Please tell us about your educational journey. Why did you opt for an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career such as mass communication? How was your experience at Patna Women’s College?
I completed my primary education from Allahabad and senior schooling from Patna. I didn’t want to pursue Mass Communication. I had to do it under compulsion because in those days, Patna University used to offer a five years course for graduation. My college had the autonomy, since UGC had started granting autonomous status at that time, by virtue of which Mass Communication used to take only three years for graduation. So that’s why I opted for mass communication. I had no interest in Journalism at all, not even today.
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Patna Women’s College is a missionary college. Generally, in missionary colleges, nuns play a major role and universities do not directly interfere in the day-to-day management and administration of the college. It is a very old college. The first woman commercial pilot completed her graduation from this college. Several players of the Indian Women’s National Cricket Team have also completed their graduation from this college. So the college was as good as it has been always.
Was your first job at The Times of India?
I didn’t get a job there. As students, we were allowed to write freelance articles. My first byline was published in The Times of India. From the following year, I started freelancing for the Hindustan Times as well. They liked my way of writing and started giving me assignments. So, as a freelancer, I used to work for both the media houses. It was not a job. I got my first job only after my graduation.
What was the subject of your first byline?
A pre-poll survey was conducted in Bihar as assembly elections were due and it was Lalu Prasad’s second term as the CM. However, when an old woman was asked about him, she said that she didn’t know who Lalu Prasad is. We ran that news in preponderance on the first page. So I got my first byline in that news.
How did you come to Delhi from Patna?
My father was transferred to Delhi, so I had to come here. I didn’t want to leave Patna but I had no other choice.
When you started pursuing Mass Communication, there was no trend about it and perhaps there was no environment for a girl pursuing it. So, how did your family members react to it?
Even boys didn’t use to pursue it when I opted for it. Everyone in my family wanted me to prepare for UPSC, but I didn’t want to appear for it. So, in the name of UPSC, I did the Mass Communication course. They were more interested in my subsidiary subjects, English and Economics. I was always interested in studies. In 12th, I got an All India Rank 1 in Economics. Even though, marks were not given leniently at that time, still I secured 96 marks in it.
I think I was lucky that I had a degree in Mass Communication and I kept getting jobs. So I continued the profession, and didn’t try anything else.
What was your first job in Delhi?
When I came to Delhi I started with Sahara News. There used to be only one bulletin at that time. They were planning to launch the channel, and for that purpose they were hiring. In Zee news too, there used to be only one bulletin at that time, except NDTV. There were no 24×7 news channels. Things were very different back then. There was no concept of live news. Even if you were working as a trainee reporter, you used to get the experience of launching a new channel.
Would you like to compare the work culture at Sahara News and Zee News?
Sahara had a family-like environment. On the other hand, Zee News had a professional environment. Sahara used to work as a family, whereas Zee news was very market oriented. When you work for Sahara, you feel that the approach towards work is very collective, but when you move to a more commercially oriented network like Zee, you get to know about the things like T.R.P. So this was the basic difference.
How did you join Aaj Tak?
When you enter into a competitive environment you start to receive offers. While I was working with Zee News, I received an offer from Aaj Tak, and I happily accepted it.
How is your experience at Aaj Tak?
Aaj Tak has always been number one, most competitive and most professional. At Aaj Tak, you will never see that just because a particular issue is very acclaimed, we compromise with important issues, just for the sake of TRP. There is always a balance. Here, you are always pushed to give your best, you are motivated to cover stories and raise issues which fetch you both praise and viewership. A place where you get so much encouragement to push your limits is a perfect environment for a professional to work in.
What kind of problems do you face while working on television, what are the pros and cons of working with it?
If you feel like working on television, and if it is your inner voice, you can work in television. Journalism has never been my first choice, but visual media is something which has always interested me. I always wanted to work in visual media, whether it is working on celluloid, or working on entertainment or news. I always liked the language of television. Pros and cons depend upon whether you like that field or not, and since I wanted to come in this line, I think I didn’t see any cons in this field.
What are the challenges you face while working?
It has been almost 23 years since I started working as a journalist, so all the things are diffused in my system. This phenomenon is time bound. You can never relax. But if you truly want to do the work, then all the challenges will fade away.
I read somewhere that you wanted to make documentary movies. How far is this true?
No, not documentary, I wanted to be a film maker. I never wanted an on-screen exposure. I always wanted to be behind the camera. Even today, I like to work behind the camera.
So you didn’t go for films or you didn’t get chance to break into?
No, actually I didn’t get the chance. Because for that you need to go to Mumbai, and my parents wanted me to live with them even during my work. If my father had been transferred to Mumbai instead of Delhi, I would have made a career in film making. But since he got transferred to Delhi, I went to work in news channel. In Delhi, there is no chance to follow the entertainment industry.
Which attributes should be focused upon by the students who want to make a career in broadcasting and journalism?
Firstly, forget about free times, because this work demands 24 hour work. You have to study a lot, not just newspaper but all the new things. You should be well versed with history. If anything has happened recently, you should know the background of that thing, its present and its possible impact on the future. I believe that a person with greater curiosity will make a better journalist.
What is the scope of reporting and investigative journalism in television?
There is no age for retirement in television and there is always room for experience. So, this means that the anchors and reporters in this field are not going to retire anytime soon. They are not retiring, their experience is increasing and naturally their demand is increasing. The older a reporter gets the finer he becomes. And because of this, the job vacancies do not arise. But, at the same time, I believe that if a person is truly talented, then nobody can stop his progress.
As compared to English journalists, Hindi journalists get less salary…
No, there is no difference in salaries. Hindi, as always, is viewed the most in our country. However, some people give more importance to English, like economists and politicians. But the ratio of Hindi viewers to that of English viewers is 100 : 1. If 100 people watch Hindi then only 1 person watches English. But salary is the same, there is no difference in that.
It is said that the debates shown on television has nothing to do with the ground reality. Even if you watch them for an hour, you won’t be able to comprehend anything. What is your views on this?
I don’t like debates. I like to analyse things. You will call four guests, and all of them will speak at the same time. Until it gets too noisy, the viewers won’t like it. So as a viewer I don’t like these debate shows. And as an anchor too, I don’t like these things because you can’t take anything out of them. You don’t get to learn anything. It’s all same old logic and arguments, just new faces.
What is your message to those thousands of students who look upon you as their idol?
Don’t follow what you are seeing, anchors are just 1% of the total work done in the media. If you want to join journalism don’t come with the thought of glamour. Come only if you love journalism. Most of the times you will be called for an interview and in that interview you will be asked – why do you want to join journalism? And if you say that you want to do something for the society, more often than not, your interviewers will laugh at you, but you will have to stick to your belief. Whether you want to enlighten the society, or want to show it the right direction, or want to fix its loopholes, things are the same . But if you are doing it for any other reasons, then I hardly think you will be able to do your job properly.