A bit late to the party as ever, I read Martha Gellhorn’s ‘Travels with Myself and Another’ a while back. She was a woman with brass balls and apparently little in the way of fear. Another way of describing the former wife of Ernest Hemingway might be ‘mad as a box of angry snakes’.
She had one hell of a can-do attitude and could write in a way that few others could replicate for strength and clarity. She’s an icon in my portfolio of people i’d want to be like if I ever grow up.
So what of a modern Martha? I’m writing this on my jack-jones in a hotel room in Bangalore. I’d be an idiot to say it’s anything like her travels or that I can manage her style and nuance in reporting, but I can at least try to pick up a little of her spirit.
‘Travels with Myself and My laptop’ in a contrasted electronic city? I’m not going to brave mosquitoes and dengue fever of course (the bugs here are large, I’m certain had I been close enough to the cockroach I saw earlier, it might have asked me for a light). But there’s something to be said for planning to meet new people and getting out to strange places armed with bottled water and a vague sense of direction for a tale or three.
My visions of Martha, drinking with locals and writing in a notebook are romantic past ideas of journalists in colonies or explorers taking notes. Calling in stories over a wire from hot countries in a fever best managed with a cold Gin and Tonic. It’s not like that now of course and certainly not where I am.
I met with two tech locals who were plugged into their Blackberries chatting with friends in New York. It can never be so adventurous, but it can be safer and everyone seems a lot closer. There are still issues to cover, but maybe faster and in colour.
I’d have been afraid to follow any of Martha’s adventures, her marriage included! But today using digital means I rarely alone, even when I am miles away surrounded by different sights, smells and sounds. I wonder if that would have been challenge enough for my heroine?