Having been called an exceptionally talented anchor by the late APJ Abdul Kalam, Gitikka Ganju Dhar spins magic with her words.
“I step on stage and something magical starts twirling in my head. It’s almost like I switch to autopilot mode,” begins Gittika Ganju Dhar.
A simple girl from Kashmir, the daughter of a retired Indian Armed Forces officer and mother to a seven-year-old daughter, Gitikka, now counting her 18th year as an anchor, is one of India's leading live talents and an orator of distinguished reputation.
Praising her oratory skills, former President, APJ Abdul Kalam, once remarked post an event, “She is an exceptionally talented anchor."
Despite the accolades, however, Gitikka remains grounded and pragmatic.
“I begin to open up under the spotlight. The caged dancer, singer, and actor in me find expression. The writer in me revels and I talk it all out.”
Being a trained Bharatanatyam dancer and classical vocalist, Gitikka spent her entire childhood on stage, and that is where she is most comfortable. Stage fear, she says, is something she has never had to contend with.
Starting her career as an anchor back in 2000, when the industry wasn’t as structured and professional as it is now, Gitikka’s many struggles included getting paid.
“There always used to be a bit of stress, a bit of worry, about whether I would get my money. You had to follow up on payments, had to wait for two-three months to get paid for one show. They would avoid paying you — it wasn’t a smooth process the way it is now for both TV and live events,” says Gitikka.
Being one of the very few anchors who write their own content, Gittika feels it is the most challenging part of her job. When it comes to hosting big conferences, there is a lot of research that goes into preparing the speakers’ entries.
“Proper preparation helps me deliver satisfactory levels of performance. Actors prepare, right? Why should an anchor not prepare?” answers Gitikka when asked if there is anything particular she does before stepping on stage.
She adds, “I have a yellow notebook in which, through the year, I note ideas, lines, songs, quotes, and thoughts for a few of the favourite properties that I host. Some ideas have come to me on a flight, some while in bed at home, and some while getting a haircut. I frantically scribble in my yellow notebook lest I forget. So, beyond the project-specific prep, one must also constantly devour content online or offline and try and watch work being done across the world. Honing the craft is a process.”
Gitikka’s personality is completely different from her onstage persona — she’s actually very quiet. Once the job is done, she prefers to retreat into her shell.
She says, “My daughter makes sure I talk. Left to me, I'd rather sit silently with a cup of tea and look at the greenery outside my window. I am unable to find the time or energy to engage in meetings for future business, to be socially active, to make appearances, or to network within professional circles. I hardly ever get to sleep in the afternoon. I hardly ever get time for a leisurely spa session. These are small compromises I have made peace with. I hope my work speaks for me. I hope my presence on digital media does the rest. Beyond this, I let go and immerse myself in the simple life I have built for myself in Mumbai.”
Expressing her views on maintaining the work-life balance, Gitikka says, “What is the point of working if you do not find enough time to enjoy your personal life? I have a professional dream and I have a set standard which I need to maintain in my personal life. The professional dream should not adversely impact the quality of my personal life. I work very hard and can be quite a grouch on days when I am writing content. But such days are restricted to a healthy number. When I work, I give it 100 percent. I focus sharply to deliver what is expected of me. It consumes a lot of inner energy to constantly strive to maintain a certain standard of quality at work, to constantly try to innovate and raise the bar. It tires me a great deal.”
About walking the work-life tightrope, she adds, “I am very clear in my head that I will not work 30 days a month. With the passing of time, I have become more firm with regard to my decision of stepping out to work only if it is worth my while — creatively, strategically, or financially.”
She loves being a homemaker and being a mother and buddy to her daughter Giaa, and being cued into her parents’ and brother's lives. Being at home, to her, is sheer bliss. Watching a Fawad Khan drama, drinking endless cups of tea, reading, listening to music, buying groceries — all these activities help destress Gitikka.
Gitikka completely resonates with a quote by Micheal Jackson that goes: "I am totally at home on the stage. That is where I live, that is where I was born. That is where I am safe."
Gitikka is inspired by historical figures and some real people. She recalls “ When I was seven, I think, my mother bought me an illustrated copy of Joan of Arc. Ever since I have held her story and her valour close to my heart.”
She is also deeply inspired by Mahatma Gandhi for his fortitude; Amitabh Bachchan for the dedication and discipline he works with; Steve Jobs for his sheer cockiness and steely will; Narendra Modi for his passion for India; Ghalib for his words; Gulzar for his ability to express; and Harivansh Rai Bachchan for his poetry that has inspired generations.
Spending the first few years of her life growing up, the next few gaining an education, the next few pursuing a professional dream, the next few falling in love and setting up a home, the next few raising her daughter, and the last few years spent toiling at work, Gitikka dreams, “I now want to live my life as me. I want to travel, cook, read, write, discover world history, and relish the myriad experiences the worlds of art and entertainment have to offer. Of course, the professional dream will continue to unfold.”
On the professional front, Gitikka has started engaging as a moderator at many events, a role she greatly enjoys.
Gitikka, who plans to work on a book in the coming year, also dreams of becoming a motivational speaker.
“One day, someday, I may take the stage as one. The future is the rest of my life. But, this time around, the dictates will be mine,” parts Gitikka.