Bulletin

An online magazine of news and opinions from the Asia New Zealand Foundation

Bangalore media internship confronting but inspiring

Wellington journalist Eleanor Wenman describes her time interning at the Deccan Herald in Bengaluru (Bangalore) - a city she found confronting, chaotic and beautiful. 

After my first full day in Bengaluru, I was stunned.

Before I arrived in India, I'd heard about how chaotic it was but that didn't convey the depth of this crazy, beautiful country.

Everywhere you turn, there's noise, there's colours.

Eleanor Wenman sitting near an old canon

When I arrived, Bengaluru was drenched in heavy rains. The monsoon season usually finished in September, my host Rajani told me, but the rains had continued far past their normal time.

The thunder would rumble overhead and water cascaded out of gutters and drains and started running down the streets.

People were always interested to hear where you're from and what you think of India. It also wasn't unusual for people to open up conversations with "New Zealand eh? Brendon McCullum?"

For someone who knows nothing about cricket, it was always a fun way to start a conversation.

I had many interesting discussions with people about religion. One person found it so strange I wasn't religious. For her, religion formed part of her identity and personal history.

Partway through my stay, I shifted to an Airbnb next to Ulsoor Lake. It was a beautiful setting, with small islands of trees dotted around. But the rubbish! My Kiwi senses were shocked. Workers would be cleaning the lake, piling up the rubbish into heaps almost as tall as me and as wide as a small pond.

The rubbish was one of the biggest things for me personally to get used to. At first I thought the locals didn't notice it, or didn't care but soon I realised they were just as frustrated as I was and they'd been dealing with it a lot longer.

A lot of people told me - Bengaluru is a fast-growing city and the infrastructure isn't keeping up.

Stepping into the newsroom at the Deccan Herald, I was first blown away by the scale of things. I work in the Hutt Valley and we have four journalists in our newsroom. When I met the editor, he told me there was close to 200 editorial staff, including photographers.

It took a bit of time adjusting to the differences in the newsroom as well. People didn't start coming in until after about 11am and most of the city reporters didn't start until the afternoon, around 3pm.

One of the civic reporters found it funny that I would "get up with the dawn" to start my work at 8.30am at home.

Despite the size, the newsroom itself was a lot quieter than what I was used to. Journalists sat in rows alongside each other and generally worked off emails. Phone interviews were often done outside in the stairwell and, from what I saw, people wouldn't often head out for interviews, something I put down to the size of the city and the impracticality of travelling in some of the traffic.

Most of my work involved writing stories on expats, from artists to immigration experts to flood survivors. Expat stories were a popular feature in the newspaper and a regular series was run on them. Everywhere I looked there were stories and I wish I had more time to explore and write them.

I found it frustrating at times, however, as I was used to discussing stories with news directors and working closely with them. Working at the Deccan Herald, whenever I submitted a story I wouldn't hear anything about it, whether it needed tweaking or rewriting.

I spent some time shadowing one of the city reporters. She was assigned to cover stories on the torrential rains and spent a lot of time writing stories on potholes.

The rains had riddled the road with them and for the first week or two I was there, every second day it seemed someone had died driving on the roads.

A man standing beside a scooter on a busy market road with shops behind him

Everything in India made me step out of my comfort zone and the incredible experiences I had will last a lifetime. From the newsroom to life on the streets, India has left its mark on me.

Every expat I talked to told me the same thing. When they arrived here, their first thought was "what the hell have I done?” But every single one of them ended up loving this city and this country. It's a love I fully understand.

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6 December 2017