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Barkha Dutt Interview

Upasna Kamineni

Barkha Dutt - the name is truly associated with substance and great respect. NDTV’s woman on top, our lady has reached and touched over a billion lives worldwide.

Bringing the best possible news to us by putting her life at stake most times made Barkha a proud Padma Shree in 2008. Mumbai, Afghanistan, Kargil or New York, Barkha was there bringing the best news to our living rooms. B+ve respects her work, and on a lighter note, asks her advice on being Healthy, Wealthy & Wise.

A media  career is very tiring, how do you manage to keep fit? Do you have an exercise regimen?
I should say that I am a little guilty on this count. I try and take breaks to exercise, and I always feel good when I do this. But I keep erratic hours, because I might have to get up and travel all of a sudden. Still, whenever I am in town, I do yoga every morning for 45 minutes.

Why yoga?
My yoga teacher asked me what my priority is, in taking these classes.. My answer to that was , more than physical fitness, I want some kind of a stress buster - to feel a relative calm in the midst of all this madness. Thus, the concentration is much more on breathing, pranayam and such.
The downside of the kind of work I do is that you are exposed to so much death, violence, conflict and tragedy. This scars you in ways you are not conscious of immediately - and I have been doing this kind of reporting for 15 years. So, more than physical rejuvenation, I need something that helps me focus mentally.

Do you get the time to exercise?
Times like the Mumbai attacks, I wasn’t able to exercise for 10 days. I don’t have fixed working hours - there are fixed hours when I come on TV, but in fragile situations such as these, all waking hours are working hours.

All the violence and conflicts would certainly take a toll on you. Have you tried anti depressants?
I cry often – tears just well up. People say that I get too emotional. But as human beings how can we not? We’d be robots otherwise. I have gone through periods in my life when I feel very low, but I know what anti depressants do,  so I’ve never gone down that path a lot of times .

Sleeping pills?
Sleeping pills… sometimes yes. I sometimes take a sleeping pill while taking  a flight because I’m claustrophobic - but not regularly, because we know that these can be addictive and harmful and terrible. I use it to get over my jet lag.

Do you have weight issues?
Yes, I want to lose weight for sure –but, not too thin, like those anorexic models you see on Fashion TV. I don’t have a weighing machine at home and maybe that is why I am overweight, but I think weight is being pushed to a limit.  I want to get enough energy from my food to look and feel healthy. I do go to the gym too, but it is so erratic that everybody there laughs at me. There was a time I loved classical dance - Odissi - but don’t get to do that now.

Do you think there is a bias against fat people?
There definitely seems to be some discrimination against fat people, but the way we define fat is ridiculous. There is tremendous pressure on women by popular culture, friends and family, to be and look attractive. I don’t think the society should set standards on health and beauty. I think the focus should be on being healthy, but we take it to an exaggerated extent. Weight is a very personal thing and I think that our society gangs up against those who aren’t good looking.

Do you have breakfast every day?
I never used to, but now I do as an attempt on my part to be healthy. I go through phases of putting on and losing weight randomly. A lot of times it is connected to my mental health.

What did you have for lunch today?
Nothing today as it has been a busy day so far. But I did have a heavy breakfast to keep me going through the day. I had toast and juice followed by a bowl of sprouts. These days I find myself guilty of indulging in binging eating due to stress. Usually, it is an Indian lunch like dal chawal and sabji.

What are your favourite foods?
Occasionally, I binge on Chinese and Thai - I can eat them 24/7. I do eat meat, but not on a regular basis. Fish is another favourite, but I can’t eat it if it still looks like a full fish. It should not be made to look like a fish.

If you were asked to be a spokesperson for spreading awareness on any disease or ailment, what would it be?
That’s an interesting question,, maybe Diabetes or Heart diseases, I feel that for HIV and Cancer, science is trying harder to discover antidotes and medicines. . I feel that we have to speak up for things that lack human effort. There are things in life that we don’t actually understand, for example, I don’t know beyond propagating safe sex and not sharing needles for HIV and for cancer, I don’t even know what to propagate, but there are some lifestyle diseases which are within our control to fend off and I believe that human beings should speak up on things within their control.

You have been termed the iron lady of the Indian television. How often does an illness pull you down?
I’ve had a painful discovery that I’m not in my 20’s anymore. I’ve had stress related stomach disorders. I’ve started yoga and that has made a huge difference. My attitude to work or the energy I spend on it has not declined in any way. It comes with the fact that you are now in your late thirties and that you will slow down. I’ve had to deal with my share of health problems but I am very much a mind over matter person. - I will still work for days if I have to, even if I am unwell. But I think I am learning that I have to look after myself much more than I used to, because indeed I am growing older.

How do you relax after a hard day? Do you relax at all, in the first place?
I do relax! Possibly late at night, maybe at one in the morning when I should rather be sleeping!

Don’t tell me you read then!
I read (bursts out laughing). I read voraciously. I read anything I can lay my hands on. I do also watch movies, but I don’t watch Bollywood at home, I go out with friends once in a while - I love Hindi music though.

How often do you get to go on holidays?
This year I’ve had only two days off. It’s been a crazy news season. I think when things calm down between India and Pakistan, hopefully sooner than later, I’ll take a few days off to visit Pakistan. It’s beautiful.


What would be your ideal holiday?
I love the hills and the waters. The hills I like when it is quiet, when there are not too many tourists, when I can take long walks and eat ghar ka khana. Quiet places are tough to find, but the two days I took off, I did manage to find a nice little cottage in such a place.
Internationally, New York is my favourite city which I love with a passion - also because I’ve studied in Columbia University. Since my work life involves a lot of travelling, when I get a few days off I like to go to some place familiar - so I tend to revisit some of the places again and again.

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