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Scrolling through my Twitter feed, I see a tweet from BCCI announcing the 12-man squad for the final Test against the Windies at Hyderabad. Rubbing my eyes to shake off my siesta, I jolt myself upright, skimming through the names. “Why wasn’t Mayank Agarwal picked, man?” I mutter to myself, wondering what bad karma befell the Karnataka opener who had done much more than what was asked of him in the past few months.
My immediate thought is to ping Mayank, whom I had interviewed a few months ago and even congratulated on the call-up a week ago, but there is this groggy, preternatural vibe you get from languorous afternoon naps that make you forget the world, pour yourself a cup of coffee, stare into oblivion and reflect on life.
“We haven't had any conversations,” Indian middle-order batsman and Test triple centurion Karun Nair’s words in an interview with Cricbuzz ring in my ears. “None of them have spoken to me since,” Murali Vijay’s words pointing fingers at the Indian selectors’ lack of communication too make an appearance in my dreary thoughts. Surely, picking players like Mayank Agarwal and Mohammad Siraj in the squad and not playing them would do their confidence no good.
I pick up my phone to WhatsApp an editor with a pitch. Noticing the string of messages that had double blue ticks yet no replies, I put my phone away in disgust half-way through typing the pitch.
Then it hits me.
How is my plight or that of several other freelancers out there all that different from what Mayank or Siraj might have gone through? We send in countless pitches, a million ideas and type out several paragraphs to convey our point of view to the editors before we write a piece. There are occasions when discussions on the piece goes on for more than a day and we spend hours putting together ideas and finding the right words only for them to shelve the piece at the last minute. There are the nicer ones too who take the time out to explain the thinking behind the rejection and manage to leave us feeling less disheartened.
Point, though, is how different that is from the fate of these hopefuls in domestic cricket, who slog for hours, practise even more and play matches at every opportunity to catch the eye of the selectors? They are aware there are top-class players at the national level who have experience, talent and everything else aligned in their favour. But the least they expect from the men whose opinion counts is feedback that at the very least clarifies the reason for the rejection. “Am I making enough runs?” or “Should I be more circumspect” — specific questions that the selectors are truly capable of answering yet choose not to.
Quite often, it’s pretty much an identical story with us freelance writers. As a person who has had multiple conversations with umpteen number of editors doing freelance writing, it is easy to arrive at a common theme in those conversations. It is simply sad how many insightful freelance writers fail to have their work accepted by the big publications or how they aren’t getting enough to write. And even sadder is that this is due mostly to a basic lack of proper communication regarding what is expected from the aspiring author or what modifications might improve the work in question.
We scream, through our words, to be heard by the world. But truth be told, sometimes the words do not even reach our editors. There are days of staunch introspection where we question our capabilities, compare ourselves to a few other writers or feel dejected at an idea being rejected even before it has even been read through.
“He didn’t even read my idea, yaar ,” I recall a fellow freelancer messaging me a few days after she had excitedly told me about a very unique, interesting story idea.
“What? No way. How do you know that?” I retort.
“Because the rejection came seconds after my 200-word pitch was sent,” she says.
“That’s the most depressing thing I have heard,” I reply, trying to alleviate her misery with a few words, a ROFL smiley and a depressing meme.
As I reflect on the incident, the pain in her words hit me afresh. I knew she had put in insane hours to come up with the complete idea, yet it took mere seconds for it to be jettisoned into the Abyss of Unrequited Effort.
To be fair, editors are more often than not swamped, torn between a zillion things that freelancers are hardly aware of and some do go out of their way to help us in our growth. There are financial constraints too that prompt them to be as blunt to the freelancers working for them as the organisation is to them.
Yet, the spasmodic sensation of well-thought out ideas falling on deaf ears persists as a dull ache. We pity the hopefuls whose dreams are crushed at the shore even before they begin to take shape as a journey. And on the other side of the ocean too, there are experienced people, who have tasted success, who find themselves being dumped unceremoniously.
“It does cross my mind but then you gear up and get ready to face the next ball,” Mayank had told me in an interview a few months back when asked if selection into the national team is something he thinks about.
I reflect on his words and smile wrily, looking askance at the sun as it sets in the distance. As I put aside my cup of coffee, I take my phone and press the send button.
One grey tick.
Two grey ticks.
Two blue ticks.