Loveena Tandon, renowned journalist and foreign correspondent of Indian news channel, Aaj Tak, gives an insight into her busy life and the strength of a woman while playing a role of a mother, producer, director, writer and a journalist.
AL: Can you please tell us something about yourself?
Loveena: I was born and brought up in Madhya Pradesh [Central India] to a family of educationists and artists. My father was Professor and Head of English department in Vikram University Ujjain and my mother is an artist specialising in oil semi abstract painting. My younger sister is a very well- known actor and anchor, Saumya Tandon.
Growing up we were totally focussed on studies and career. Getting married and not doing anything was never an option. The streak of independence was so strong that we sisters find it very difficult to play second fiddle to anyone. I was of course the more outgoing and chanchal girl. Film, music, loitering and friendbaazi were all my favourites. I always had loads and loads of friends. My sister on the other hand always has been a more introvert, private, home bird who wants to come back home max by 11pm [even from a party]. I, on the other hand, can party all night. She in many ways is elder and serious one I am more Bindaas. She keeps tab on me!
AL: When did you move to the UK? And why?
Loveena: I moved to the UK in May 2006 after marriage. I had come to the UK for the first time on a Charles Wallace fellowship to Cardiff University for 3 -3.5months. I ended up staying for 4.5 months or so, managed to fall in love with a Welsh man! Eventually, we got married in Delhi on the Feb 6, 2006 and I moved in May of the same year. Ours was a typical Bollywood Romance. What and how of it is for another time of course. I left my very lucrative senior producer job with four programmes in hand in Aaj Tak to be with my Welsh Love! For the first time, I was without a job in a different country [Cardiff then]; living with a man I had known for 3.5 months during my stay in Cardiff and 8 months over the phone and emails; left for him all that I had ever known back in India; sane or insane; risky or stupid cupid love, decision is yours. We have two kids now, Megan (5) and Arush (3).
When and how did you get into journalism?
I had no clue what I wanted to be when I was studying English Literature in Jawahar Lal Nehru in Delhi. I was quiet happy loitering around with my bunch of Bengali friends. I was a bit different from the lot though. They were all academic while I loved shitty Hindi movies, songs, drama and so on. The ‘keeda’ of wanting to something, earn my own money was always there. My love of music and this mad streak of independence make me take a show on FM radio. For eight years, I did music shows, had my own show on FM Delhi and funded my education through that. Politics never interested me and JNU was full of it. [I now cover politics too and enjoy it.] I thus found amusement outside in FM, drama and script writing. Believe it or not I started with acting, writing scripts and compering live shows on stage! Eventually, I ended up in just started infotainment channel Home TV. From there, began the TV journey; from Home TV to Zee then Business Standard TV then BBC then Aaj Tak. In this span of 10 years I reported, produced and directed all sorts from chat shows to consumer shows and health shows to election, dharma, music and cinema shows. Of course, marriage happened, and I moved to the UK. I continued with Aaj Tak till my first child was born. I also taught two courses to post-graduate media students which I had designed–Reporting South Asia and Development Communication–for three years. By this time, we had moved to London and I travelled to Cardiff through both my pregnancies and with a six month old baby. Someone from my Welsh in- laws looked after the kids while I taught in the university. This madness had to stop, travelling with babies. Then, CVB news, biggest agency for South Asian news contacted me to work as their London/UK person. I did so for a while till Aaj Tak happened again. Working with Aaj Tak is like going back home. I am their UK and Europe Foreign Correspondent.
AL: You’ve been in the profession for more than a decade. What changes do you find in journalism then and now?
Loveena: When I started in Delhi in 1997-98, we worked all hours. I have worked from a third floor office with no AC [almost a bakery] with a team of five people on a taxing weekly show all hours of day and beyond. I have worked 36 hours at a stretch without sleeping and 48 hours with a little sleep under the edit table away from the eyes of the editor and colleagues [who always caught me.]. I preferred writing scripts by hand and took reluctantly to writing on computer. My friends from those days would be amazed that I do my own camera and transfers and rough cut, use twitter and so on. Technology was a no, no for me and today it’s all about technology and I dwell in it. I am a woman band. I do my own research, co-ordination, reporting, shooting, concepts and marketing too sometimes. Then we had a three member crew, camera person, reporter and the sound guy. We used to mourn then, that camera man had to double up as the light man. Of course not to forget driver with a car. We had no worry if our credits went, were very thrilled if they did of course but did not bother if they did not. Now credits are must, there is shift system, non-linear edits, one person crew [like me here or two people crew in India] technology has moved leaps and bounds. One cannot think about journalism without twitter, FB and social media.
Other day, my daughter could not believe there was a world without computer too not so long back; I do feel like a fossil now. I will stop, no more thinking back.
AL: You’re also a producer, director, writer and voice over artist. How do you juggle your time between your professional and family life?
Loveena: Can I please add a mother, wife, daughter and sister and friends to many. All these relations need time and I thrive on them. I give them time and love to do so. I still do live shows in London, stage and music are my alter ego. I have just started my own company too. To answer your question, How do I do it? The name of the game is called, ‘juggling.’ I am a master juggler and a master multi-tasker. I can dress and feed my kids and do a live phone in on an issue all at the same time. I have done lives on my channel holding my son with one hand to the side, I speak to the most high up’s with my children chatting away or doing ‘mummy, mummy’ at the back. My saving grace is people here. I remember once I was speaking to an MP and my daughter would not shut up. She thought I was speaking to her dad. The MP asked me to hand over the phone to my daughter. He spoke to her and Megan, my daughter realised it’s not Daddy and she shut up. People here understand. Sometimes I get better reception from people with kids around. Having said that, shoots, events, stories and trips abroad take me away. I usually end up going abroad at a notice of a day or less. I went to Milan and Switzerland at a short notice for the Helicopter Scam story and ended up staying for 10 instead of 2 days covering new Pope’s election too. There are many such examples, Dublin for Savita Halappanavar story; Italy again for marines, Amsterdam tracking UP ministers and so on. In times like these, my husband takes over completely of course with the help of a child-minder. In normal day-to- day life too without my husband’s help and support I would not be able to do any of this. Despite being a bank guy, he understands my work totally. In fact, he is a good camera person. When I was 8 months pregnant and still shooting, he carried and then did my camera. My kids are very adaptive too. They have taken into change of routine very nicely. They want their mummy home all the time, specially my son but they do understand my erratic schedule. I must say though I have never missed their school meetings, dramas, open days, performances, however big or small.
You are a renowned woman journalist. Whom and what do you attribute your success to?
Loveena: The love for work that my father instigated in me; the strong sense of independence that my mother sowed in me; the fire to do more that my sister keeps alive in me; my husband’s support; the feeling to do better in life for my kids. Post that, Oscar speech I must add, all the hard work becomes easy because I love what I do. I am never satisfied totally with what I have done and always want to do more and better. I do not know if I am successful for I have a long road ahead!
AL: Do you think that there’s a discrimination against women in media?
Loveena: I personally have never been discriminated against. I do not remember feeling less than a man ever. In fact, my problem was different, no one really took into consideration that I was a woman. I travelled and worked all hours of the day and night and nobody ever changed any plans for I was a woman. If you call discrimination not being on the top, then yes. This is because we do end up taking breaks due to kids etc. There are natural speed breakers in a woman’s career path. I would not deny perception as ‘the weaker sex’ too but I never took notice of such people and thankfully never had to fight them. When my father passed away, we sisters performed the last rite which is not an accepted norm. No one batted an eyelid and if they did, we did not notice. Now, at work, my office sends me to new/strange places without any hitch, expects me to deliver despite all odds. I don’t think they deal with me like a woman but only as their foreign correspondent. I hope.