Applaud him or troll him, you just can’t escape Rajdeep Sardesai even if you’re no fan of political news shows on TV.
Starting off in print journalism, hardcore political journalist Rajdeep moved to television news anchoring while continuing to write columns in well-known publications. He has been dominating India’s television news media for decades now with powerful stints at NDTV, IBN 18 Network and currently at India Today TV.
Awarded the prestigious Padma Shri for Journalism in 2008, Rajdeep has also been President of the Editors Guild of India. Over the years, he also turned author. His fourth book has just released and we decided to get up close and personal with him.
One of India’s best known journalists, do you feel a sense of responsibility towards your many viewers and readers?
- Honestly, I only see myself as a journalist who is telling a story — whether I’m writing about it or anchoring a news show. And I think if I’m telling the story as honestly as possible, my reader or viewer will read or watch it. I don’t feel any special responsibility to anyone other than my own conscience and to my profession. It’s important to be honest to your profession and yourself. Then your readers or your viewers are free to judge what is right or wrong.
You are considered Indian media’s astute and balanced political voice. How do you achieve this?
- Some people will think my views are balanced; some will think I’m imbalanced in my thinking…it’s all very subjective. But I only believe in being true to myself, true to my work.
You’ve evolved into a celebrated author...Do you think Prime Minister Modi will be happy with your new book ‘2019: How Modi Won India’?
- In parts, he will be happy with the book and in parts, he might not be. But I’ll be sending him a copy anyway. The book is not only about Mr Modi. It’s about several other politicians too who are definitely interesting characters.
Do you worry that there will be repercussions on your career in case a politician is displeased with your work – be it journalism or your books?
- Initially, I used to wonder what would happen, but no longer. Now I’ve realised one thing – in India, when politicians are upset with you, they just stop giving you interviews. They cold shoulder you, that’s all. So, I no longer worry.
Do you have a favourite politician?
- I don’t have a favourite politician but I find some of them interesting… Bal Thackeray, LK Advani, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Narendra Modi, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Sonia Gandhi for the way her life has evolved; where she came from and where she reached… Rajesh Pilot was interesting too.
With a ridiculously hectic work schedule, how do you make time for your personal life including wife Sagarika and kids Ishan and Tarini?
- Our kids are big and busy with their own lives today (Ishan is a doctor and Tarini is studying law at Jindal Global Law School, Delhi), but I definitely missed out on their growing years. I used to work from 9 am to 11 pm and that obviously impacted the time I spent with my family. When I worked at NDTV, I remember taking my kids to the studios on Sunday. They would carry their books along and in between, we’d go for ice cream to a parlour close to the office. But we did a family holiday once every year. Today, of course, the kids are too big and Sagarika and I can’t force them to holiday with us!
As for unwinding, I used to play cricket 31 years ago and I hope to start playing club cricket soon on Sundays at least…
What’s a day like in the life of Rajdeep Sardesai?
- Earlier at NDTV and especially during my CNN-IBN days, I worked from 9 am to 11 pm in the studios. Today, I’m much more relaxed. I go for a long early morning walk with my dog, read a whole set of newspapers – for the record, I’m a newspaper addict! When I’m in the process of writing a book, I write from 6 am - 9 am; I think that’s the best time to write. I do a lot of reading too, have lunch, a short nap if possible and finally get to office by 4 pm. Then I work till 11 pm. Once back home, I watch some TV – sports or maybe Netflix, but no news. I don’t like watching news when I’m not at work. At midnight, I’m off to bed.
Your tried and tested advice for journalists who want to make it big on the political beat?
- Firstly, you must have a deep passion for politics. You must be interested in politics and the political scene unfolding around you. Secondly, don’t make politicians your bum chums. When you do that, you start to believe that you too are powerful like them; which is very far from true. And that’s very dangerous.
A goal that you’ve still to achieve? A dream that you’ve yet to realise?
- I’ve stopped making long term plans and setting long term goals. When they don’t materialise, they bring on unnecessary pressure and make one depressed. Earlier, I had a much more structured plan… now I want and like to take it one week at a time, max one month at a time.
Three words that best describe Rajdeep Sardesai...
- A Bombay Boy!
I lived in Bombay for 29 years when it was Bombay, not Mumbai. After that, I moved to Delhi and though I’ve been living in Delhi since 1994, I still consider myself a ‘Bombay Boy’... People from Bombay are just more relaxed than those from Delhi.
(Andrea CostaBir is Editor, ‘SAVVY’)