By: Simone Gobin
Maya Jagjivan Kalicharan is a wife, mother, journalist, announcer, producer, lecturer and blogger . Maya, recently celebrated her 10 year anniversary with her husband, Neeren and together they have a seven year old son that apparently asks as many questions as Maya does!
- Who is Maya Jagjivan Kalicharan?
At heart, I’m that little girl who always wanted to empower people, make people happy and make a difference. Everything I do has been directed towards that – but it’s only now as an adult, that I have realised that. It’s an epiphany of sorts.
2. What does the media industry mean to you?
The media industry is home to me – journalism is part of my DNA. It’s where I have literally grown up – being single, getting married, becoming a mother – all these personal milestones happened while I was in the media industry. Professionally, I have found immense support and strength from my colleagues at all media houses, especially the SABC. The media industry has been the greatest teacher in my life – I have learnt the true meaning of responsible journalism, ethics, integrity, upholding the truth, grit, determination, dedication, sacrifice, lonnnnng hours and immeasurable rewards of serving the public of South Africa through the power of broadcasting. It’s what still drives me today. That, and copious amounts of coffee!
- Where did it all begin?
In December 2001. The editor then at the Lotus FM Bulletin Desk, Ami Nanackchand, was looking for someone to assist with producing news bulletins. I was fresh out of my first year of campus at Natal Tech, now DUT, studying journalism. Bitten by the radio bug, I worked at the SABC voluntarily while I was studying. I completed my in-service training at the SABC in 2003, and went on to work in several freelance positions, including reading news bulletins on Lotus FM and working as an election reporter for the SABC KZN – that really was my baptism into the world of politics – a passion I hold dearly still. I reported on various beats – from crime to economics, environmental and entertainment.
In 2005, I was employed as a permanent reporter for the KZN newsroom – travelling the length and breadth of the province, covering breaking news and feature stories. The best part, always, was meeting ordinary people and being in a position to tell their unique stories on air. In 2006, I moved to the current affairs team Newsbreak as a producer. It was there that I had the opportunity to take my love for politics further – reporting on elections, the ANC conferences and being chosen to report live from Parliament during the period of mourning for our former President Nelson Mandela.
I left Newsbreak in July last year, to explore other opportunities on a freelance basis. And surprisingly, I was back at Lotus FM in April this year as a Producer for Walk the Talk with Alan Khan – a famed name in the South African broadcasting. More than a big name, he has this enormous heart – and I have learnt so much from his passion for radio and the people we interview on the show Monday to Thursday every week.
- Announcer, Producer, Wife, Mom, Lecturer & Blogger; tell us about each of these roles and how difficult is it to maintain them.
I think freelancing is great because you get to manage your time as best as you can. You also need to be strict and stick to a schedule – things won’t magically happen by themselves. It’s all about priorities. It’s just over a year that I decided to go this route and I’m still learning how to manage it all – but the best part is that I have more time to spend with my son. And that’s not difficult at all!
My mornings start very early – I have are campus, then after midday I pick my son up and it’s homework and cooking. In-between that I prep for Walk the Talk on Lotus FM and then when hubby is home, I head off to the station. We are on air 7 to 8pm, spend some time chatting about the show and then I head home. My son and hubby are in bed by then, and that’s when I work on my blog. It also helps that I’m a bit of an insomniac so I may wake up early the next morning and feel the urge to write something for my blog. I started my blog in 2017, drawing inspiration from Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko’s words, “I write what I like”. Being in radio, I initially neglected my love for writing, but now I have found a great balance between the two.
- Tell us about your achievements within the media industry. Which one do you hold the closest to your heart and why? (summarize)
Any journalist will tell you that when they go out onto the field, the intention is not to do good work to win awards. The intention is simply to do good work. One of my achievements is Joint Winner Best News and Actuality Programme for Newsbreak Coverage of ANC Mangaung Conference at MTN Radio Awards– 2013. The next year we were finalists in the same category for our broadcasts from Parliament on the lying in state of the body of former President Nelson Mandela.
But, the memory I hold closest to me heart is this… It was the first radio package I put together. I was asked by an editor if I wold be able to voice a story and insert audio. I said yes, because I wanted the experience. But I didn’t know how to. It was already 7pm. I sat in the editing suite for hours, trying to master it. With trial and error, I completed the task. Today, it takes me less than three minutes to put together a radio feature.
- What were your struggles to enter into the industry?
When I started assisting on the Lotus FM Bulletin Desk, I was in absolute awe that I had the opportunity to work at the SABC. The questions was – would I stay there, working voluntarily as I could only do my in-service training a year and a half later? There was only one answer. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t getting paid initially, that I had to sometimes take two taxis to get to work, what mattered was that I was doing what I love. So yes, it isn’t always as glamourous as it may seem. Behind the scenes, there’s sacrifices and sweat. For me, I was able to reap the rewards of eventually being interviewed for and securing a full-time job. And my first salary was spent paying off my student loan.
- What are the most valuable lessons that you have learnt while spending the last couple years in radio?
Radio is theatre of the mind – so use your words carefully, and that means writing carefully when you are a journalist and producer. Contrary to what most believe, good radio requires good writing and great creativity. And of course, you have to be spontaneous. Smile, it can be heard by those tuning in. Laugh, if the situation calls for it. Be serious when dealing with serious matters. But, always be engaging. Never alienate people as they invite you into their homes and cars – and into their lives. I know there are many loyal Lotus FM listeners who tune in from the minute they wake up until they go to bed. That’s’ the beauty of radio – it’s a friend forever!
- Where to from here? Any future plans?
I ended 2017 with a post on my blog saying that I’m going into 2018 with no expectations and that I have realised that what I put into the universe is what I will get back. So that’s still my plan. I’m on a journey of self-discovery and spirituality – that’s my focus now, and I’m ready for whatever the future holds.
- What advice would you give anyone looking to enter the media industry?
Be passionate. If you’re passionate – everything else will fall into place. Passion will push you to work hard and then, it doesn’t feel like work – it becomes a calling.
10. If there is anyone that you could thank today, who would it be and what would you tell them?
I have thanked him before, but I don’t think it is enough. When I started off as a radio reporter in KZN, there was an editor – who took me under his wing, and had faith in my abilities. I was yet to discover that I could do all the things he pushed me to do – this was from around 2003 to 2005. Every top diary story had my name – there was nothing I could not handle in his books. Sometimes I doubted myself, but he didn’t. An “Indian” girl reporting on taxi violence in KZN and going to a meeting between the two factions? A junior journalist reporting on politics from the KZN legislature and driving the length and breadth of the province to report on national elections? A vegetarian chasing sardines and delivering a story that captures the essence of this phenomenon? I asked myself these questions, he didn’t. Dumisani Shange helped me develop as a journalist – and made me realise that I could report on anything – nothing was off-limits for this “Indian girl”! I could never thank him enough.