Sometime last October, I was unable to contact Sumegha didi — that is what I call her –and got really worried. Later, when she called, I got to know she was in Kashmir, reporting. And here I was, both shocked and inspired. Battling last stages of cancer, but not letting that come between her and her passion, journalism.
As I am here at Asian College of Journalism, training to be a journalist, I get the shock of my life. My first mentor in this field, Sumegha Gulati, is no more. I knew, we all knew, that she would recover and be the same firebrand journalist that she has always been. But fate had other plans.
In April 2013, it was my last Class XII board examination and it was her weekly off at The Indian Express. I decided to skip the crucial high school graduation party just to meet her for the very first time. We had an instant connection. She narrated stories from her internships at The Hindustan Times and Greater Kashmir. I was thrilled how in her second year of graduation she went all the way to Kashmir to report. Her love and passion for Kashmir was surely contagious. And as the conversation continued, I knew we were carbon copies.
She had recovered from cancer when I first met her and she was following the Nirbhaya case for the Express. I was surprised that she reported crime stories inspite of battling cancer. “Karm hi Pooja hai” used to be her pet dialogue; such was her passion for reporting.
I cried for the first time for her when she messaged me from Mumbai, where she was being treated. She said, “Surbhi, I want to live, I want to report, I want to go to Afghanistan to report.” To which I said, “Insha Allah, we will go, I will go with you as an assistant.”
She was my 2 am person; I used to call her to clear doubts about my projects, stories, life with her. Her mother noticed that she never refused to talk or meet me when she didn’t want to. We have had bitter arguments when we discussed politics and current affairs, but that never came in between our relationship. She helped me get my first-ever internship and that too at indianexpress.com.
I always told her that she is my role model, my inspiration and she never believed me.
It’s been eight months since we last met as she had gone to Mumbai for her treatment. I used to tell her after every 15 days that I want to fly to Mumbai and meet her. Her constant reply was, “Bacche, I am coming to Delhi in September, will meet you.”
We had decided to write each other hand-written letters just two days back and today I wrote the first of those. But as I said, fate had other plans.
Rest in Power, Didi!
Sumegha Gulati, who used to work for The Indian Express, passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer. She was 26.
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