If you haven't read Known Turf: bantering with bandits and other true tales, by Annie Zaidi, then it's time you go buy yourself a copy. Zaidi is a well known blogger, an experienced journalist and an accomplished poet. Known Turf is a collection of essays based on her years working for Frontline, but this book does not read like Frontline. Sure, the issues are similar: communalism, caste oppression, violence against women, environmental destruction, hunger, etc. But the difference lies in the voice--and a willingness to go places journalists are not typically allowed to go: the realm of feelings, for example, and self examination.
Here's Zaidi writing about the time she violated one of her journalistic rules and held a malnourished baby in Madhya Pradesh:
I shouldn't have. Face, name: those things one could forget. But the memory of how such skin feels: baby skin that has gone baggy; like a dull, old woman strung around a small body with tiny wrists and arms. Her neck was so fragile--half the width of my small palm. Her fingers so thin--I have never seen fingers so skeletal on a tight-curled baby fist--too thin to reach out and grasp your own extended ones...I should not have held her, for I remember now that she weighed less than my handbag. Should not have noticed that she did not cry, not even at the prospect of a bunch of strangers peering at her. Should not have stopped to think that this is the first baby I've held who seems not to care that she is held. Should not have given way to the sudden terror that, this very instant, in my arms, she might stop moving entirely. (pg. 56)
That, my friends, is a poet reporting. You could call it journalism with a heart. You could call it travel writing with a conscience.Whatever you call it, Known Turf is a book that will stay with you.
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