Returning to regular writing for the paper where this scribe began his journalism career as a sub-editor back in August 1973 brings back many mixed memories. Soon after my graduation, I looked for vacancies. All vacancy notices mentioned “experience” as an essential criterion for selection. This youth of barely 21 years was dissuaded by the demand. You cannot get a job without experience; nor can you acquire experience without a job. Most youths face a similar situation even today. The Rising Nepal’s vacancy announcement that summer did not ask for any experience. Debut in journalism was purely a question of securing a job. Once into the profession, it became a lifelong passion. Thirty-five years and 2,200 articles later, this scribe’s desire to scribble write-ups remains as keen now as when his maiden printed piece appeared in The Rising Nepal three-and-a-half decades ago. Putting thoughts to pen and paper, or computer, is not an easy undertaking, especially if one were to remain faithful to the demands of deadlines and the dictates of specified space. This scribe’s last innings as a columnist for the country’s oldest English news publication carried on for 11 consecutive years without a break, come what may - rain or sunshine, frequent visits to the districts or scores of trips abroad. The new column’s longevity and continuity can be found only in the womb of the future. Sense and scene Writers at times tend to become restrained more by consideration of prudence than by principles of fair play. Many political leaders become “respected”, “admired” and even “loved” because of the power and position they hold. They are discarded or even despised when they fall from the pedestal of privilege and pelf. This has become a deep-seated custom in our society. Scribes, too, are not immune to some of the traits that leaders in other professions carry. People like to flatter themselves that their opinions are widely read and appreciated for what they believe to be gems of wisdom. Nothing could be further from the truth. The mere presence of one’s thoughts in print is no guarantee that they are read, let alone received well. Those without opinion or with outright prejudices conceal more than reveal. Caution may be justified but not outright bias. Conviction would tell a tale of consistency. The company, comfort and convenience that the construction of each column piece offers can be satisfying. How one employs the forum constitutes the test of one’s character and thinking unless one is a past master at feigning appearances and concealing hypocrisy. To paraphrase what that celebrated 19th century American writer Mark Twain said in a slightly different context, a person who can but won’t write has no advantage over one who can’t write. Writing is as much a career of honour as it is of labour, chronicling and commenting upon issues and events as history unfolds with its vicissitudes. Talking of scribes brings up the name of Ian Baker, a New Yorker, who had been living in Nepal for the last 24 years before he found himself on the run since May. Following a tip-off, police raided his two rented houses in Kathmandu, where they found over 120 pieces of rare animal skins, antiques and other items banned from private possession in Nepal. This broke his façade of a journalist and a “celebrated” writer. He knew of the existing National Park and Conservation Act 2029, which prohibits people from killing, injuring and trading in endangered animals and their trophies. Police should have realised that the feature writer for National Geographic, Newsweek and BBC could not have made a proper living by merely freelancing occasionally even if the media he worked for had an international reputation. For the work available is far too little to justify a regular correspondent. He used to visit northern Nepal far too often but apparently not often enough to attract the attention of our intelligence agencies. No wonder, the notorious Charles Shobraj, in a Nepalese jail facing charges of murder committed in the 1970s, once boasted that he could smuggle even an elephant through the Tribhuvan International Airport customs. Not lying down Intelligent journalists are an asset for not only the media they work for but also their audiences for the resultant quality output just as those working for intelligence agencies and yet mingling in the media sphere as journalists deserve to be weeded out with all professional might. A constant speculation is that intelligence personnel infiltrate the fourth estate as journalists to keep tabs on media organisations and report regularly to their seniors. Some are earning pensions; others are hired on contract. It would be a great service if the new government published the names of those who served as such hirelings. The Federation of Nepalese Journalists, the largest organisation of its type, should take up the matter in real earnest to add credence to its vow to promote professionalism, extracting government commitment that informers do not infiltrate the media as news hounds. Proxy questioning is another disgusting practice. A reputed international news agency correspondent once asked me to raise a specific question to a visiting Chinese leader. When flatly refused, the foreign correspondent reacted acidly: “What are you here for then, for a joy ride?” Not to take things lying down, yours fumingly said: “And what are you here for, playing a proxy reporter and pocketing sterling pounds?” The motto: If you put your finger in the fire, you shouldn’t expect it not to get burnt. At the Tribhuvan International Airport during late King Birendra’s coronation in 1975, journalists were given the choice of wearing a suit or the national dress for covering the arrivals of visiting dignitaries. Most journalists were in the national attire. An army major came straight to me and tried to give a dressing down: “Of which country is your dress?” The reply: “What about your own uniform - is it from Gorkha, handed down from the times of Prithvi Narayan Shah?” Stunned, the man in uniform retreated and went to other journalists asking for my background. At least when the playing field is on an even plane, no one should be made to cower down. Ideally, a writer would do well to search for the voice within and let it not be distorted when it sees the fine print.