Story of an Intern – Part Three

October 4, 2017 India , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Ratnesh Dwivedi



Into the Magical Realm of the BBC


By the time I contacted the BBC Delhi office for my internship, Mr Madhukar Upadhyaya had left for London. But I went up to the BBC office, and Swati, who was handing production at that time, asked me to wait perhaps making a phone call to London. Impatient, I waited until she returned and thanked God that Mr Upadhyaya had verified my claims.

I was asked to meet Seema Chishti, then Bureau Chief of the Hindi Service. I had already listened to her husky voice many times on the BBC Radio programmes so it was a a pleasure to speak to her. I rang her up and she asked me to meet het the next day. Again, as mentioned I gathered up my certificates and reached the BBC’s 1-Rafi Marg office. It was a Sunday and no one else was in the office. Seema went over all my certificates, which I felt was not really required. Then she allowed asked me to start my internship the next day.

It was an exceptional opportunity. The BBC does not have a provision for interns, instead allowing traineeship at its HQ in London. But for me it was an opportunity and I was eager to grab it. We all know that the BBC is known for its Radio Services, and that the TV services of the BBC came much latter. It started its first broadcast in India in 1932, with the inception of the BBC Hindustani Service. After partition it was bifurcated into the BBC Hindi and Urdu Service.

Since then the BBC’s radio broadcasts have created waves across mostly rural (mostly) India. The broadcasts during the 1971 war, Indira Gandhi’s assassination and General Elections, in India were some of the events in history through which the BBC firmly established its charisma in the Indian subcontinent.

I can narrate a story about the reliability of the BBC. The late Prime Minister Mr Rajiv Gandhi was in Calcutta at the moment when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. He got to know about it, but did not trust the information and kept a radio set stuck next to him throughout the flight back to Delhi, only believing the news when the BBC announced the tragedy.


The BBC has also been home to some of the prominent figures who served within, like Balraj Sahni, Inder Kumar Gujral, Purushottam Lal Pahwa, Onkar Nath Srivastava and Kailash Budhwar.

Not to say that the BBC is considered to be a trusted name, but somehow in recent years it has lost its charisma among its popular listeners.

During my internship I got to work with Seema Chishti, a St Stephens graduate, Mike Woodridge, who was heading the South-Asia bureau, Salma Zaidi, as well as Shalini Joshi, who was a new face in the BBC at that time.

However, I most keenly observed Andrew Whitehead and Satish Jacob, who were working on a series of stories at the BBC. Satish Jacob was a really humble man who, who along with Mark Tully, wrote the book on Indira Gandhi’s assassination.


India was celebrating its first fifty years of independence in 1998 and every producer in the BBC was preparing a special program to mark the day. I felt a huge amount of pride on this special occasion which left an unforgettable mark on me. However, I was unable to understand the behaviour of the two ladies who asked me that day to wind up my internship the very next day. Perhaps, I was involved more than I was required or maybe it was felt that I had learnt quite enough from the BBC.

Whatever the reason, the two ladies called me into a cabin and said let’s stop my internship. I asked for the reason as there were still four days left in my internship period. They said nothing but for me to leave.

I was shocked and tried to call London to speak to Mr Madhukar Upadhyaya, but I now feel that he was not consulted about the decision.

I thanked Seema Chishti for releasing all my certificates immediately and for helping me learn about so many new things, and returned back to South Campus.

The BBC, by that time, had made me learn about the ABC’s of journalism.

It was my first brush with an international organisation, at the age of 22. I ended my relationship with the BBC in August 1998 but to this day I remain in touch with its people there.



My days in Zee News (Zee India TV)


Again I was out of an internship. The only consolation point I had was that I was still continuing with my studies, but felt that I would not stop. I gathered all my courage, tried to wipe out away my tears and hurt from the BBC experience, and rang up my only sympathisers in the BBC – Madhukar Upadhyaya and Shalini Joshi. Since Madhukar was away from my reach, I relied on Shalini Joshi, a relatively new face at the BBC. She immediately answered my call and asked me to go and meet Mr Shiv Prasad Joshi, one of the most reliable recognizable faces in Zee India TV (now Zee News).

With no other option left, I put my trust in her words and soon got an time appointment with Mr Joshi. I was very keen to see the budding new face of the Indian news industry. To remind my readers, there were only three channels in the Indian TV news circuit at that time – Zee India TV, Aaj Tak and NDTV -Star News.

I do not remember how I managed to get inside the Zee News Corporation, but Shiv Joshi eventually played a major role in helping me learn about the scripting side of things. A rather young and energetic bearded man with sharp skills of packaging and narration, he was a prominent and most highly reliable face of Zee India TV.


It was October 1998 when I began working in Zee India TV’s two room office. I was still staying in Mahipalpur and slowly picking up the local Jat lingo. My duty working hours were mostly the night shifts as most interns were relegated to time periods to learn when there was no great news load. My routine was to come to South Campus first and then to take the number 323 bus direct to Nodia Gole Chakkar, and then a rickshaw to Film City. By that time Zee India TV had shifted its office to Film City in Noida, and had taken on its present logo of Zee News.

Not to say that Zee News is a mecca for beginners and learners, but you do get plenty of opportunities to learn new skills on a professional and personal front.

I was put on the newsdesk working mostly under Shiv Joshi’s leadership. The Hindi and English news team would work in the same news room, and there was no demarcation among work and people.

This was at a time in Zee News when everyone, from the editor-in-chief to the interns, were all trying to put in their best efforts – their 100%. The regular employees were aiming to get promoted and the interns to secure a foothold in the only Hindi-English news channel running 24-7. Rakesh Khar, our editor in chief, was a humble man with a sharp instinct on who to pick for what work. He nurtured many new faces during that time, many of whom are now big shots in the Indian TV Industry.

And yes, right there inbetween was I, an intern who had come all the way from a small religiously warm and disputed town, living under the shadow of the Babri Masjid demolition and its consequences. Throughout my early days, I had never been able to forget the faces of the several Hindu and Muslim families who had lost their lives in the Battle of Babri. This was the one issue that had pushed me to choose a career in the news, over a more comfortable one in the field of science. God knows I never liked discussing this issue, and sometimes was even reluctant to tell the people at Zee News that I was from Ayodhya. Most people who wanted to know more would be very curious about all that had happened there in the past.

So my daily routine started at 3:00pm each day. I would come into the office, take some footage from reporters or from the news wire, and then log it on the preview machine. This was the place where I noticed that some of the time I had the company of a beautiful girl sitting next to me on another machine. It was an interesting job that involved rolling the machine backward and forward to see all the footage, and then to note down the counters on it.

My job was to return the tape with the counters to the person in charge and then it was his decision to select whom he wanted to give the tape to for writing the script. I was always dying to write the scripts and doi the voice-overs. There was one shift in charge who knew my eagerness, but always pushed me back onto the preview machine to do more logging, which I hated. I just wanted to write the scripts and do the voice-overs.

And Shiv Joshi knew this. I was always a pleasant person, and if Shiv were the shift-in charge on any day, that day I would get to write at least four scripts and record two voice-overs.

Almost a month later I realized that the beautiful girl sitting on the next preview machine was actually an intern and was studying for a course in DCAC.

So eventually, my hunt for more scripts and more voice-overs was finally fulfilled when our editor-in-chief put me in charge of the night shift on a permanent basis.

The night shift involved more fun and less work for all of us, and while working there the day came that changed my inner being forever.


Walkie-talkies were used primarily for guest coordination on those days and also to for coordination between the late night pick-ups and drops. It was an unusually cold night with pouring rain in the chilling winter of December in Delhi. My pick-up van had reached the office and we were just getting ready to start our shift, which involved sorting out stories from outstation bureaus, desk and wires.

My shift in-charge was holding a walkie-talkie to check who else had left on that rainy night. All of a sudden a female voice crackled over the walkie-talkie, “My pick-up car has crashed at Ashram, I am unable to reach the office in time.” And then voice broke out and vanished from the small device. We tried to figure out who it was, and started leaving messages for other vehicles along that route. However, even after an hour we did had not received any message from that unknown female voice.

Then someone banged on the doors of the news-room. The lady who entered was half drenched, dressed in a yellow t-shirt and blue jeans, and was almost smiling at her victory over the weather, as she had managed to reach the office well in time. She was the one person who later managed to prevent the only English bulletin of Zee News from being shut down. I must admit that it was a day which would have been shaky for all of us, if the English team had not arrived in time, as later we got to know that it was the first trial run of the English bulletin, which was to be closely watched by Subhash Chandra.

That daring lady is now at a very senior position serving passionately within the world’s biggest news agency.


I learnt that day how to manage the risks and dangers involved during crucial operations of news channels.

We were a small team of interns, producers, reporters and desk personnel, but that very team steered the path for Zee News to achieve the glory of today. Perhaps no one from that team is still working for Zee News, but the mark made by them and the effort put in by us all is still remembered by everyone today, most having moved on to higher places in the media industry.

Now that the English bulletin service on Zee News has been wrapped up, each member of that team, the full time employees as well as interns, both have a deep sense of pride, along with all good wishes for the leading lady who dared to survive and saved us all and the bulletin on that chilling day.





Read the next instalment of Story of an Intern in Tuck Magazine




Ratnesh Dwivedi

Ratnesh Dwivedi is a seasoned Academician, Author, Journalist, NASA Certified Educator and Consultant with 15 plus years in teaching and corporate. He has seen the changing face of global politics and has written extensively on International Affairs.

He serves on board of a dozen global firms ranging from Mining, Oil & Gas, Electricity, Energy, Cyber Security, Intelligence, Defence and Counter Terrorism having the finest people from the corporate world and Goverment onboard.

He holds memberships with global organizations such as ECREA-Brussels, Mission Essential-Virginia, Global Ethics Network-Washington, American Astronomical Society-Washington, Internet Society-Virginia, CSIS-PONI-Washington, RTDNA-Washington, NSTA-Virginia, EIN News Desk, Bush Presidential Center, Texas, etc.

He has authored five books. The Story of an Intern is a Reportage, The Cosmic Mask is a Space Fiction, Third and fourth are awarded academic books. His fifth book, US Intelligence and Cost of War talks about USA Military engagements in the Middle East.

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