Whhhat? I have a seven-year-old son… who do you think will send him off to school every morning?” I asked. “Your husband, who else?” he said.
No hint of a clandestine affair this, it was Suresh Venkat offering me the job of RJ (radio jockey) on the primetime breakfast show, on India's first private FM station, Radio City 91.1 FM. Suresh, the then programming head of the station, had asked me to “drop in” sometime.
And I did the drop-in as I saw it as a good chance to see the face behind the famous voice that his was, and a pretext to check out the demigods that RJs those days were, at the station that one heard in the car every day.
That September morning in 2004, in his sixth floor glass-wall office, all my excuses (“But why me, aren't breakfast show RJs supposed to be these chirpy twenty-somethings? Not a mom who will go ‘damn, I forgot to soak rice for dosa' when she is playing Rahman on the airwaves?”) for not taking up the job, were wiped out within 10 minutes. The next thing I knew, I was saying ‘Gooood morning Bangalore' in the five languages I knew. Live. For four hours, sharp from 7 a.m. every week day.
Being crowned Bangalore's official alarm clock meant leaving home at 5.45 a.m., Deepavali or Independence Day. The more special the day, the more ‘specials' you had to do on your show. No sleeping in late, for there was none at that god-hour at the studios to fill in for you.
But giving up one's CL was a small price to pay. For a job that actually paid me for playing music. How many people get this opportunity anyway, I thought, so why not use the chance to speak about the city's actual doers, rather than merely the movers and shakers.
So while I was thrilled to be interviewing Manna Dey, Asha Bhonsle or A.R. Rahman on their iconic music, I was humbled to be featuring bus conductor Jayramiah on the breakfast show. Jayramiah, whose bumpy bus rides from Bangalore to Nelamangala are made smooth with his Kannada folk songs. Or 85-year-old Honnamma Govindiah, unlettered, mother of 10, who had learned to swim at 60, and who could jump the Jayanagar pool gates if they turned out to be locked!
For someone who started as a reluctant RJ, radio proved a calling I would have almost missed. Morning after morning, I got a unique view of the Bangalorean from my studio window.
As radio anchor, I would wonder how only a song ‘dedication' or a name read out aloud on air could trigger a profuse round of thanks from the ‘dedicator', emails or even a personal visit to the station. Awards came along, and those seemed to prove that I was after all doing something right.
And just to let you know, Suresh was prophetic: my husband Hari DID send off Anirudh to school every morning, for the next four years.
(Vasanthi Hariprakash moved on from radio to a national television channel and is now doing her own thing and loving it.)
Keywords: Radio City 91.1 FM