“A woman can’t have it all- it is either her career or her family”– growing up, this sentence made frequent appearances in my life. My aunts, my grannies, my mother even, had all given up on their soaring careers, their ambitions, either after getting married or on becoming a mother. But many women have not only aced their goal of having a successful career but are also nailing their roles as supermoms. And who would be a better example than Gitikka Ganju Dhar, one of India’s leading anchors?
A jack of many trades, Gitikka has donned many hats throughout her years in the industry- anchor, moderator, writer, and actor. Regarded as one of India’s best live talents, a Goliath in her field, she has been honoured with countless awards for her exemplary work till date- First Awardee Live Quotient Awards Best Anchor India, Bharat Nirman Award, won the Best Anchor India Female at EEMAX Spotlight Awards 2018 and also in 2017, and the Best Emcee Award India by Business World BW Applause Awards 2017.
As I engaged in a chat with the gifted orator, I learned that she was on her way to pick up her daughter, 9-year-old Daeveka, as she wants to surprise her. She had come straight from the airport, right after wrapping another successful yet lengthy event. Why, you ask? Because when it comes to her own well-being or seeing that smile on her child’s face, a mother always chooses the former.
How about starting with the story of you entering the field of anchoring?
It was fate and dogged determination on my part. It has been two decades since I did my first anchoring stint. I was in college at the time, studying in the Mass Communication Research Centre in Jamia Milia University, New Delhi, and I was undergoing training to be a cameraperson. The premises had big studios where big producers came to shoot stuff and one of them saw me and offered me my first project- an anchor for a television show.
Following it, I immediately got the offer of my first live show, at the Auto Expo, many years ago. To be honest, being an anchor was never my plan, but it happened by chance, I loved it and also the work kept coming my way, thus I never looked back!
Amazing, isn’t it? How our stars align in a way we don’t even have a shot at predicting! But as per the thinking process of an Indian parent, the changing career paths of their child do not bode well. So, any Mahabharat at home following this impromptu switch in your career?
Nope! My parents have been really exemplary in the way they allowed me and brother to find our niche. There was never a moment when they questioned my career choices. I mean I had worked in contract advertising in the past and had not liked the experience, following which I had the desire to become a cameraperson.
Also, at the time, anchoring was not something people were embracing as a professional career, so I am sure that my parents must have been concerned about my future. But they continued to be there for me, even though our relatives and neighbours had started questioning my aim in life. They never let these judgements bog them down, neither did they let them de-motivate me.
Parents are the real superheroes, indeed! But while they sheltered you from relative and naysayers, what about the time when you were a part of the industry which perceives it impossible for married women, especially ones who are mothers as well, to balance both career and family? How have you broken these stereotypes?
I wouldn’t say that I have broken these stereotypes alone- there are millions are women across the nation who are the symbol of women power. They are managing their homes and being incredibly amazing in their careers as well. Whether it is a woman working on a construction site, a female bank employee, or someone like me working in the media and entertainment industry- we are all managing our homes and careers and I agree that it’s a very difficult balance to achieve. It takes the mickey out of you, but it is not impossible.
But I would like to add that in the coming years, men in our nation need to come forward and really, really, need to take up more responsibility when it comes to child-rearing and managing the home. They need to make it a little easier for women because the next generation, unlike the past ones, is not going to so selfless or ready for sacrificing their dreams.
Gitikka was recently awarded the incredible honour of the WOW Live Artist of the Decade Award at WOW Awards Asia 2018. Business World Applause in 2019 honoured her with the Best Contribution to Indian Experiential Realm Award. Now counting her 18th year as Live Host and Content Writer, she is one of India’s leading orators of distinguished reputation.
Pick any industry and you will this strange aversion to working mothers. Did you face any challenges when you became a mom?
When I was having my daughter, I took a one-year hiatus from work. After 3-4 months of her birth, I planned to resume working, foreseeing no hitches in my career. But yes, people were a little wary about the fact that I have a child now and I had put on weight post-delivery. Barring those experiences years ago, I would like to add that India’s Live Industry is the most evolved when it comes to their mentality regarding working women.
I faced the stereotypes and I answered them by being consistent with my professionalism and good work. So, basically, for me, the real challenge is to keep working with the same intensity, focus, and dedication, every single day. Consistent hard work in my dictionary is the key to excellence.
Till date, Gitikka has hosted 3000+ shows and events. Her name has become synonymous with some of the biggest and most acclaimed live projects, of which some recent events include the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas 2019, Vibrant Gujarat 2019, Khelo India Youth Games 2019, CREDAI Youth Con 2019, and the Global Aviation Summit 2019. She also hosted the Talentrack Awards, The Sufi Route and Hotelier India Awards, etc.
In 2018 she hosted several flagship projects such as Magnetic Maharashtra Convergence Global Investors Summit 2018, ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit 2018, Founding Conference of International Solar Alliance 2018, US India Business Council Ideas Summit 2018, India International Energy Forum and India International Science Fair 2018. The Honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, graced a significant number of the above-mentioned events- something Gitikka regards as a matter of great pride for her, to host key events in the presence of India’s most admired Prime-Minister ever.
Of the countless events, you have hosted, which one would you say has been your favourite?
You see, my definition of memorable keeps changing ‘cause there is always going to be that one show, one event which is much more than an anchoring project for me and I am very proud of having the opportunity to host them. Recently, it was the Kargil Vijay Diwas, the 20th commemorative event in the presence of the Prime Minister of India with whom I had also hosted the event, Mai Bhi Chowkidar before the general elections took place.
As a live event anchor as well as hosting shows, what would you say is more challenging?
Both have their own pros and cons. But yes, live anchoring is more challenging and needs more on-the-ground thinking but after spending so many years on stage, these situations appear very minor as they are really the job of the anchor to handle. You are not working in a structured environment, things can go wrong- a mike can fail or malfunction at the last moment, a speaker can come late. But as an anchor, that is a part of my job profile- to handle sudden changes and chaos.
Within the Indian live industry, she is the preferred anchor for content-based summits and government-led events that involve the presence of Heads of State, Presidents, Prime-Ministers and corporate global leadership due to her masterful fluency in both the Hindi and English language, adept understanding of protocol, extensive pan-India experience and a resonant voice.
Gitikka has also hosted many television shows like Sehat Ki Rasoi, Meri Saheli (Star Plus), Zaike ka Safar (Zee), Saturday Suspense (Sony), Chitrahar (DD1) etc.
Coming back to your amazing life as an anchor, you have this powerful presence on-stage! Is there a pep talk, or some ritual you give yourself before ascending the stage?
Yes, I rehearse beforehand, so when I am on the stage, I am ready, I love being on stage. Also, I am a trained dancer and a singer, so I am more of a performer than just a live host. I don on different characters for different shows. I consider myself a versatile, engaging across different genres of anchoring. And beyond that, I have to say that I have been blessed with god’s grace and it is his gift to me.
So, this on-stage persona of yours, how different is it compared to you being away from the camera?
It is like a 180-degree difference. I am a completely different person in my personal life- casually dressed and just any other basic human being. I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, I buy vegetables (she laughs). I am poles apart from the person everyone sees on stage, never letting my two personas to merge.
What happens when you are. maybe, practising your script at home and your daughter approaches you, how does the anchor at the moment change personalities?
When I am writing content, I am like a grizzly bear- I don’t like to be disturbed. And throughout the years, she has observed this herself and learned not to disturb me. But then, when she does choose to come into my study and approach me, I put everything away and give her my undivided attention, whatever she wants and needs to be addressed, I solve it and I go back to my writing.
As we know Gitikka, women have been conditioned throughout their life to consider their dreams and aspirations expendable. They feel guilty for having the mere thought of building their career when they are married and have kids.
I think it’s a very personal process of getting over that guilt, but I also believe that if you get a child into this world, you need to be there for them as, by the making of Nature itself, a mother is the better parent of the two. So, the guilt we feel is not unfounded, as we want to be there for our child as well and thus, finding the balance is pretty challenging. But if you have the drive to reach your goal and the desire to ensure that you are there for your child’s smallest milestones, then work hard to get there and trust me, the result is rewarding and fulfilling.