Citizens of the world

Helping Ifra publications with the multiblog at IfraExpo 2007 were three young journalism students – Arlette Mazic, Claudia Grünwald, and Johanna Schönfeld – from the FHWien University of Applied Sciences of WKW, a Vienna-based institution. An enterprising lot, they would suddenly burst into laughter in the midst of keying in stories; somehow, they brought more life into the Ifra Gazette and Multiblog newsroom.

Arlette, the senior most, has that rare passion for journalism and a fire in her belly, if you will. She would stay late evenings to complete her pieces, breaking away to take pictures of scenes at the Expo past 7 pm. She joined a few of the editors and myself the first evening over glasses of beer and champagne. We were soaking in the atmosphere at the Reed Wien Messe foyer – it was the Cross Media Awards Nite and the general spirit was one of partying. She mentioned how much she enjoyed it all. The following morning, after I had edited some of her pieces, she said, “How much I could have learnt from you…” I could have told her the same thing – there is quite a bit to be learnt from young journalists these days.

Arelette loves Hindi films and her favourite star is Sharukh Khan. She hasn’t seen many Hindi films though. But she vividly remembers Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and sought explanations for certain scenes in the movie I couldn’t recollect. Her boyfriend, Ramitin Abidi, had seen Sholay several times, and she is desperate to see it too, but has not been able to get hold of a CD or DVD so far. Areltte would walk me sometimes to Hotel Hilton Danube where I stayed; her car was parked close by. She would make it a point to ensure that I reached the hotel gates safely before walking her way back to the car park. I gave her a list of Hindi films she should see with Ramtin and I promised to get her a few CDs if I ever visited Vienna again.

Areltte was keen that I help her with her multiblog effort on the final day. However, that was not to be as both of us were saddled with work and just when it seemed I might find the time, it was late afternoon and time for the newsroom to close down.

That was not the last I saw of Arlette. As promised, she arrived at the hotel at about 10 pm, complete with Mirabell chocolates and Marillen Likor (a mild drink). I was, of course, taken aback. She wanted me to meet Ramtin who was waiting on the other side of the road, and hastily we crossed the Hilton overbridge.

Ramtin is from Teheran. He studied in Vienna after leaving Teheran with his mother and brother during the Iran-Iraq war. Together, we drove towards Vienna’s District 1, filled with imposing buildings such as the Burgtheater and the Parliament. It was a part of Vienna I had never seen earlier.

Dinner was at Café Landtmann (opposite the Burgtheater), where we shared a Tafelspitz, Areltte’s choice. When were they planning to get married, I asked. When he decides to put the engagement ring, Arlette shot back. Ramtin had visited Bombay as a child, and he still remembers the crowd and the atmosphere. He, with his strong views on various aspects of life, seemed to me to be a man of this world. Arlette matched this with her exuberance and love of adventure and new media.

After I returned to Chennai, I was pleasantly surprised one evening to receive an email from Arlette. Open the attachment and have a look, she had written. It was a picture of her with Ramtin, and she was displaying the engagement ring on her finger. It was a special moment they both savoured. And I couldn’t resist raising a toast and saying,” All the very best, dear friends!”

(A triumphant Arlette shows off her engagement ring as Ramtin savours the special moment.)


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