This is an unusual interview: A father interviewing his daughter. My daughter Anagha interviews people all the time as a journalist, so I thought why not put her on the other side and interview her about her career. Here is what came out. I must say, there were many revelations for me about the fascinating world of journalism as it is practiced today. I was also inspired by her highly positive attitude towards her work and life in general. There is joyfulness in all her responses which I loved.
— How often do you interview people for your newspaper?
I work for a weekly supplement – Indulge. It comes out every Friday with The New Indian Express. Since it is a weekly, I usually interview about three to four people every week for the print edition. And apart from that we also work on our website. So that makes it about 3 or 4 more people per week.
— What are some of your most memorable interviews?
There have been many memorable interviews over the years. Even before my job at this newspaper. I used to work at The Students Magazine many years ago that was geared towards student readers, as you can guess from the name. We were all very young in the team but it was a learning experience to be there. I remember I interviewed both you and mummy for it! That was fun.
My next job was at Explocity where I wrote exclusively about food, a topic you know that I love. Here I spoke to many international chefs and it really helped me expand my boundaries. One that stands out is Chef Atul Kochhar, a pioneer of Indian food in London and he is also from Jamshedpur [Anagha’s home city].
And of course, at The New Indian Express I really had a chance to interview some big names. While I conduct a lot of my interviews over email, they have all been memorable to write and research - musicians such as Bryan Adams, James Blunt, authors like Suketu Mehta and many more. Another memorable one I did last year was Anushka Shankar, who is celebrating her dad Pandit Ravi Shankar's centenary this year.
— Who are some of the most interesting people you have interviewed?
While celebrities are always interesting people to interview. I also get a chance to interview a lot of people who are doing new and interesting work within the cultural space. Every week is a new musician, or restaurateur that is trying to do something new, even in covid times like these.
I recently interviewed a British comedian Romesh Ranganathan, who travelled all over the world for a TV show, and he is a vegetarian. So, he told us about how difficult or easy it was to travel. I also wrote about the last play written by Girish Karnad and interviewed the people who were staging it posthumously for him. Another interview I did was that of the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube a few months ago. As we speak I’m interviewing Bruce Lee’s daughter who has written a book about her father! Fingers crossed* hope it works out.
These are just from the past few months! Many more are there…
— You also cover events for the newspaper. What kind of events do you cover?
Yes I cover events, and one of the biggest opportunities I get due to that is travelling to places I would never get to travel to otherwise. I cover music events, literature festivals, poetry festivals and food events in the city and outside.
— Would you like to share with us a few interesting incidents during covering these events?
By far the most fun was my trip to Bhutan. I went to cover the Mountain Echoes Literature Festival. Not only did I get to attend the festival and meet its speakers (who ranged from Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah, to a man who has spent his whole life researching the Yeti!) but also I got a glimpse into the culture of another country, which was also invaluable. The stand out and once in a lifetime incident would HAVE to be when we saw Mount Everest from our flight. Breathtaking and also felt so surreal to be seeing it from an even greater height.
— The places you have visited?
Like I said Bhutan is the top of the list. Apart from that I have had a chance to visit Udaipur, Delhi, Mumbai, Chettinad, Pune, Nasik, Wayanad (where we stayed in a tree house!) and so many more places in the country.
— What prompted you to work for a newspaper and that too in the entertainment / infotainment / lifestyle area?
Honestly, I don’t think I sought it out with a goal in my mind. Both you and mummy are writers and it just came naturally for me. There are very few outlets or jobs for writers as such, and a lifestyle supplement comes closest to a place where you can express your creativity. I am lucky that I enjoy it so much and I also work in this field.
— What are some of the challenges in your area of work?
My personal challenge has always in life been overcoming my anxiety and shyness while dealing with other people and in social situations. And ironically this is a job that is all about meeting new people! So that is what I have to push myself with the most. Over the years it has become more and more easy, but it still is a factor. Thankfully technology has progressed a lot that it's not always face to face, and that also helps me a lot.
Apart from that, there are the usual challenges that come with every job – office matters, long working hours, clash of ideas, etc. But I think everyone is used to that!
— To what kind of young people would you recommend your line of journalism?
This is one field that you have to have your heart in fully if you want to work in it. You cannot be in it for the money or just for the fame or the fun. I am blessed enough that I get to work here and money is not too big a factor for us. But many do not have the privilege of doing so, especially if they have to earn more and support a family. In that case it is not easy. I see all my peers earning more than me and even my boss!
Like I said before, I am also lucky that I have found a talent and I get to enjoy my work. Again a privilege that so few have because many people do not know what they want to do in life, which is fine! But for this job you need to give it your all and expect very little in return.
— What do you enjoy best in your work? And least?
The best part is learning about new people and new things. And the invaluable experiences. Going to restaurants I could never afford to, travelling to places. And it's never the same every week. Each week we write about something new. So the monotony is less.
I also enjoy designing the actual pages every week. Seeing which page looks better on print. Which font size, how much text goes where – the visual aspect of it. By the looks of things print journalism is not going to be around for much longer so it’s a dying art and I'm glad I get to do it!
Least is the more technical aspect of work - emails, and back-end work for our website. Most of the day goes in doing this. Uploading on the website, coordinating with other people. Writing is actually only a small part of it – the rest is hard work! But it's part of the job.
— What exactly do you need to be successful in your kind of journalism?
As with any other career I think your drive is the most important thing. To be fearless and just do your job, it's easier said than done I know. Multiple times a day, and night (especially when we are in office late at night) you feel why I am doing this at all. But your drive to do this work will sustain you. And as I mentioned print seems to be in its last legs, its all online now. Which is a whole different beast. Writing for online and the headlines that work for online are very different than for print. So, you also have to be prepared to learn this new and emerging field and adapt to the changes.
More tangibly speaking, knowing what’s going on in town, knowing what is going on in your field is a much-needed thing. It is also very important to have a strong network. Always be in touch with people. Know whom to contact for which article and try to make your network bigger and bigger – another thing that's made easier thanks to technology!
— How important have your colleagues been to you?
Immensely. Day to day work, productivity and motivation ultimately boils down to the people you have around you. If the work environment is not good it is impossible to sustain yourself. I’m very happy with my colleagues who have been there for me - for professional as well as personal crises in my life. It’s not always been smooth sailing, but over the years we have all become friends.
— Any incident that gives you goose bumps?
Being in the newsroom is an experience in itself. Even though I don’t work with the main newspaper covering breaking news, I still work in the same office as them and it’s a thrill. People often say journalists get addicted to the buzz of a newsroom and you can never be satisfied in another job – perhaps true!
Just being in the room when breaking news events are happening is a thrill. Watching them break the news about demonetization, the lockdown, and elections as they’re happening all stand out in my mind.
— Any work that you look forward to in your field?
Honestly, after the few years, and then this year with the pandemic, I think we are just looking forward to seeing how long we can keep print going. It has its own benefits over online journalism, but no one reads actual papers anymore (Not even you and I!) so I hope it lasts many more years to come as I still like to believe that print holds more lasting value over online.