New Delhi: The pandemic has changed everything for us. It has made things worse for people, everyone is suffering, some lost their job, some are suffering health-wise, while some are still managing to clear their minds out of all the havoc that Covid-19 has caused. However, there is still hope, a hope of fighting back and surviving these tough times. There is an antidote to every hardship. This is the time where we can learn more about ourselves, give more time to centralise on what we really want.
Gautam S Mengle, 35, resident of Thane, Mumbai, a journalist by profession lost his job last year during the lockdown phase. The Thane boy started his journalism journey in the crime beat in September 2008, at the Asian Age, an English newspaper. Mengle started working under veteran crime reporter S Hussain Zaidi, an Indian author and former investigative journalist. In 2012, Mengle started working with The Indian Express, later shifted to the Mumbai Edition of The Hindu.
During the first phase of lockdown, in March 2020, Gautam was recovering from his lower back agony which made him realise how badly he has been defying his health and body shape. Mengle says, “Be it eating habits, sleep patterns, strength or stamina, I was far from fit in every way.” He later added that their organisation confers them to work from home unless it is something important to research on. He thought of utilising that commuting time to get back in shape. Yes, of course by staying at home.
The thane boy was clear about the rest of the hallway. He got in touch with Zaid Khan, a fitness trainer. Mengle says, “I had been following Zaid on Instagram for a while. He specialises in tailor-made fitness programmes, which take into account your existing schedule, the equipment you have and your eating habits, and adjusts fitness plans accordingly, instead of the other way round”.
One month later, he started his training under the supervision of Zaid’s guidance. No equipment but just exercising solely with his bodyweight, continuously for four months. Things were going pretty well for Mengle, but then the pandemic showed its true colour. The newspaper industry started seeing a downpour in the economy. The Hindu started giving less salaries to the employees, which further created some uncertain trouble among all the employees including Gautam. In between June, Mengle, including 21 were warned that this can be their last month of working. “As cliche as this may sound, I remember that day vividly. It was early evening and I was just about to start writing my articles for the day when I received a WhatsApp message from a colleague in Delhi. It only said, “Is it true?” and the cryptic nature of the message got me worried. I asked her what she was referring to, and she said she had heard that staff cuts had started in the Mumbai bureau. I immediately called up another colleague in Mumbai, who told me that he had heard the same.
“I spent the rest of the evening working under immense dread and in a couple of hours, I got the call informing me that my name was on that list as well,” Mengle says. For Gautam, it was very difficult to share this news with family and especially with his mother. “My mother has always been supportive, she said we will go through this together as we always have, the other call I made was to Zaidi sir, who, after our stint together at The Asian Age, went on to become my mentor and guide, not just in journalism but also in life. We spoke for around two hours and during this conversation, touched upon two points that would turn out to be crucial for my journey. The first was that cybercrime was the crime of the future and that there was a need for crime reporters to upgrade their knowledge of this field beyond the traditional perception of cybercrime, which is mostly limited to phishing scams. The other point was the lack of dedicated cybercrime coverage in India, apart from tech portals and magazines which have articles filled with jargon that the lay reader is unable to understand,” says Mengle.
This conversation made Mengle discover that there are alternatives that still can be established by his little hard work and enthusiasm. He started working on the website named CySpy India. After earmarking 2 months, Mengle, with mentor Zaidi officially launched his website on August 15. They aimed to generate easy content on cybercrime and cybersecurity for the general public.
The thane boy still continued what he started earlier, his fitness journey and the next was the release of his novel named ‘Intersections’. As the days passed on, his exercises started getting intense. He got a set of dumbbells, which he kept increasing from two kilograms to ten kilograms and chest presses 20 kgs on each side. He worked hard and got back into shape.
His novel was finally released on October 11, 2020, and received lots of kudos and appreciation from all over the country. Mengle says, “When one door was closed for me in June 2020, a lot of doors were opened as well. As bad a blow as it was when it landed, I would be ungrateful if I did not acknowledge all the good things it also exposed me to.”