From India to the U.S., Shreeja Sharma’s Path to Desi 1170AM

 From India to the U.S., Shreeja Sharma’s Path to Desi 1170AM

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If someone had told her during her college years that she would end up as one of the most recognizable voices in the Bay Area’s Indian radio scene, Shreeja Sharma would have shaken her head and waved the thought away.

“I thought I always wanted to do something with literature. As for broadcasting, I don’t think I ever considered it at all,” she said. “However, keeping track of the world has always been ingrained in me, as far back as I can remember.”

One of the radio hosts on DESI 1170 AM, Sharma is employed at the largest Asian Indian radio station across the U.S. , and it is the most sought-after news outlet for Asian Indians in the Bay Area. According to Sharma, the station hosts between 10 and 20 radio programs on a given day.

“There’s nothing like a radio show. You’re able to connect both directly and indirectly with your listeners. In fact, you have to,” she said, gushing.

News dominated Sharma’s childhood. Her father worked as a special correspondent for Agence France Presse. He brought his work home with him, instilling the importance of being aware of world events in his children.

It wasn’t until after she graduated with her English literature degree from the University of Delhi when Sharma applied for an entry level broadcasting position at a newspaper that she stumbled down the path to where she is today.

Sharma later worked as a RJ for All India Radio (AIR), which she describes as the “voice of India.” AIR is the oldest broadcast program in India and is usually the station of choice by much of the country, according to Sharma.

Although she had grown up in a heavily news-influenced home, Sharma didn’t know what to expect during her time interning as a broadcaster, but eventually fell in love with the radio after she started hosting her own shows.

Sharma moved to to Toronto with her husband when he received a job offer. “I did not do anything worth mentioning as far as broadcasting is concerned in Canada. I was, among other things, studying at the University of Toronto,” she continued. “I did a one-year program in TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language.”

In 2007, her husband was given the chance to work in the Bay Area. That August, they packed up their belongings and prepared to, once again, call a new country “home.”

“I had no expectations that I would land a job in broadcasting when beginning my search in the Bay Area,” Sharma explained. At that time she was under the impression that to get into broadcasting work in America she would have to understand the place very well.

“You want to be able to connect to the people. You should know the people. You should know the place and everything about it,” she reasoned.

It didn’t take long after landing in the Bay Area for Sharma to make her connections.

“I started hunting and initially I didn’t find anything. But then I listened to DESI 1170, and I figured I ought to ask them if I could host a show for them,” Sharma said, grateful she didn’t give up her search. “When I first moved here, I had no idea that something like this would come my way. This has all been such a good, pleasant surprise.”

When she started working with the station, Sharma hosted the Evening Drive segment. While sitting down with the producers she made it clear that she wanted to give her listeners something that would connect them to India. She sought to produce an outlet that would give people like her, those who lost the familiarity of their birth country, a little piece of home.

“We leave family, friends, behind. So there are always those connections that we can still turn to in [India],” she explained. “I can call my family and they can tell me if something changed, such as in politics. But sometimes you just want to know what’s going on so you can feel a connection to the place.”

At the same time, Sharma seeks to expose her listeners to the similarities in the experiences of those who have made the big move to a new country. She hopes that her listeners her here segment and think, “I live in a new place, but maybe I still belong.”

“Basically, [ethnic media outlets are] trying to bridge the gap between where someone comes from and where they are right now. We try to find similarities so that they don’t feel as if they’re intruding in alien land,” Sharma said.

Currently, the biggest topic on much of the Bay Area Indian community is talking about is the elections in India. Elections to the Lok Sabha are held every five years, or whenever the president dissolves parliament. 

Particularly, Sharma reasons that the 2014 election is expected to contrast vastly to previous elections due to a push in the political awareness of the country’s youth by such movements.

DESI 1170 AM connects the South Asian community with their homeland. And that is why Sharma loves her job, and is happy she didn’t become a teacher but a dynamite radio host instead.