Last week I shared 10 things you might not know about me. Well, five really because I split the post up over two weeks. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, click here to check it out.
And like last week, please let me know in the comments section if any of these things surprise you!
1. I WROTE A NOVEL WHEN I WAS 13
I have always loved writing – fiction and nonfiction. I’ve been writing short stories and poetry from a young age. And so when I turned 13, I thought I would try my hand at writing a novel. I read a lot of Mills and Boon books as a teenager and I was a sucker for romance. So I bashed out a story on my old computer.
It was called ‘Flowers In The Wind’ and my main character was called Chrysanthemum (I know, how cheesy!). She fell in love with a man ten years her senior (again so Mills and Boon!) and like many romantic stories – and Bollywood films – her rich father was against their relationship. Graham was a poet and wasn’t up to Chrys’s father’s standard.
A LOT OF MUMBO-JUMBO
Now please bear in mind that I was 13! There wasn’t a research or a note-making process. There wasn’t any real character development and there weren’t any redrafts. This was just me, as a young girl, writing whatever came to mind and just loving the freedom of imagination. Not far off from Anne’s ‘mumbo-jumbo’, according to Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables. If you read part 1 of this post, you will know how much of an inspiration she was to me growing up.
Every now and then I would read a chapter of my novel for my sisters. It became a regular thing and they would urge me to write more so they could hear more of the story. I needed no further encouragement and would write whenever I could – after school and in my free time at weekends, once my chores were done.When I got to university, I had the whole novel printed and bound. I knew I would never do anything with it. It wasn’t deep enough – and probably not well written – to even consider publication. But I wanted to keep it as a personal memory for myself.
I still have that A4 bound copy in a box in my loft even today. It may not have been good enough to be seen by the world, but it helped me to develop a voice, and know that some day I would share some of my writing with an audience other than my sisters.
Sukh knew how much I loved to write and that’s why he pushed me to start this blog – as a hobby, to reignite my passion.
2. I LIVED THE LONDON LIFE BUT RAN!
After I graduated, I worked at a small radio station in the West Midlands for six months but it was a lot of long hours for minimal pay. So when the opportunity came to work at Zee, an Asian TV channel in London, I ran! I figured my options were limited if I stayed in Birmingham and that for a full-fledged career in journalism, I would need to move to the capital.
Zee News was based just off Oxford Street and it was exciting to work in a thriving news room, with a small team of extremely talented journalists – all of whom have gone on to great things.
Sukh and I were dating at the time and he had also moved to London for work. It was great life, working in the heart of the city, socialising with friends in the evenings and building my career.
Two years later, Sukh and I returned to Birmingham for a short while for our wedding. It was a big Punjabi affair and we were there for a couple of weeks as there are a lot of ceremonies! We went on honeymoon to Hawaii and Las Vegas and then returned to London to resume work.
It was only then that I started rethinking our life there. We lived in a small studio apartment in west London and I remember we spent our first Diwali after marriage in our flat. We didn’t have many relatives in the city we could spend the festival with and I remember wondering how difficult it would be to settle there without our families.
And the possibility of buying property in London any time soon was unthinkable. So I suggested to move back home. I was missing my family and I had already grown so close to my in-laws. If I wanted to have a good relationship with them I felt I needed to be in the same city.
I applied for a job at the BBC, which was based in Leicester at the time, figuring I could commute. Not only did I get an interview within weeks but I got a permanent staff position as a Broadcast Journalist. This was perfect for us and we made the decision to move back home. I was sad to leave my job at Zee and my amazing friends but this was the right decision.
Within a year, we’d bought a lovely four-bedroom home on a quiet street with a nice garden. This isn’t something we could ever have done in London.
Sukh still commuted to London every few days for work and the first two years of our marriage was on a part-time basis. Eventually he secured a job as a cameraman at a shopping channel not far from home. And not long after, at the BBC too as a cameraman for Midlands Today.
By then, I’d also relocated to the Asian Network office in Birmingham. So after spending that much time apart as newly-weds, we’ve now worked in the same building for years!
3. I WAS ASKED TO AUDITION FOR A SONG
I love to sing! Sometimes I’m just singing aloud and don’t even realise it. I love singing in the bathroom, in the car, when I’m with friends and family. I’m certainly not at a professional level – far from. Sometimes I can be nasal and sometimes my voice can’t reach all the high notes. But I sing in tune and fairly well.
I work as a radio producer and so when I’m not in the studio on a live show, I’m in the office, preparing my programme and I’m always singing to whatever is playing on the radio. My colleagues will vouch for this!
Around 10 years ago, a colleague of mine pulled me aside and complimented me on my singing. He was a music producer outside of work and said he was impressed that I could hold a note with a good vocal range. He asked me to record a demo of three songs so that he could give it to one of the biggest British-Asian music producers on the scene.
My best friend Bal, who is also a colleague, was super excited about this and declared she would be my agent! She and Sukh encouraged me to get this done. I wasn’t sure at all. It was one thing singing for pleasure but to actually take it to the next stage? I didn’t think I was capable and self-doubt got in the way.I could have easily used our radio studios to record my voice and I even rehearsed a few songs over the next few weeks.
But I never plucked up enough courage to actually hit record. What if it didn’t go anywhere? Could I handle rejection if I wasn’t good enough? I had two young kids – did I have time to do this? What would my colleagues think if I ever recorded a song?
When new music is sent in to the station, as producers, we review whether the song will make it to our playlist. What if I got to that stage and my colleagues thought it was awful?
I was thinking so far ahead – with a lot of negativity – and I hadn’t even recorded a demo! It was enough for me to not do it though and it’s probably a regret I will always have. It may never have gone anywhere but I shouldn’t have been afraid to try. It’s been a real lesson for me in life though. Since then, I’ve taken the plunge with other things without worrying about whether it will work out or not. Fear prevents us from trying things out of our comfort zone and I have vowed to myself that I’ll never do it again.
4. I WAS THE STAR OF A LOCAL TV AD
I was in my final year at university when I applied for a part time job in the admissions office. It was to take prospective students on tours around campus. I had worked in the Student Union bars for two years and I was tired of the late nights. It was my final year, so I needed something which would work around lectures and exams.
The job also included calling students who had already accepted a place at the university and talking through any questions or concerns they had. The pay was generous and I enjoyed chatting to future students. Getting paid to chat was right up my street!
UNIVERSITY MARKETING CAMPAIGN
One of the admissions officers asked me to stay back one day and said she’d noticed how confident I was and how animated every time I spoke. She mentioned that the university was about to embark on a marketing campaign for prospective students and whether I would record a radio commercial, a TV ad and shoot for some billboard posters and leaflets.I couldn’t believe my luck! I would get paid a fair amount of money for doing this and it sounded super fun, so I agreed. She put me forward straight away. I was studying for my BA (Hons) in Journalism with Broadcast as my specialism so I wasn’t camera-shy nor was I nervous in a radio studio.
I remember having my make-up done by a professional on the day of the TV ad shoot. This was brand new for me at 21. It was exciting to see the cameras set up, and serval crew members getting the shot ready for me! It’s one of my most cherished memories of being at uni.
5. I AM MULTI-LINGUAL
I’m British-Punjabi, so from the time I could speak, it was always in two languages. I would communicate with my parents in Punjabi and use English when speaking to my sisters and cousins. Once I started school, I continued to learn and speak both simultaneously.
It was easier to keep in touch with my mother tongue back then because my parents’ English wasn’t great. They could get by but at home we would always converse in Punjabi. When I was around 12, my parents hired a Punjabi tutor so we could learn to read and write it too. I picked it up fairly quickly and I’m glad it’s something my parents made me do because it’s a great skill. I’m proud of my roots and speak Punjabi when communicating with elder members of the family.
As a producer on BBC Asian Network, we interview a lot of artists who struggle a little in English. So I belt out my Punjabi when booking them in or warming them up before an interview. It’s at times like that when I really appreciate my skill.
FLUENCY IN HINDI
The same goes with Hindi too. I’ve grown up watching Bollywood films but I would never speak it at home because Punjabi dominated. When I started my job at Zee, my colleagues would speak it a fair bit, as it was their first language. That’s when I really started to use it and I grew in confidence over time.
Even now, I often have full conversations with some of my colleagues at BBC Asian Network in Hindi. I’ve made a few work trips to Mumbai over the last few years and it’s come in quite handy. I’m the Bollywood co-ordinator at the station so I fix a lot of interviews with stars. It’s nice to be able to communicate with them in Hindi, even though they speak in English 90% of the time!
Both Shalini and Shivam can understand a bit of Punjabi but they can hardly speak it. And they never use it unless they have to say the odd few words to their grandparents. It’s a real shame because even though they get by, they can’t have conversations with any real meaning with both sets of grandparents.
It’s my own fault because I should have been teaching them from a young age by using it around the house. I’m a firm believer in keeping in touch with your roots and mother tongue.