Fea­tures editor Anand Raj OK has been with the mag­a­zine since the sec­ond edi­tion

Friday - - Anniversary Special -

The Burj Khal­ifa was nonex­is­tent. It would be­gin con­struc­tion only in 2004. Nor was the Burj Al Arab launched. That would throw open its doors in 1999. Float­ing Bridge and Busi­ness Bay Cross­ing were yet to ma­te­ri­alise (both would open in 2007).

But at the Gulf News of­fice near Safa Park, green and full of trees at the time, a prod­uct was begin­ning to take shape in 1997 – a brand new mag­a­zine. Few, apart from the then mag­a­zine editor knew the ti­tle – Fri­day. Fresh from work­ing on a na­tional pa­per in Ben­galuru, In­dia, I re­mem­ber ar­riv­ing at the Gulf News of­fice – a much smaller one com­pared to the present – and quickly get­ting to work. Pages for the first edi­tion had al­ready gone to press to be dis­trib­uted with Gulf News on May 16, 1997. Meet­ings for sched­ul­ing, plan­ning, and com­mis­sion­ing fea­tures were the or­der of the day but the weekly brain­storm­ing get-to­geth­ers were the most fun, and not just be­cause of the de­li­cious samosas and hot cof­fee that was par for course, but for the of­ten vo­cif­er­ous de­bates and dis­cus­sions that en­sued when con­cep­tu­al­is­ing a fea­ture.

Post-work was fun too, lis­ten­ing to tales shared by se­nior col­leagues about Dubai. ‘Some days af­ter work we used to walk across [the much smaller] Shaikh Zayed Road to the Metropoli­tan Ho­tel to grab a cuppa,’ one col­league told me, al­though I’m sure it was not tea he was re­fer­ring to.

I didn’t have such ad­ven­tures, though. A bank of fea­tures had to be cre­ated and churn­ing them out was the pri­or­ity. From writ­ing about a man who quit Mi­crosoft to set up li­braries in Nepal to meet­ing space-go­ing Pak­istani na­tional Namira Salim, life was busy but in­ter­est­ing.

So, which is my most mem­o­rable fea­ture? I guess it’s last year’s one on a school in Ker­ala, In­dia, be­cause it earned me my first in­ter­na­tional award.

But the fea­ture that truly moved me – and hun­dreds of readers, go­ing by the re­sponse – was the one about Karibeeran Parmeswaran, who af­ter los­ing three chil­dren in the 2005 tsunami, de­cided to be a father to some or­phaned by the wave.

‘You know,’ he told me, ‘there are moments when I stand on the bal­cony of my house and look out to the sea and softly call out to my chil­dren. I re­mem­ber the sweet mem­o­ries I had with them. Then I look at the 34 chil­dren I now have and feel this is what I sup­pose I was born to do.’ Truly hum­bling.

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