In Waves in the Hinterland, Naqvi talks about the barriers that Dalit women – uneducated, poor, schedule caste, female – broke through to be journalists. It would have been very easy for these women to just accept that they were dealt bad cards in life. But they chose to gamble (and win) using those cards. The issues of being a woman – the sexual innuendoes constantly thrown, the derogatory once-overs and the condescending attitudes are ubiquitous. But if these women, who are far more disadvantaged than I, can do it, I have no excuses.
Naqvi’s chronicling of Mahila Dakiya (MD)’s story serves as a lesson in elementary journalism. Very simply she addresses the problems that MD faced in its lifetime and emphasizes many basic premises – “the written word is permanent”, conversion of oral narratives into the written form without compromising on meaning or essence, writing simply, interviewing skills, the difference between a writer and a journalist, “ethics and perils of journalism” and language versus not so much dialect but colloquial speech. Even more practical are the Nirantar Workshop Reports that detail exactly how they dealt with these issues.
With the stories of MD and KL, Naqvi manages to allay my cynicism to a certain extent with respect to the journalism industry. The journalism seen in MD & Khabar Lehriya (KL) is true, honest journalism which Naqvi quotes, “is not guided by commercial interests … But the paper, like all the others before and since… has an agenda: To empower the women … to give them a voice, to strengthen their fragile literacy skills, and give them power to construct their own wor(l)ds”. She makes you believe that even in an age of commercialisation, true journalism can still make waves – in the hinterland or the urban jungle.