Exactly 25 years ago, on April 18, 1996, I was selected to join NDTV in the news production team as a Production Assistant. My decision then had baffled a few near & dear ones. Why would a Correspondent (which I was in my previous job) leave the editorial space to join production? The reverse was known to happen but this was uncommon.
It was a no-brainer for me. I was getting an opportunity to join a team which produced ‘The World This Week’, a show known for its impeccable production values. I actually got to play a small part in the show before it went off-air and I am eternally grateful for it.
I had the privilege to watch and learn from my boss Shivani Jajodia, who had an examplary eye for detail and an innate sense of aesthetics. A strict disciplinarian, she would chide you for the slightest negligence and praise you if your work met her high standards. The news production floor, comprising a few boys and mostly girls in their early 20s, were petrified of her.
I was severely reprimanded only once when it came to her notice that I had frequently erred in my sound mixing responsibility in the production control room. In my case, there was no public rebuke. I was summoned to her room and clearly told if I made one more mistake, I would be removed from this coveted function in the PCR.
I had serious concentration issues. My mistakes were on account of not being able to focus. I remember being despondent after leaving her cabin in the newsroom. How do I ensure I do not make any more mistakes going forward given that I used to make at least one error a day? It was an impossible ask.
A colleague who anchored news bulletins noticed my plight and invited me to his home the following day. He told me he had a solution which could calm me down and help focus better. I was ready to try anything to help tide over the crisis.
The next day, the same colleague introduced me to chanting, the Buddhist way. I was a naive 22 year old and felt it would be against my Hindu religion. I did not pursue it after the trial.
However, I was committed not to lose my place in the accomplished club of audio mixers back then. The three other colleagues who mixed audio online for news bulletins were seasoned professionals. They were sympathetic but could not help much as it was not a problem of understanding or skill. It was because there was too much weighing down my mind at the same time, distracting me from the core task on hand.
The fear of losing my place as well falling short of my boss’s expectations jolted me enough to ensure it did not happen again. Seven years later, when the production team was bifurcated to cater to two channels, the first criteria was to select the two best in each function and place one in each channel. I became aware of this when I quizzed my boss why I was picked for the hindi channel when my hindi typing was below par. It was on account of my prowess in sound mixing, she said.
Looking back I am convinced it was the discipline imbibed in those formative years which helped me and my colleagues back then to approach work in right earnest in the years ahead. I remember a few not happy being admonished like children but it sure did help in the long run.
Had I not been served with an ultimatum, I may have continued to err which in turn would have impacted operations. But the fear of losing my seat in the coveted control room was enough to get me to pull up my socks. And I have Shivani to thank for that.