Nidhi Razdan is no stranger to Indian television viewers. She is an award-winning journalist and author who was associated with NDTV, a pioneer in India’s news television and digital journalism for almost 23 years. She made a name as someone committed to upholding journalistic ethics and values, doing her job with integrity, passion and fairness.
In conversation with AboutHer, she spoke about her journey thus far, the challenges she faced in her career and her learnings over the 23 years she has spent following her dreams.
Nidhi began by sharing some details about her family. She told us that as her parents lived abroad, she and her brother spent a part of their childhood in England and the US before they returned to India and made Delhi their home. She was thirteen years old at that time. As expected, it took the siblings a while to adjust to a new way of life in a new environment where they had no friends. But as children are prone to do, they quickly adapted to the new surroundings though learning Hindi, a completely new language, took more work. Used to as they were to the Hindi spoken in movies, particularly the Amitabh Bachchan kind of Hindi, it took them a while to master the language per their academic requirements.
After finishing school, Nidhi joined The Lady Shriram College for her undergraduate studies and, after that, pursued journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communications, where she topped her class.
The conversation reinforced something we all know: how parents play a critical role in their children’s career choices. As a child, Nidhi wanted to become a doctor, but her parents, unlike other parents in those times, wanted her to choose something different. In her words, ‘My father was horrified when I told him I wanted to be a doctor. He wanted to know why I wanted to work so hard.”
He suggested that she should consider something creative as an option.
While she was still contemplating the options, her mother clinched the deal, so to speak, for her. At that time, TV was becoming a big thing in India. Since Nidhi was deeply interested in current affairs and loved public speaking, her mother suggested that she consider television as a career option. This suggestion prompted her to apply to NDTV, which was coming up in a big way at that time with Pranoy Roy and his show – The World This Week. Though rejected for an internship, NDTV called her for a job a few months later, and the rest is history, as they say.
Every field has famous personalities who serve as role models, especially for newcomers. Sometimes these people are the reason why youngsters join a particular profession. When Nidhi joined the television as a political journalist, there wasn’t anyone there to serve as a role model, but the print media had many. She remembers being inspired by luminaries like Nina Vyas, who never shied away from asking politicians tough questions, and Neerja Chowdhury and Radhika Ramaseshan, who all inspired her to become the fearless and bold journalist that she rose to become.
While externally, she got her inspiration from these well-known journalists who she wanted to emulate internally, she was supported by the environment at NDTV. Since it was a woman-centric organization, there were no gender-related challenges that the women there had to face. This supportive environment ensured they could focus on their work and give it their best.
Nidhi also shared some of the learnings of her life during her conversation with us. According to her, it is highly essential to have a work-life balance in life. She feels that sometimes when we love our job, we give it all, putting in much more work than required. While working hard is essential, focusing on other aspects of life, like family and giving oneself a break, is equally important. One cannot be only work driven and must know where to draw the line. Not only is the realization important, but voicing it is also critical because, as she says,’ You won’t get it if you don’t ask for it.’
While reflecting on her life, she feels she could have done things differently and not pushed herself so hard. Since she was totally devoted to her work, she reached a stage of burnout where she wanted to give it all up. She was mentally exhausted and just couldn’t handle it any longer. As a result, she had no choice but to take a year-long break from her work.
When she joined back, having learnt her lesson, she negotiated for a four-day week. She was unequivocal that she wouldn’t subject herself to the same relentless and taxing work schedule. As a result of this decision, she feels she could work better and have time for other aspects of her life. She also decided to just focus on her journalistic work and leave the admin part. This decision worked well for her.
She feels that the younger generation nowadays is more aware of the need for this balance and is ok to ask for it. They don’t want to push themselves so hard that other aspects of their life get neglected. She appreciates this as she feels a balance is necessary for mental health.
She also feels that Covid had much to do with how people’s perspectives on life changed. It has made people value time, lives and relationships.
Another thing that she emphasized was the need for women to be financially independent. She feels that young girls should not ignore this and stop working the minute they get married. Money gives one a lot of freedom and is, therefore, very important. Moreover, she feels that life is too uncertain and things can go wrong anytime, so one must have something to fall back on.
Women often must quit working to care for their children or other family members. Though it is a matter of choice, she feels that every woman needs to work not only for financial independence but also to have an identity. She feels working gives meaning to your life and helps you grow and evolve. Therefore women must work. For example, one could write, teach, or work for an NGO, but women must do something.
She is all for women’s independence and feels happy seeing girls breaking barriers in the media space.
As a successful woman who has made a name for herself in her chosen field, she feels that while many people are happy and encouraging towards such women and want to know them, there are others who feel intimidated and threatened by them. Men especially don’t like independent-minded women who have strong opinions. Social media, she feels, is a prime example where women get trolled for things many others may have also said. But she feels that is ok, and one should focus on the positives.
Nidhi firmly believes that a woman can have it all. But at the same time, she must have the courage to step back if she feels she can’t give a 100 per cent to her work/ situation. She gave the example of former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to illustrate her point. Ardern gave up her position when she felt she couldn’t cope with its demands. She feels every woman must do what she feels is right for her. Her decisions/ choices should not be based on what other people or society expect from her. Instead, they should depend upon her circumstances, her family and the support structure she has.
According to Nidhi, a woman should never hesitate to seek help from others when needed. Many women don’t do that and take on more on themselves than they can handle. As women, she feels, we can be better role models for the younger generation if we learn to draw a line and only do as much as we can.
Nidhi comes across as a people person who believes in carrying everyone along. She feels that in life, it is crucial to learn how to deal with people. One must understand others and be patient, recognizing that not everyone is the same. If you are a team leader, you must rise above things and work towards keeping everyone together.
According to her, it is essential to encourage young people. One must give them a wider berth, allow them to make mistakes, and learn from them. She believes everyone must be given a fair chance and wishes she had been given those chances.
Nidhi quit NDTV after being associated with it for almost 23 years. At this stage of her life, she is considering other options which will be related to journalism though they may not have anything to do with television. She will also continue to write. She feels that in the present times, the space for proper journalism in India has shrunk though she hopes it will return to being where it was.
On being asked about people switching to a new and different career in their early forties or later, she feels one must explore the options, especially if one has been doing something for a while and not getting anywhere. While one must be practical and financially comfortable, it is good to try something new. She sees people leaving high-powered jobs to do something like farming.
According to her, life is too short, and one must do what one feels happy doing.
Nidhi comes across as a person who values the small joys of life. Going back in time, more than the awards and recognition, she feels that the small successes have stayed with her. For instance, she fondly remembers her experience of going to Tibet for a documentary. Though Pranoy gave her permission, she had to wait a year to get the visa. She patiently waited and finally went on the trip when she got it. The highlight was the fact that she filmed it alone. It was like a solo adventure, and so was a big high. She has fond memories of that experience.
As for her future, she wants to remain healthy and happy doing what she loves.
When we look at Nidhi’s journey, we see that from looking for a role model once upon a time, she has come to a point where she has become a role model to so many young girls and women. May we continue to have such inspiring women amongst us.