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The Importance of Being Sarthak

    When I first started blogging, I made a list of the people I’d like to speak with at some point – the sort of people who epitomize what it is to be a Dilliwaala, who knowingly or unknowingly become a part of our daily lives, in ways either big or small. There was this one voice I’d listen to every morning, and he seemed really, really cool. He had a pet ‘male-cow’ called Adam, would make awkward sounds on-air, and he would play a decent amount of rock and ask me to sing out loud. He made conversation with random strangers and burst into laughter sporadically. If you still don’t know who I’m referring to – you’re either not from Delhi, or you take the metro to work, or you’ve been living under a rock.

    Ladies and gentlemen, this voice is the star on HIT Mornings with Sarthak. Having heard him possibly every morning, on my way to college and then work, I just had to sit and speak with him. So I wrote him an email, and he didn’t respond. I thought it was because I wasn’t cool enough {turns out I sent it to the wrong email address}! A year later though, I found myself seated across a table and in conversation with the man himself – Sarthak Kaushik.

    So how does one interview someone whose job is to talk to others, to be funny, and to ask all the right questions? Turns out he’s exactly how he is on air, though slightly somber. He’s very warm, affable, knows his music, loves his job, and as typical as this might sound, he’s a really nice guy.

    Born and raised in Delhi, Sarthak spent his formative years in Mother’s International School in Delhi, then pursued a Bachelor’s in French, followed by a Master’s in interpretations, and also a course in Fashion Journalism from NIFT. Yes, I’m still talking about the very same RJ you hear first thing in the morning. There’s more to come; he’s worked as an interpreter with embassies, then with Rock Street Journal, he was a part of the launch team for Headlines Today where he headed a 15 minute feature called ‘High Notes’, and then joined Times Now where he covered over 10 Fashion weeks.

    Back when Sarthak started out, music meant mainstream Bollywood, and- "if it ain’t mainstream, it ain’t going on air." Radio was also fixated on Bollywood – you either had the very punju songs or those from Kishore Kumar’s time blaring from the FM stations. “You grow up with dreams you know. You’re a kid and you want to be an archeologist, a pilot, etc, and you sit down and you shove in these little sticks and you think they’re joysticks and you’re flying a plane. Yeah… I wanted to be an RJ since then.” His friends would bring in recordings of foreign radio stations and he’d listen in and imitate all the British accents. It took a long and winding journey to get there, but 6 years ago, he joined Hit 95 FM and it’s been non-stop ever since. “I started with this show called Dilli da Download, and we’d play two Punjabi songs and then this pop-culture song. It was the 8 pm to midnight slot.”  And today, we hear him from 7 am to noon, where the songs are far from those reminiscent of ‘Dilli Da Download’, and an identity so strong that anyone who’s heard the Radio definitely even knows about Adam.

    So what’s the allure of Radio; what keeps him coming back and engaging with people through this medium? “Radio’s such an intensely local, personal medium. You’re a passenger in the car, man. That’s the beauty of it. Every time you switch on the mic you have the power to sit next to the driver and give them something to be happy about and that’s a huge responsibility and a huge challenge. In this lonely, cynical world, making someone believe that they’re not alone…” There’s gratification and joy when he talks about radio; this excitement that can only be found when one loves and believes in what they do. “At a certain level, I don’t concern myself too much with the number of people listening. This is what I wanted to do, I’m doing it the way I want to, and this internal fire is a fuel. If you worry yourself with what other people are thinking, you’re done for. That’s where you stunt your growth completely because you’re trying to come up to standards of someone else. While if you set standards for yourself, that’s when you’ll grow.”

    What I personally enjoy the most on his show is the amount of support offered to local bands. They’ve featured everyone – big or small, and across genres; from Kalpriksh Project to Barefaced Liar, Advaita, Bombino, Them Clones, Thermal and a Quarter and Indus Creed. I was introduced to Delhi’s ‘music scene’ a few years ago, and I can safely say that the talent that exists in our city is mind-blowing. There is breathtaking original music that’s being created and it is phenomenal. “I think taking the yardstick with the kind of bands we have; we have a fusion band, a latino band, a jazz group, we got rocknroll, sufi.. We’ve got every kind of band here, and every kind of band is getting every kind of gig. The acceptance of new music in Delhi is really advanced, and this is not a generalization. This is what I’ve seen. I think there’s no other city that has that kind of acceptance as of now.”

    I crack a joke about the ‘I Love Sarthak’ page on Facebook, and it’s funny to see him bashful. Everyone knows Sarthak, everyone laughs at his jokes, and everyone tunes in to hear his ‘fart factory’, ‘bhopoo’, ‘oriental gong’ and all the sound effects he has stored. The man himself though, resists any mention of popularity, shunning it almost. “I was rejected by ‘Yuv vani,’ which is a Delhi AM frequency channel. I still have that rejection letter to remind myself when I feel like I’m the king’s uncle. It reminds me of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to start.. That keeps you grounded.”

    He’s over 6 feet tall, has long hair and a goatee, and wears jeans, a jacket and a cap. If you saw him at a distance, you’d probably stereotype him as ‘that musician looking dude.’ He may not know how to play an instrument or be a part of a band, but the knowledge and enthusiasm he has for music is palpable, infectious even. The love he has for Radio? You can sense that every time you tune into his show on 95 fm. More than that, he’s got plenty wisdom and perspective on things. He can talk about evolution and fashion in the same breath, and I’d listen with equal attention. He’s got belief and steadfastness that could withstand a tide. He’s a happy man, doing his own thing. And as he says, ‘ghamand nahi hai bas!