WOMAN — 5 simple letters that are effortlessly interchangeable with 5 others — POWER. Born into a girl-heavy traditional Sikh family, my nonconformist choices were often dissected by the relatives. When my father decided to send me abroad for higher education his ‘Return on Investment’ was questioned. When my bikini-clad hoardings hit the city, my mother’s upbringing was questioned. Clearly, anchoring wasn’t thought of as a ‘respectable’ profession. Amongst all this career talk, I came to the conclusion that being a woman is, in fact, the biggest ‘job’. And it isn’t just 9-5. You must prove your worth at all times if you need that big promotion into a man’s world. And, there are no free lunches.
When my father passed away unexpectedly, leaving behind an educational empire, being the oldest child, I was the natural heir to the black leather BOSS chair. Just 24, I looked young but dressed older— just so I could be taken seriously amongst the franchisees, staff and vendors who were at least double my age. That’s when I learned two of life’s most obvious yet highly valuable lessons:
Age is just a number, not a measure of your abilities.
Female is just a gender, not a roadblock to success.
Armed with these, I was ready to shape my far-fetched dreams. Fresh from a body beautiful pageant that I never won (I was out in the first round), I realized my power, in fact, lay in the power of words! I shall talk, I shall write and these words shall be my might.
There was an opening at a popular TV channel in Mumbai for a travel host. But I was based in Gurgaon. So, I got a shaadi videographer from Delhi to randomly shoot me as I waltzed through my house pretending that I was at an exotic location instead. I got him to make a quick CD of this strange audition and couriered it to Mumbai. Thankfully, the decision makers (all men) appreciated my creativity and effort and two weeks later, I stood in Malaysia nervously giving my first anchor link. Nervous, not because I was inexperienced but because I was finally paving the way and that too, MY way! The small crew consisted of eight members and I was the only woman.
We were on the road for several days together and hormonal outbursts were often challenging. But I had to keep the eyes on the prize! No matter where I go from here, I can always (smugly) say that I debuted with an international travel show! While I glamorously trotted the globe my mother unflinchingly filled that vacant leather chair. Some said I was shunning responsibilities the others were awaiting my fall. Talkers will talk, haters will hate. But did I feel guilty? Not one bit. Because, I was truly and unconditionally supported by three strong-willed women — my mother and two younger sisters. They were the reassuring wind beneath my wings as I flew to new pastures. From celebrity interviews to movie premieres, music launches to entertainment news…the mic became my trusted friend and the make-up room beautifully transformed into my comfort zone.
The biggest issue that bothered me was that male anchors could get away with murder, even with their crass remarks. But female anchors were mostly expected to be subdued. I remember this one incident where I was to interview one of my all-time favourite movie actors! I had butterflies in my tummy. Decked up in a dazzling gown, I waited for long hours…mentally prepping myself for this rendezvous.
To my horror, the chat was a complete disaster. He flung me to one side stating reporters shouldn’t be in front of the camera. “But Sir, I’m an anchor!” I reasoned. “One who thinks she is superior to me!” He retorted. I couldn’t register what I witnessed — as did the big crowd surrounding us. I felt humiliated and decided that day, I won’t let anyone treat me this way again. A few years later, I chanced upon interviewing a famous Hollywood actor. Oh, what a contrasting experience! He was humble, polite and a complete charmer. It was clear, humility wasn’t gender specific. When the world is swiftly moving towards a more unisex approach, there is hope that gender differences would be a thing of the past. Instead of being a woman in a man’s world donning a ‘boyfriend jacket.
I welcome the androgynous future where we consciously become humans of one world.
The writer is Supreet Bedi an Anchor (Views Are Personal)