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Barkha Dutt Interview

Upasna Kamineni

Have you ever been through a cosmetic surgery?
I haven’t been through any cosmetic surgery and I don’t think I’m comfortable with the idea at all.

How do you manage your savings? Where do you invest?
You know, I’m terrible about money. I don’t think I even understand it. I don’t understand the markets or play them.
I was a 22-year-old and fresh out of college when I entered journalism. That wasn’t to become rich, but because I loved journalism - the adventure and all that. At that time, there wasn’t much money in media anyway. I just let my family take care of my money. I haven’t made any substantial investments, except for saving up to buy a house.

What are your indulgences?
Books and travel. Travel, because I sometimes report from situations where I don’t even have the time to have a bath, or wear a clean pair of clothes, or have a meal. So when I travel, I think it is fair for me to indulge and stay in slightly expensive hotels. But there too, I don’t stay in chain hotels - I look for boutique hotels rather. Or say, fly myself business - because there was one time when I couldn’t do that.

What’s in your shopping bag?
When I had gone to the US to cover Obama’s election, I came back with a carton full of music CDs and books - those are really my indulgences. Occasionally, I buy clothes but only those that don’t need worrying about the price. I do have a lot of bags and shoes though.

What brands do you buy?
I don’t buy many foreign brands. I’d walk into a Bloomingdale’s or a Barneys and pick up whatever I want - but I’m not brand sleek at all. In Delhi at Santusti, there’s a shop called Tulsi that does Indian clothes, which are terribly and obnoxiously overpriced. But because I don’t have the time to find a new place, and because I like what I get there, I continue buying from there. Zara, which I’m wearing today, is pretty much of a staple wear though. I don’t like in-your-face kind of clothes; I don’t like clothes that scream their brand.

Any tips on managing money for the working woman?
Though things have changed for women, they have not changed enough. There is still an enormous amount of pressure on women to make compromises much more than men. I see women in my own office - very talented women - and the kind of pressure that they face once they are married and have children. I’m sorry to say that equality at the workplace has not happened yet. I think it will happen if enough women demand it; them quietly accepting it will not change things for sure.

Do you like cars?
I don’t really care about cars. I don’t like anything that looks flashy. My office car is a Honda CRV - a tough and rugged vehicle. I used to have an Opel Corsa before, though my family’s Fiat was the most affectionate.

What everyday jewelry do you wear?
I tend to wear a lot of bohemian styles, with vibrant colours and big stones. I wear a little bit of platinum at times, but that’s about it.

Does a journalist have to look a particular way to be respected?
It’s not that a journalist is supposed to look a particular type. Some dress according to the stereotype; some don’t. But in places my work takes me - a place hit by a tsunami, or a village in Kashmir or the site of a terrorist attack - if I’m wearing a salwar kameez or kurta and jeans... it would be inappropriate in my view to look glamorised in a situation which is so opposite to that mood.

And in a situation in areas where the tsunami hit, I didn’t even have a place to stay or even bathe!

While Lakshya was being made, Preity Zinta called me up because they were modelling her character on me, and asked me what I was wearing in Kargil. Well, I had lost my bag the very first day there as we were separated in some shelling - and I was wearing a pair of jeans paired with a kurta and a shirt, and I repeated the same clothes for 15 days. Though say, for an interview, I could dress up. So a lot of times, the context determines our choice of clothes as a journalist.

Is wealth pressure or a pleasure?
Neither. Wealth is not relevant. I just want to have enough money to be comfortable and pursue the things I love like books, travel, music and a nice house. It doesn’t mean more to me than that.

What is more powerful: being rich or being famous?
A lot of people are scared of these! Both are curses. But I try not to think of these like that. Because when you do, you lose some of your innocence. One reason I connect to some of my viewers is because they see me as one of them. So I don’t want to be seen as someone too rich, powerful or elusive.

What defines you as a person: your job, or your point of view?
My job defines a lot of me, but even in my job; I won’t be who I am without my point of view. In the end, I am shaped by other influences that are linked to my job.

How important is it to have good education, and degrees?
It is good to have at least one educational degree as a safety value, though it depends on what you want to do. I have two Master’s degrees - in mass communications and broadcast journalism. But if I wanted to be a theatre person instead, I could go to the National School of Drama and get a vocational degree - which would be equivalent to a Masters elsewhere. It all depends on what you want to do.

Do you collect art - like say, paintings?
I am more of a books and music person. Also, cinema and theatre. What I collect is pretty ad hoc.

Do you have a spiritual guru?
No. But I have and believe in my own personal God whom I talk to, pray to, and have internal dialogues with. I believe that there is a power of goodness and justice in the world, and for me, it is not a person, but a life force.

Do you really think a hundred times before you say anything, especially when you are on TV?
I do think, but I speak from my heart. I say whatever comes to my mind. Which is why I am always in trouble. People will sometimes impute you with motives you never had, or conflicts which you don’t even think about, but certainly every word you speak is scrutinised.
That being said, one has to be a little responsible for what one says, . I’ve made mistakes sometimes; I wish that I could have said some things differently, but I’m not scared, because in the end, my viewers are my jury.

Would you ever join politics?
More of us should get involved in politics. We always say, people like us will never join, but after the Mumbai attacks, I feel it is time for good people to join politics. Mobilise yourselves, write to people like us and we will get forums organised.


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