Mother – that wonderful word that brings a smile to any face. The first friend that we all make. The first friend who makes us who we are. The only person who understands and accepts us wholly as we are. Today, the times have progressed and lifestyles have become hectic and completely stressful. Thankfully, even in todays fast life, mom means reliability and stability. I was raised by a working mom and to this day maintain that she is perfect. The working mom has to be an inherent multi-tasker who has to constantly face stress and pressure at both the domestic and professional front, and yet she is expected to smile through everything, be there always and docked absolutely no space either at home or at work for herself. I am very sure that the job of POTUS is nothing compared to this. So today, on behalf of “The Quill“, I decided to talk to two wonderful working moms who are well known media personalities with proven track records. They are also my favorite people!
Let me introduce both of them to you first. They are Ananya Dasgupta and Sayoni Aiyar. Both of them are well known to the TV viewers across the nation as exemplary anchors on CNN-IBN. Here is some more information about them.
Ananya Dasgupta has been a television journalist for the last 14 years. She is currently a CNN-IBN newscaster.She handles the day to day breaking stories-making sense of them as they unfold. She is a graduate of the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai and a British Chevening Scholar. Her other full-time role is as mother to a 2 year old.
Sayoni Aiyar is a child of 80s Calcutta who’s lived in Delhi for the last 13 years, working in news television. She’s a fulltime journalist AND a fulltime parent, and fills up the gaps with books, movies and pop culture.
Here is the chat I had with both of them about being a working woman, a loving mom and all along being full time rockstars in their profession.
Tell us more about yourself and why you chose this line of work . Did the fact that you’re a woman came up when you were discussing this with your folks?
A: I think it was my family environment that pushed me towards journalism. My father is an engineer by profession, but did a journalism course while he was working. I was a child at the time, but the interest grew from there. My parents did not once say that I should not take up journalism because I was a woman.
S: Frankly I drifted into journalism- I was looking for an escape from academics & having cleared the IIMC entrance, I grabbed the opportunity to put my postgraduate studies on hold. My family had an issue with my dropping out of academics (they still do!) far more than being a woman working in the TV news industry!
Have you ever felt that women get a tougher deal at the workplace today? If so, how can that be changed?
S: Women certainly have to be more aggressive, more driven to achieve the same results that men do for far less effort. There’s also a certain kind of ‘boys’ club’ mentality in many workplaces where men have each others’ backs. With a far greater proportion of men in positions of authority, that tends to give a male employee the edge. The first step- and perhaps the most difficult one- towards gender equality at the workplace is for an organisation to decide that the problem exists & that it WANTS to address it.
A: Yes, many times they do. At my earlier job, I was once sent to cover a blast in Dimapur. The army was taking a few journalists along with then Home Minister Shivraj Patil. When my organisation got the call and forwarded my name, they were told a woman would find it difficult. My then in-charge still pushed for me. I was the only woman on board that plane. I did my job just like any other person, male or female, would. 24*7 news is a new medium with new challenges. Sometimes, there are mindsets. That needs to change.
You have proven your abilities and delivered time and again, is there any aspect of this journey that would have been easier for men? When a young girl wants to be you, what should she get ready for? What is the set of critical skills that she definitely needs?
A: Firstly, a man’s professional ability and commitment would rarely be doubted. Also, in journalism and especially in reporting, it would be difficult to take a break for motherhood. One has to follow one’s beat and rise up the ranks. That takes a hit. But there are many women, some of them my colleagues, who are managing to pick up from where they left and shine. You must be a news-junkie to be in journalism. Else, you will feel tired and overworked easily. Its a demanding field as its 24*7. You will also be working on many holidays/weekends/festivals when your friends and family might be celebrating. You have to be prepared for that. As far as newscasting goes, a keen interest in all sorts of stuff is a must. You might be talking of a terror attack one day and cricket the day after. So read a lot, be aware and more than anything, have a cool head on your shoulders.
S: This is a difficult question. The journey would have been different if I was a man, sure, but not necessarily easier. I’ve always had huge support from my family- I think that is critical for any young girl trying to make it on her own. Be cautious, be careful, take the advice of people you trust who have your interests at heart, and play to your strengths.
As a working mother, we are sure that there are more challenges that get added. What are the biggest ones?
S: Where do I begin? The hardest challenge is definitely saying ‘no’ to my son when I’m leaving for work and he wants me to stay home & play/read/watch TV/simply cuddle with him. Lots of time-management, organisation & again, family support.
A: A working mother has to prove that work is equally important for her as home/child. In TV news, one has to be available at all times. One also has to work odd hours, different shifts. In urban India, the joint family system is nearly over, And yet, like the West, we don’t have daycare centers, which are as good as family support.
Is the Flip side also true? Kids are really more attached and proud when they see their mother as an achiever?
A: I hope someday my child grows up to say this.
S: Too early to answer this, my son is 5 years old, and prefers watching Mickey Mouse on TV rather than me.
How significant is the role that your husband plays in managing your work-life balance?
S: I could not have done it without him. He totally makes it possible for me to be out & about at all hours. The wind beneath my wings!
A: I would say very significant. I met him in the course of my work, and we have deep respect for each other’s work. In fact, he’s the one who pushed me to join CNN-IBN when the channel was launching. I was otherwise quit happy at the opportunities at my earlier workplace. I must say it really helps to have a spouse who understands the nature of your work and helps/adjusts accordingly.
How does Tech compliment your work on a day to day basis?
S: It’s impossible to work in the 24X7 environment of TV news these days & not be technologically-savvy. The newsroom, the PCR, the studio all demand a level of tech competence. Smartphones have made life easier for journalists to be connected on the go. Even if caught unawares by a developing event, one can use a phone to record & transmit video- even do basic editing.
A: Tremendously. It has changed the way TV news is done. Like, Twitter has changed the way news flashes are delivered at an instant.
You are all set to go on a vacation with your family, the phone rings, there has been an explosion in the city! You are called in; What happens next? How do your family members adjust to this aspect of your profession? Do they ever get used to it?
A: Thankfully my parents have always said work comes first. Such situations have often happened. I was covering the 2004 assembly and LS elections in Odisha when my grandmother(my favorite person in the world) passed away. It was counting day. My parents did not tell me till late evening, when my work was over for the day. By then, the cremation was done. I missed seeing her a last time because my parents know the nature of the job.
S: Fortunately this scenario hasn’t happened yet, but I think they’d be quite supportive. And yes, they are used to the capricious nature of my profession.
If you met your younger self from five years ago today, what would you tell her?
S: There’s more to life than work- however fulfilling! Having a focus outside your workplace keeps things in perspective. Make difficult situations work for you by finding the opportunities in them rather than just battling the odds.
A: Try for a better work-life balance!
When you interview people who are belligerent and vociferous by nature, how do you moderate the decibel level?
A: By keeping my levels down. If need be, I could even say, “I am not shouting, why are you?”
S: Keeping my own tone calm & measured helps bring the pitch down.
What do you see as the major changes that are coming to the Newsrooms this year and in the next decade? Which change excites you the most?
S: More technology. Yay!! More interactivity!! Yay!! Greater influence of social media. On the fence about that one!
A: The change that I can see is more content on mobile and internet. Short clips, precise news flashes. I hardly pick up a hard copy of a newspaper anymore. I read mostly on the internet. It will be a challenge to keep the information flow going for 24 hours, but it will mean people are aware, conscious and better decision makers.
Last but not the least, do you have time for a hobby? What is it?
A: I love to cook. It de stresses me. I read a lot earlier, but with a child and a tough work schedule, that’s taken a hit
S: I read like it’s going out of fashion. 2 books a week, minimum, usually on my Kindle during my long commute to & from work.
I have to say that this was my first ever chat with people who are experts at interviewing others! I was a bit nervous when I started. But after getting their thoughts and experiences down, I feel a deep sense of pride that I have interacted with them. I have a new understanding of what my mom went through when I was just a kid! I always say that being a working mom is the toughest job and I stand by that now! Inspiring to chat with two people who have handled a high pressure job and a kid admirably and come out on top! Deep Respect and more power to them!