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PM addresses Women's Press Corps
October 06, 2004 21:18 IST
The setting was perfect for a man who is the father of three daughters -- the Prime Minister of India. The Indian Women's Press Corps invited Manmohan Singh to grace celebrations to mark their 10th anniversary on Tuesday.
The Indian Women's Press Corps is set up on the lines of the Press Club of India, which serves as a watering hole (drinks are cheaper here since the government has benevolently cut the excise duties) and a networking forum (public relations guys and lobbyists are to be found in huge numbers).
But the grand ceremony wasn't held at the IWPC club located in the heart of New Delhi, but inside the comfortable environs of a five-star hotel. The IWPC members, journalists in the various media outfits that operate in or from Delhi, were dressed in their finest, a far sight from the journalist tradition of dressing down.
Colourful sarees and the occasional kurta-churidar were the order of the evening as the women rushed around making last-minute arrangements in anticipation of the prime minister's arrival.
Dr Manmohan Singh, considered India's most no-nonsense prime minister, arrived on time and walked briskly to the podium. The MC (note, madam of ceremonies) then asked him to light the lamp that would mark the start of IWPC's 10th anniversary celebrations. Just that someone forgot that to light a lamp, one needs, well, a lighter or matches. After some embarrassing shuffling around, matches were procured and the prime minister then lit the lamp and all was well.
IWPC members spoke about their struggle in launching the forum. Even the brochure brought out on the occasion had the same theme. IWPC members, including president Sushma Ramachandran, also lamented about the high rent they were paying for the IWPC's current premises. If the idea was to send a hint across to the prime minister (since the rent is collected by a government agency), his demeanour or statements gave no clue that he got the hint!
The prime minister, instead, dwelt on the media's role and gender issues. He said the government had set up a Group of Ministers to look into India's media policy, a reference to the demand from some quarters to allow foreign publications to enter the country.
Later, the IWPC presented a skit, a satire on women journalists balancing their multiple roles as housewives and working women, while planning the 10th anniversary celebrations of the IWPC.
The prime minister left after the skit and therefore missed the dance performance, choreographed by Leela Samson, that was amazingly graceful and perhaps the best part of the evening.
Then came the informal part as the members and the invited guests milled around, catching up with friends and exchanging gossip. Drinks flowed freely and the dinner was delicious.
Incidentally, in its earliest days, IWPC did not serve alcohol on its hallowed premises. The result was low attendance with journalists preferring the Press Club. Getting the message loud and clear, IWPC began serving alcohol and saw its membership rise. It also gave IWPC an air of informality, a place where women could let their hair down. The club now has 350 members, very far from the 18 who founded the club 10 years ago.
More reports from Delhi
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