This is a story of two women who now know each other for more than twenty years.
Both alumnae from the same college, one graduated before the other, but they didn’t meet in college.
They met at work.
It was at work, in the television industry, that they each honed their skills at story telling, writing, direction, editing and production. They both worked in the same team, at the same company – The Plus Channel, producing business programming for Indian television. One led the team, the other, along with more reporters, contributed to the success of the program. They were both young in the early nineties.
Satellite Television was a nascent medium then, and they both learned on the job. Their first steady jobs, they each worked hard to make a mark in the industry.
It was not a time of social media so perhaps there is very little documentation of the learning, the work ethic and the defining moments of their careers, of which there were many. And these were often shared over a chai or, when time and money permitted, over a beer. Being women and navigating the media world in a hugely patriarchal industry then, taught them to be strong women who had opinions and a voice that was their own.
One of these women left the television industry and moved to Bengaluru. The other continued to charter her very successful course in the industry with impactful programming with the BBC.
They kept in touch, even met a couple of times in the years since, but life was busy for both. Marriage, careers, homes, children, human and fur babies, kept them busy.
Facebook got them back in touch, this time as friends with a shared past.
She is a marathon runner and I found her running updates motivation to look after myself. She would check in on me and Ketav and the kids. She had witnessed our grand romance, Ketav and mine, before we married. All of Plus Channel had.
The #100sareepact had many silent supporters. The unveiling of a movement that became a platform for the voices of the urban woman did not go unnoticed and brought me support from men and women even if they did not adopt the pact.
And Sonia Chowdhry was one of them. She would cheer for us on the pact, if a story resonated with her, she’d leave a comment, engage.
I got that call from Sahil at the research team of TED last May, and after a couple of weeks it was agreed that I would do a TED talk. It was then that I had asked a few questions and was told the creative director would answer these and that he would send me her number.
In popped Sonia’s number on an email.
Imagine my surprise and delight when I realized a past team mate was bringing one of the most inspiring programming to Indian television.
This time, she was leading the team and I was contributing to it. She guided me, patiently, firmly, with my script. She had witnessed the pact on social media, and was as determined as I for the story of the pact to be communicated effectively on this world stage. I drew comfort from knowing that she had my back.
I’ve told you how my many worlds came together on that stage when I delivered the TED talk. My children, who had never seen their mother in her element, my mother who had puzzled over what on earth her daughter was doing spending a year on Facebook. The platform of TED itself that I had sought inspiration from so many times in the past. I brought to that stage with me the belief and strength of the many, many participants of the pact.
Two people walked me there to that stage that day. Ketav & Sonia.
In the TED instance they’ve both patiently sat through script iterations, built my confidence and yet graciously shone the spotlight on me, but also cheered the loudest.
When I flew to Mumbai for the shoot and met Sonia on set, we hugged. And in that moment more than twenty years collapsed and we were those two young women again. Professionals who knew there was a fabulous program to be shot. She sat in the audience in rehearsals, I went up on stage and practiced. She gave me feedback, I listened.
I believe our TED journey began those twenty years ago, when as young women we worked to be our best. We’ve walked each other over these past two decades, we’ve seen each other become the women we are today. Befitting then that we shot together for TED on an all women episode titled “Meri Marzi” – My Choice.
I say this on the pact #weareallconnected, we just have to find our connections. I’ve found mine in my life in all manners and in all that I do.
Our paths have crossed and intertwined and each time we have done fantastic work together, Sonia. I’ve admired your determination and clarity of thought in the work environment. You’ve also nurtured friendships over decades, I see you do that with the rest of the team we worked with also.
I can’t wait to see what we do next together.We have much to say through our work and, together, we will.
Closing my stories of #myjourneytothereddot with this affirming story of friendship. I will always look back at this journey as magical, where my past, my present and my future all stood alongside with me on the red dot as I spoke.
#gratitude #salutetostrongwomen #100sareepact #wewearourhistory
I’m writing this on my way to a reunion of The Plus Channel today, where this story began more than twenty years ago.
We are all connected.