Meet the Female RJs Who Have Become Household Names in Kashmir

Mudasir Ahmad

Srinagar: One of them gives khush khabar(good news) to her listeners in the morning and the other brings a smile to their faces at the end of a tiring workday. In the studio, they may be competitors, but they are actually best friends. The two women are Mehak Zubair and Rafia Rahim, radio jockeys who have become household names in the Valley.

A “peppy chatterbox,” Zubair’s shows are filled with information and fun breaks, while Rahim – being a photography enthusiast – “frees” her listeners of all stress through her programme.

From a village girl to ‘Mirchi Rafia’

A resident of Charar-i-Sharief town in central Kashmir, Rahim had a “passion” for media, but her “shy nature” would often come in the way. Eventually, her father, a carpenter, stepped in to encourage his only daughter to chase her dream.

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“One day,” recalled Rahim, “Abbu came in my room quietly and said, ‘Let us start rehearsing’”. After that, there was no looking back. Today, 24-year-old Rahim is the first RJ from Budgam district and the youngest in the field. Her afternoon show on Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM has become quite popular among listeners.

Long before she enrolled in the journalism programme at the University of Kashmir, Rahim hosted Good Morning J&K on Doordarshan, a show that debates social issues.

It was during this time that her skills of hosting a live programme and interacting with experts from different fields got polished.

The show not only gave Rahim “recognition” but also brought a smile on the faces of her family members and relatives who before then would often question her decision of joining a male-dominant profession in Jammu and Kashmir.

“I was often told that I should complete my studies and apply for the job of a teacher. But my abbu always supported me… and the moment they saw me on television, everything changed. I was now an adored daughter in our entire family,” said Rahim.

After completing her studies, she tried her luck in print media working with the local daily Kashmir Reader. However, after a few months of working there, in the summer of 2016 when the Valley was in the midst of a five-month-long uprising, Rahim flew to New Delhi.

This was her first experience of living away from home, and that too on her own. “It was a challenge but I was determined,” she said.

After struggling for a month, Rahim said she got a job at Noida-based APN News & Media as a news anchor/reporter. After working there for a few months, she quit and flew to Bengaluru to work for the online news portal The Logical Indian as a sub-editor, only to return to Delhi a few months later.

That was the time when Radio Mirchi was planning to set up its station in Kashmir. She took part in the audition and got selected. Today, she runs her own show six days a week from 3-7 pm.

“She is my brave daughter,” said Mukhti Bano, Rahim’s mother. “She faced all odds and even criticism by some of our relatives but never gave up. We always stood behind her as we knew she will make us proud one day,” Bano added.

She never misses her daughter’s programme. At times, she is joined by women from the neighbourhood who all talk about Rahim’s journey when she is live on air.

“Many of our neighbours and relatives came to congratulate my daughter when they heard her for the first time on the radio. I feel so happy when people talk about her show,” Bano said with a smile on her face. Rahim’s father passed away in a road accident a few months ago.

The RJ who gives Khush Khabar

Zubair’s show, in her own words, reflects all “spectacular shades of sunrise bouncing of the famous Dal Lake”. In her short stay at Radio Mirchi, she has carved a name for herself, hosting the morning show from 8 am to noon six days a week.

One of the segments of her show is Khush Khabar, which involves giving good news. But in conflict-ridden Kashmir, this is no easy feat.

“It is a very difficult task, trust me. It is not easy,” said Zubair, a resident of Srinagar. Her show also focusses on each aspect of life that is Kashmir-centric.

Before joining Radio Mirchi, Zubair, who has a post-graduate degree in journalism, said she worked as an anchor for Home Shop 18, Doordarshan and then as a reporter with CNN-IBN before quitting the job to return home.

Her show focuses on the achievements of people in extraordinary situations. Recently, she interviewed the first female wheelchair-bound basketball player from Kashmir who made it to the national level.

“I have interviewed people who have fought tough situations like depression and made a name for themselves in different fields. Theirs are inspirational stories which motivate others to have a positive approach towards life,” says Zubair.

She regularly holds interaction with her listeners to hear their problems and engages experts to provide solutions for them. “My job is full of excitement… it gives me a lot of freedom to interact with my listeners,” she said.

Listeners’ favourites

With each passing day, the two RJs are gaining popularity. Anees Zargar, a programmer at Radio Mirchi’s Kashmir station, said they keep getting positive feedback from listeners about their programmes.

At times, to their surprise, listeners drop in at the station to meet Zubair and Rahim. They even go out of the station to do their shows among people. “They are very passionate about their job… Rafia (Rahim) is more energetic,” said Zargar.

Rahim handles the ‘drive-time slot’ and her target audience is the youth, explained Zargar. This is the time when people are on their way back home from work after a tiring day. “And that is why the content of her programme is light,” he explained.

On the other hand, Zubair’s show is more news and current affairs-oriented and talks about issues facing society. “She also goes out to find stories of women who have fought all odds to make a name for themselves,” said Zargar.

Ask the RJs about their chemistry at work and pat comes the reply: “We are best friends.”

The wire

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