The Woman and her Curls
I get tapped on my shoulder from the back only to be greet by a magnificent woman and her curls. It was the waiting lounge of the Radio Mirchi studio. Now for those of you who’re not from Ahmedabad, I would want to tell you that radio in Ahmedabad is huge. Really huge. And radio mirchi was a pioneer in the space of modern entertainment-focused radio in the city. So much so that I remember back in 2004-05, among the vernacular crowd, Mirchi had become a synonym of radio. Folks would walk up to some and say, “mirchi chaalu karne” can you turn on mirchi? (as in the radio)
And that fascination caught me as well. In a society where newspapers and biased news channels were the only source of information that mattered to the whole country or to the world, radio brought in a city specific infotainment that, in a way, allowed people to not be so worried on running into a heartbreaking news.
The most popular show and also the most important one, is the breakfast show which, a lot of people start their day with, the second one is the evening show during peak traffic hours. However, there is one show that is probably far more difficult to produce because of it’s timing. And that is the 2pm-5pm show. And the woman who makes everyday’s 2-5 worth it is the one we are talking about today.
Ekta Sandhir, born and brought up in Ahmedabad with roots in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh is one girl you don’t want to miss meeting. The voice behind Meethi Mirchi since the last 4 years and a pillar for the radio station she works at, I got a chance to talk to her yesterday.
This story also has layers. The life story of Ekta, and then then the story of Ekta herself. You’ll soon realise why these are important.
Her life began 26 years ago as someone who was so Punjabi at heart that there was an absolute absence of any affiliation towards the Gujarati culture.
“I was a no-gujju person all the way till I got into college. I was so desperate that I kept two non-gujjus as my best friends for 15 years”, is what she says when I ask her how she kept herself company.
Brought up on a healthy diet of love, values and good vibes, Ekta was the always-out-of-class and life-of-the-party kid while in school. College however brought a new use to this chirpy attitude. Organising events and extra curriculars took a center stage and with that came the opportunity to enter the business of voice overs.
“I reached the auditions, went yap yap yap and got selected!”, She bursts into giggles as she says this.
“Little did I know that it was just the first step towards a life changing journey”
Ekta is someone who has never lived a single planned moment in her entire life. Her radio shows are probably the most planned parts of her day which is good because it makes this interview way more interesting than it was already supposed to be.
The series of voice overs took her to the Radio Mirchi RJ hunt, a challenge she took up only with a preconceived notion of being so sure that she would be rejected. That acceptance of loss made sure she had nothing to lose.
“But Radio Mirchi had other plans for me” she says while moving on with the story.
I guess it was the state of having nothing to lose that actually made her win. The Ekta you’d listen to every afternoon isn’t an Ekta that comes on air with a baggage. She never sounds like someone who walks into the studio with a truck load of promises she has to keep. And that makes her fun to listen to.
Being trained by the best of the best in radio was a boon that came along with joining Radio Mirchi.
“I consider myself to be really lucky in that regard. I have always found myself surrounded by the most amazing people and I feel somewhere it’s the people around us that make us who we are and give us the space to explore our true worth”
Talking of people always brings us to family, sometimes in a good light, sometimes not, but always there. I ask her if no one in her family ever asked her to marry and she said,
“My dad once said, pehle jaguar, phir pyaar (first buy a jaguar, then fall in love)” and parallely recalls her mother once telling her over an evening cup of tea, “shaadi jab karni hai, jisse karni” (marry whenever you want to marry, whoever you want to marry)
With such parents, what more could you ask for but a motivation to use the freedom right.
It’s been four years in radio mirchi for her and the Ekta you see now is a very different person compared to the Ekta you would’ve met 4 years ago which is where her layers matter.
The bubbly woman, within her, packs an immense amount of substance and drive. The kind of motivation that brings you to wonder what you have been doing with your life for so long. She grew up with an avid collection of gazals, and Punjabi folk music. Moving houses meant shifting boxes and boxes of old cassettes and late night introspections were always accompanied by soft and scintillating music.
“Mitti se rishta na, bada haseen hai ” (my bond with my homeland is amazing), she tells me as we talk more about what growing up was like for her.
“I was always drawn towards sufi and punjabi folk music and that has moulded me in more ways than one. Their love songs were like prayers and their prayers so soothing, you could possibly not find anything better to listen to at times when you’re down. Even today, I watch hours of Zee Zindagi, and listen to so many gazals because they bring me closer to where I feel my home is”
This conversation then takes us back in history. Ekta is almost on auto-pilot right now and I find it best to allow her to roam in those fields of prospective notalgia. Now I know prospective nostalgia is not really a phrase but I have this habit of making phrases up. So prospective nostalgia is the state of mind where you wish things were a certain way, very different from what they are right now, or what they have ever been, and then ponder upon it from a nostalgic perspective.
And her prospective nostalgia is beautiful, funny and, touching all at the same time.
“People go to Switzerland and Bali for honeymoons, I want to go to Pakistan”, is what she says after a good pause.
“That’s what I have told my mother, make sure you get me someone like that because I am going, come what may”
“Why?” was my predictable question.
“Because that’s where my home is.”
She says without the knowledge of where her ancestors migrated from and yet with the candidness of someone who grew up in Lahore. There sure was a contemplation in her voice. A contemplation about what this world holds and yet a determination to find out, no matter what it might be and, an odd garnish of confidence, that it’s going to be the best thing ever.
“I don’t believe in borders. I never have. Especially the India-Pakistan border. Because I have had a really hard time figuring out how the Punjab in Pakistan is different from the Punjab in India, because to be honest, it isn’t.”
And I think this explains her longing for a place she could truly call home.
“Five minutes more if you talk about roots, I will cry”, is what she says when I keep pondering over the idea of pre-partition India and how things were different.
We slowly make our way back to music. And then back to present day and my conversations go on for a considerably long time about things that you otherwise might not find interesting. But there was one takeaway from Ekta’s story that I personally walked out with. Every minute that you spend interacting with your environment, the people, the things in it, they shape you, they make you and they transform you into another person every single day.
So be conscious of what you surround yourself with, keep your feet on the ground, your dreams in the sky, and your head level to what challenge you’re taking up next.
I hope this story made you feel a little more nostalgic, or a little happier than you already were. We hope to keep serving you such delicacies more frequently.
P.S. This article has two contributors, the first was Saloni Gandhi, who took the interview, and the second interview was taken by your truly. The content, conversations and interpretations of the individual are a combined effort for both these better-than-thou personalities.