sOMA BASU writes about the team that brings you your favourite supplement

OMG, it’s Thursday. I hate Fridays and Saturdays too. These are the days when our MetroPlus editions are out and a call from the boss, Mukund Padmanabhan, is most dreaded.

“Sshhh!” I tell my chattering colleagues, “The boss is on the line.” I don’t want him to overhear the shrieks, the ripple-effect giggles and laughter emanating from our room.

“There’s a mistake in the lead…And who wrote the blurb? Where are the promised number of stories? I want more local stuff, more connectivity to the city, more events,” the boss says. I listen in silence. Any explanation and I would get more of it. An apology is the best and fastest way to go back to the hot aloo paranthas brought in by the bachcha of the team, A.Shrikumar.

We are celebrating today. Celebrating what, is a good question. In Metroplus, every day is a celebration, we believe. Colleagues from other departments join us. We are in a jolly mood, we like our new room, or the boss is happy with our story – there are so many reasons.

Enter T.Saravanan, who has been with Metroplus from its launch in 2003, lunch bag in hand and kumkum on forehead. He reels out a chirpy good morning to all and eyes the breakfast parantha.

S.S.Kavitha tiptoes in, loaded with bags of all sizes. The quietest of all, she says, “I am sorry I am late” only if you catch her eye. Otherwise, she silently switches on the monitor and settles in. Somebody turns around to say, “Oh! You are wearing a nice new dress, looking good.” She blushes and tries to offer an explanation. “My brother’s wedding is round the corner, bought a new one after quite a while.” She has to be coaxed to take a piece of the parantha.

I intervene like a bad class teacher. “We have pages to release.”

With the ad guys we share a love-hate relationship. They drop by to throw in an ad or take out one after we’ve laboured over the lay-out. The Circulation Manager and the Press In Charge are sure to walk in shortly to enquire whether we can release the pages early today. We have a standard reply: “Can’t say till Chennai releases its edition.”

In between, there are visits and calls from people wanting to get their items in. We have mastered the art of saying, “The clearance has to come from Chennai.” The boss comes in so handy when you want to keep people at bay without making them unhappy.

Once the pages are sent to the press for printing and the packages are made for the Internet edition, we decide who is writing what for the next issue. Many stories are also written in advance. Even after I’ve transferred verbatim what the boss said, every team member forgives and forgets fast and gets enthusiastically on with the next round of assignments and interviews, page making, reporting and even re-writing.

S.James, our photo chief, is in demand for MetroPlus stories. On many occasions when I fix up an appointment, many interviewees want to know whether James will be accompanying me. Ah, don’t we get some credit for our lavish display of his work in our feature supplements? And not to forget the other two shutterbugs, G.Moorthy and R.Ashok, who also chip in cheerfully when the need arises.

R.Rajesh, our illustrator, lives in his own world. It is the toughest to get work out of him. But when he does it after calls, reminders and fights, it is a work appreciated by all. And that is what makes us happy at the end.

The head of pagination K.Vijaya Rajalingam is our silent saviour. “Pages ready for typeset?” he will ask with a smile, even when he sees we are still making corrections with the clock ticking.

But it is Saravanan who calls the shots on lay-out days. He puts his heart into bringing the paper in line with the decreed design. Poor fella often misses lunch on production days.

With Shrikumar, I often wonder whether he really sees fashion on Madurai streets and malls or still imagines himself to be living in Mumbai. “No maa’aam….I am reeaally telling you…,” he begins, and I must put an end to it. “Okay, okay…but don’t exaggerate.” I seriously suspect he impressed the boss with his “interest in fashion, lifestyle and trend stories”. In his resume, he cleverly repeated the words we carry every week in our Metroplus tag line and walked into our team last year. It’s a good thing he writes well.

Kavitha is into serious stuff, history and heritage. Almost apologetically she will ask, can I write on women on the path to self-development in a remote village in feature-style. Of course, I beam, happy that a good story is on its way.

I ought to mention our friend from faraway Kochi, Satheesh Vellinezhi, who chips in when all our visual ideas fail with lovely last-minute illustrations (including today’s). Our sports reporter Rajeev Viswanathan, who we hardly meet in office, humbly gives us stories when he feels like. And if you are wondering what Yours Truly does, well that may require a separate article!

We in Metroplus are perhaps the noisiest team on the premises. The truth is we all love our work and enjoy doing it. And that shows.

P.S.: Shrikumar claims he is a good cook. Today’s menu was aloo paranthas and we were just doing a skill-check!

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