This is exactly what I wanted to do since I was a kid.’ Whenever I hear people say this, I feel either the person is a genius or simply a liar. As I recall, my parents never gave me much to choose from, so I always wanted to be a doctor. As opposed to my nine-year-old who has listed out a number of possibilities ranging from a travel show host to a graphic novelist to playing the guitar — followed with a rider query: ‘Will I make lots of money with this?’
But coming back to that fundamental question that we all have to confront as children — ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ — I think we’ve all had our share of fantasy, some going on to making theirs come true while others discovering new fantasies along the way.
So when I was asked to choose a profession for a day, I listed out some choicest selection to the editor. It was finally narrowed down to being a radio jockey. Now whose job would I like to swap for a day but for Seetal Iyer’s.
She is the group programme director at the Bangalore-headquartered WorldSpace satellite radio. But what I coveted was her role as the anchor for the old Hindi music channel, Radio Farishta. Apart from a dozen or so promo voice overs and hosting shows, Seetal brings a three-hour special called ‘Farishta Legends’ every Sunday from 6 pm to 9 pm.
That’s the glamour part of the job. Anchoring a show that plays all your favourite numbers. You can be excused for believing that some do have their cake and eat it too. But as I take her place for a day I realise — you’ve guessed it — the job demands much more that just putting on the earphones and tuning your favourite songs for listeners.
Day with a twist
It’s pretty much a 9 to 5 job, if you like to see the world a shade darker. But not for me and certainly not for Seetal. For us the standard corporate login time comes with a twist — to be managing a radio station. The day, as I discover, begins with ensuring that I have sent the log (which is the day’s playlist) six days in advance to Singapore (the relying station). That would take about two to three hours of my time. Selecting the songs from a huge databank keeping the theme of the show in mind. For instance, selecting for a Mohammed Rafi special or a Naushad special. Then there’s the not so ‘creative’ part of budget planning and maintenance activity. Also strategising for the year and so on.
In between, my colleagues drop in from the neighbouring cabins to catch up with some pending work but mostly for exchanging this and that (you can call it gossip!) Having thus re-established my bond with my colleagues I carry on till lunch, when we gather in a common room again sharing more than just the food. But these informal exchanges sometimes throw up some great ideas which we later brainstorm to develop it into a show concept.
On Fridays, post lunch, I get ready to record for one of my shows that is played early on Saturday mornings where I have a guest to co-anchor the show with me. We usually have a theme and steer our conversation around it.
Ruling the airwaves
The recording room is exactly what you have imagined it to be like. Except here at WorldSpace, since they do not go live on air unlike the FM stations, you can take your time and soak in the experience of ruling the air waves with your voice. My first time — when I put on the earphones — was a complete thrill. I was making my fantasy come true. And as Seetal switched on the recording key we slipped back into our respective personas — me the journalist and she the anchor — talking about the role of women in films and media (topic for the day). But the best part was pausing to play the song on the ‘sound card’ (a menu that gives the name of the film with the composer, singer and lyricist), and then discussing what we like about it or the film that it was taken from.
As Seetal says, “The company is perfect and so is the music. And I am grateful for both. That really is all there is to what I do to earn a living these days.” And I can vouch for that. I was there.