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Made in Chandigarh: Be passionate, be authentic, says SBS Radio’s Manpreet Kaur Singh

Sound of sincerity: The executive producer of SBS Punjabi in Australia, who has won numerous international awards for her path-breaking work, says there is no substitute for hard work.

punjab Updated: Jun 08, 2018 12:21 IST
Manraj Grewal Sharma
Manraj Grewal Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Made in Chandigarh,SBS Radio,executive producer
Manpreet at her workplace in Melbourne. (Photo: Aaron Wan)

A Panjab University alumna muses:

Name: Manpreet Kaur Singh

Age: 49

Designation: Executive Producer, Punjabi Program, SBS Radio, Australia

Hometown

Being an army officer’s daughter, I belong to all of India. I am fortunate that I got to travel around India extensively and experience all its splendour.

Education

I must have studied in over half-a-dozen schools in cities and towns as diverse as Delhi, Yol cantonment in Dharamshala, Madras, Tenga Valley and Bareilly. I loved my school at Tenga Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. There were just six of us in a class, and the place was so beautiful. Then my father was posted in Punjab and I ended up doing my graduation from Government College for Women, Patiala.

My Chandigarh connect

I came to Panjab University in Chandigarh to study mass communication. It was the only university, which was offering a degree in this subject, others only had diplomas. The one-year course at PU was fantastic, it set me up for life. My favourite haunts included the campus, Sector 17, Sector 10 and of course the Sukhna Lake, the heart of Chandigarh.

The hostel itself was quite an experience as I interacted with girls who had come from a cloistered existence in Punjab and now didn’t know how to handle their newfound freedom. It was quite a culture shock for me.

Area of expertise

I think as journalists we tend to be generalists. I am fortunate to work for SBS. Thanks to it, I have not been restricted to one subject and have been working on pretty much everything. One area that has got me the maximum accolades is my work on highlighting issues in the Punjabi community. I and my large team are known for continually breaking stories and talking about issues. While migrant success stories are inspiring, it is equally important to shine a light on the unresolved issues among the community.

My documentary feature “The Enemy Withion” investigating family violence in the Australian-Indian community won six national and international awards and a coveted Walkley nomination, which is the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzer.

My secret sauce

There are two things that may seem diametrically opposed but aren’t. Firstly, don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself, don’t put any limits on yourself, walk the path less trodden. I started off as an English journalist, but once I came to Australia, I carved a new career in Punjabi journalism, and now I am a successful broadcaster. Secondly, be authentic, be true to yourself. When I made a foray into Punjabi journalism, I came from a place where my personal and professional worlds came together.

I put my heart and soul into what I do. I have been with the SBS for 25 years, my listeners connect with me. I am lucky that SBS does not put any embargo on any topic. It is completely free and fair.

The turning point

Coming to Australia was certainly a turning point for me. It was here that I learnt to speak and use my language professionally. I credit this country for welcoming diversity and for not discriminating against languages other than English.

Manpreet with her father Col TS Bhan at Patiala in 1987.

What I owe to Chandigarh

I owe my career to Chandigarh. It laid the foundation of my future. The department of journalism was amazing, the teachers honed my skills and taught me to believe in myself. My first ever job was also in the city. I was all of 19 when I was given the job of a writer by a leading English daily in 1989.

Things I like to do when I visit Chandigarh

I like taking my children to the lake, the rock garden and the Sector 10 museum. I also enjoy going back to my department in the Panjab University.

How has the city changed?

The city has become so much bigger and busier. I was thrilled to see the changes in my department. It has become much nicer. They also have a terrific radio studio.

Change I want to see in the city

I hope the city climbs up to the No 1 spot in the Swachh Bharat rankings. It should also strive to be more friendly to those differently abled.

The best advice I ever got

I was told that to be truly successful, a person needs three things: ‘Illat’, ‘Qillat’ and ‘Zillat’. Illat is passion. It’s important to be very passionate about whatever you do. Qillat is shortage; lack of abundance is what keeps dreams alive, and I truly see the value in remaining hungry for better goals. Zillat is criticism, which anyone who works in the public eye gets in plenty. I believe a journalist who doesn’t receive opposition/ criticism/flak is probably not doing her job right.

My advice to youngsters in my field

I fear for my profession. We are an endangered species as today anyone with a mobile can be a journalist in the world of social media. We have to uphold the ethics of journalism, we must report without any bias or a viewpoint. Also, there is no substitute for hard work. Do your homework and be authentic.

First Published: Jun 08, 2018 12:20 IST