maybe this is how true journalists feel. The length to get the Truth. As I walked out of the mall to go towards Midvalley, a white lady with a baby in her pram emerged infront of me. Again, my Conscious said, "Interview her! Interview her!" And yes, she was an expat too 🙂
I never felt this much joy as a journalist ever in my life. That little push, that extra mile, that sacrifice of extra time, the sweat and walking, it was satisfying. In the end, when I came back to the office, turns out, the editors decided to publish this as the front page cover story. The story is to be merged with another colleague’s story as well. That’s when I asked myself, "My God Sukhbir, if you actually cheated, how would you have felt reading a pile of lies, on the front page of the paper? Worst, if the public read it?? Even worst, when your Master preaches you to speak the Truth, and you wrote the Untruth" I felt utterly disgusted with myself for even having that thought.
But then, a little voice in me said, "Don’t be disgusted. Had you not had that terrible thought and fought it, you wouldn’t have had any experience or a story to share what so ever."