“Don’t Panic” - Mae

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1. Tell us about your background and journey. 

Should I just send you my CV? Hehehe...

Oh god, where do I begin? Born in Kerala, I grew up in Doha, Qatar (with Bombay always being my home and base), was in a boarding school called Rishi Valley School. I then moved to the UK to pursue my BA in Advertising at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham as well as my MA in Journalism Studies at Cardiff University in Wales.

I was always dabbling on the radio where I started out during my Undergraduate days talking about films on our studio radio station at the University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham. Then I was a student journalist and radio presenter when I was doing my Masters at Cardiff University in Wales.

And eventually, I was a News Editor/Journalist for a community radio station in Newport, Wales for 2 years before I came back to India and continued working in radio as a presenter, producer, and creative manager at Chennai Live 104.8FM. In 2011-12, I had a short stint with the erstwhile NH7.in as a Music Journalist/Sub-Editor. 

I eventually ventured back to my audio roots, hosting the weekend show, and eventually the afternoon request show, 'Mumbai On Demand' on 94.3 Radio One. From broadcast radio, I began exploring the growing medium of podcasting and became the Creative Director of a podcasting company in Mumbai. 

In 2018, I started a podcast production company and consultancy where my flagship indie music podcast Maed in India and the food industry show NoSugarCoat with Pooja Dhingra were selected by Apple as the Best Podcasts of 2018 in India. 

Currently, I am the creative producer and production head for a number of podcasts including women's health show, She Says She's Fine with Dr. Munjaal Kapadia, dating & matchmaking show Cupid Kaneez with Kaneez Surka, and live comedy panel show The Un experts with Abish Mathew, business podcast Dreamers & Unicorns with Abhijit Bhaduri, book podcast The Lit Pickers with Supriya Nair & Deepanjana Pal and more.

I work as a podcast consultant to develop audio ideas, design shows, handle production, and distribution of podcasts. Most of my career has been in the audio medium and I’ve been lucky that I’ve always had the opportunity, strength, and support to pursue my passion.

2. How and when did you realize your passion? 

I always wanted to pursue media as my career of choice and journalism specifically because I valued the idea of telling stories, getting to the truth, and the heart of issues, allowing for debate among different minded people and to create informed citizens of the world. And radio was a medium that was a huge part of my childhood and became a huge part of my life. 

I knew radio was something I loved but I had a moment of realization during the Bombay floods and I got stuck at home with no electricity or internet etc and the only thing that worked was my mother's battery-powered radio. And someone somewhere was still broadcasting updates on the floods to people who were listening. That's when I realized that even if the apocalypse hits, I still have a job! 

3. What are the skills required to be a radio jockey, journalist, director, podcaster?

Having the gift of the gab is definitely one requisite. I also think that being a good listener and talking to people about their stories is what makes you see things from different perspectives and work towards helping people find their voice and speak their truth.

Research skills are another valuable asset that will hold you in good stead so that you are always seeking out information, context, and the truth. Of course, if you are in the field of media, consume as much of it as you can. The more you know the better ideas you’ll have.

4. Does one also need to be technologically savvy in your area of expertise? 

Well for working in the audio medium, having some technical knowledge will help you understand better. I’m not saying that you need to have an audio engineering degree (though getting one is always an added benefit), but having basic audio editing skills helps. Most people with a radio background can edit audio. 

However, I don’t have the requisite skills to be a sound designer. It’s good to talk to people who are in more technical fields because they will be able to give you more knowledge and insight. I have learned so much by talking to experts about what makes a room soundproof, the technicalities of FM broadcasting, which makes some material reflect and absorb sound, dialogue editing shortcuts, etc.

5. What makes a person connect with its audience?

That’s a difficult question to answer. Firstly one must not consider “your audience” as one cohesive mass, because it isn’t. Your audience is divided by various demographic markers like age, gender, geography, religion, language, etc. They are also divided into areas of interest, profession, hobbies, etc.

What is important is to understand who you are, what is the story you’re going to tell, is it worth telling, and will people understand? To connect with your audience, they need to see a piece of you in what you create, whether it’s art, comedy, music, or a podcast.

6. What are various opportunities available for aspiring artists or creators from your field? 

So in podcasting, considering it’s still a nascent medium, there is a lot of opportunities for creators to explore new ideas, new soundscapes, new formats, new stories, and new perspectives. There is so much new ground to break with regards to Indian narratives. It’s all about taking that leap.

7. Which is your favorite book and why?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

It will forever be one of the most imaginative pieces of literature I’ve read. It has made me laugh hysterically and done yoga asanas with my mind, bending in directions I don’t think any book has. 

It’s also a true sign of the times, that in the book, the phrase on the cover of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ is “Don’t Panic”. It’s probably the best advice he could have given humanity.

- Mae , Radio Presenter

- Interviewed by Kedar Lalwani

- Edited by Shilpy Sharan

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