superstar status to foreign policy to economic minutiae to war
coverage — even one about his
selfie with Pelé. But one piece
that generated some heat was
one addressing Islamophobia
It had nothing to do with
what he saw during his stint in
Baghdad. “There’s not much
scope for Islamophobia in
Baghdad,” he points out.
It was back in the United
States, after protests about a
Muslim community center
near where the World Trade
Center buildings fell, that Time
ran the piece.
“It focused attention,” Ghosh
says. “There were smaller inci-
dents around the country
around mosques. There were
more reports of Muslims being
harassed. Surveys showing
there was a lot of hostility. That
was the moment in Time we did
the story. And rather than do a
story on what was happening,
we decided we were going to
dig in a little deeper and ask the
bigger question: Is America
“There are no simple answers
— and this was no exception.
The answer we came up with
was, not as much as in other
countries, but yes. And it was a
growing trend and it was a
trend that — if it was not
arrested — would lead to worse
Ghosh says the US is less
Islamophobic than the Europe,
but more than America used to
be 20 or 40 years ago.
“There is clearly a deterioration. And that is something that
needs addressing, needs arresting, needs fixing,” he says.
What about India then?
“There’s plenty of
Islamophobia in India, which
leads to big spurts of violence.
Lots and lots of people being
killed,” Ghosh says. “It’s a slightly schizophrenic thing, where
on the one hand you can have
Muslims in very prominent
positions. That allows a lot of
non-Muslim Indians to feel
comfortable with themselves.
MY DIGITAL LEAP
India Abroad August 29, 2014
M3 THE MAGAZINE
Bobby Ghosh’s wife Bipasha met him in high school. And she has observed how his passion for journalism sent him to everything from trade conventions to war zones. The head of international marketing for NBC Universal’s Syfy Channel, she has also had to travel a lot, but still has trouble reconciling
to her husband’s frequent trips to dangerous places.
“At 16, he already had a very clear idea of what he wanted to do with
his life,” Bipasha says. “Everyone else I knew wanted to be either a doc-
tor or an engineer. Bobby never wanted to be anything but a journalist.
Back then, journalists in India were very poorly paid, and he warned
me repeatedly that he would never be comfortably off. He used to joke
that he hooked up with me because my income prospects were much
better than his!”
While she was used to his frequent trips abroad, she was less than
comfortable when he went to Iraq as Time’s bureau chief there.
“We’ve both had careers that require lots of travel. Plus, I took a mid-career break to do my MBA in the UK, while he was still in Hong Kong.
So being apart was normal,” she says. “But when he went off to Baghdad
for five years, that was very different: I supported his desire to cover the
biggest story of the time, but I was also constantly fearful for his life.
Nobody really prepared me to be the wife of a war correspondent; when
we got married, he was a business writer.”
Skype helped them keep in touch during a very difficult time, she says.
According to her, they even had meals together sitting in front of their
computer screen — with her husband eating a late lunch in Baghdad
while she had dinner in Singapore, where she was working for the BBC.
“We would just leave Skype on even if we were not actually talking to
each other,” she says. “Oh! we even celebrated birthdays and anniver-
saries over Skype! And we spoke to each other a lot, even if our call last-
ed only a second. Bobby knew that I would be worried 24/7. He was
really good about calling to tell me that he is OK.”
Bipasha, though, has not been OK with his trips to hotspots, such as
Kashmir, Palestine and Yemen.
“I won’t say I ever got used to it: I learned to cope,” she says. “He has a
habit, which I hate, of keeping the most scary things from me, like the
instances when his life was in danger. I hear those stories a long time
after they have occurred: Some of his Iraq stories, I’m only hearing now!
Or I hear them from someone else, like Franco Pagetti or Yuri Kozyrev,
the photographers who have worked with him most closely.”
During these trips, he hit some really bad lows, she adds: “He’s had
colleagues killed, badly hurt, kidnapped. That takes a huge emotional
toll. Probably the most difficult thing he had had to endure was shutting
down Time’s Baghdad bureau in 2007. He had hired most of the Iraqi
staff there, and they were very close. These were not
colleagues; they were a band of brothers. Bobby was
And despite the grief these trips have given him,
Bipasha says, she can still see that he feels like going
back there. “He seems happy to be in an office now,
but I know there’s a part of him that wants to be out
in the field,” she says. “When we watch the news, I
sometimes catch a certain look in his eyes, and I
know he wants to be there, in Syria or in Gaza or in
Nigeria. Once a war correspondent, always a war cor-
respondent. I sometimes joke that if he craves con-
flict so much, I can supply conflict at home.”
In Baghdad, one way he worked off work-related
stress was by diving into the kitchen, Bipasha says.
“Before he went to Iraq, all he knew to make was
breakfast: Scrambled eggs, sausages, that kind of
thing. As a bachelor in Kolkata, he subsisted on
Maggi 2-minute noodles,” she says. “In Iraq, he found
the food bland. Having grown up in Andhra Pradesh,
he likes food very spicy. So, after the first year there,
he sent me an SOS. I sent him some basic recipes,
and some of my own inventions.”
Skype helped her stop him making the most egregious of errors, but things went surprisingly well.
“To his own surprise, he discovered that he had a
knack for cooking, and enjoyed it very much,”
Bipasha says. “He also found cooking really therapeu-
tic at the end of a stressful day.”
Bobby also got some of his ideas from BBC’s
According to Bipasha, “He likes to say he fell in love with cooking in
Baghdad. I keep telling him that it is easy to fall in love with cooking
when you don’t have to do all the hard stuff, like chopping and cleaning.
That was done mostly by his long-suffering housemate, the Italian pho-
tographer Franco Pagetti, as well as his Iraqi colleague Sami Hilali.
(Franco also taught Bobby to cook Italian). They would cook for big
groups: the Time bureau had lots of Iraqi staff, including security
guards, drivers and translators. To this day, Bobby is more comfortable
cooking for 20 than for two.”
Soon, she says, their cooking was drawing more visitors.
“If Franco was not making pasta, then Bobby was making biryani or
rice and curry. Other foreign correspondents began to drop in. Many
journalists I’ve met since then, who spent time in Iraq, have told me how
much they enjoyed the respite from constant Iraqi food,” Bipasha says.
When Bobby came back, he even began giving his wife suggestions.
“He even had the temerity to critique my cooking style — ‘You
need to stir more often,’ is one of his favorite phrases — and suggest
variations to my recipes,” she says. “I feel like Dr Frankenstein: I’ve
created a monster!
“Jokes aside, its great to have him cook when we have guests to dinner,” she adds. “My only real complaint is that he refuses to learn any
vegetarian dishes. He’s a complete carnivore, whether at the dining
table or in the kitchen.” n
ÂNOBODY REALLY PREPARED ME TO BE
THE WIFE OF A WAR CORRESPONDENTÊ
Bipasha Ghosh shares stories about her husband — from high school
to trade conventions and war zones — with P Rajendran
‘When is the
for the first
Bobby and Bipasha Ghosh. COURTES Y: BIPASHA GHOSH