Afrida Hussain is no stranger to the people of Assam, after all people have been watching her on TV for years now. In the industry for almost 15 years, she has worked for different TV channels, both regional and national and now she is the Programming Head of Radio Mirchi, Guwahati. We speak to her to know more about her life in front of the camera and behind it.
She gave her board exams from Kushal Konwar Balya Bhawan, Golaghat. In school, she was quite social and was part of many clubs. She was also quite passionate about theatre; she used to enact small roles in plays at Amateur Theatre Hall and had done many plays with renowned director Baharul Islam.
She revealed that she had wanted to become a doctor, not a journalist. ‘I always wanted to be a doctor but due to certain circumstances, that did not happen and that is why I studied journalism.’ Her big break came in 2002 when she was interning for Aaj Tak, ‘I was doing a traffic story with the cameraman at the Guwahati Club traffic point. There was a huge traffic jam, and I was standing where the traffic policeman usually stands. Then a long white car came to a halt nearby, a man approached me and said that someone in the car wanted to talk to me. The lady in the car was Manoranjana Singh; she told me that they were launching a channel called NETV. She gave me a card and asked me to go meet her. But after I took the card, I managed to lose it by the time I got back to the office. I told my colleagues that I was offered a job and they encouraged me to jump at the opportunity.’
Afrida first appeared on NETV in the show ‘Ekhon Somaj, Amar Somaj’, which was outsourced by Amitabh Gogoi. The show had 33 episodes in total; it was the start of Afrida’s television career. After the show was over, Manoranjana Singh offered her a full-time job as a crime reporter. With time, Afrida started to cover bigger stories and her profile kept growing. Like for any reporter, it wasn’t completely smooth sailing for her. There was one particular incident that left a big impression on Afrida. ‘I had gone to do a story. There was a protest in Dighalipukhuri by wives of missing ULFA militants, and when the protestors were arrested and were taken to GMC, I and my cameraman also went along to get bytes. Once the story was complete, we were followed by unknown people. They assaulted us inside the hospital campus. I was injured, but their intention was not to kill me, they wanted the cassette. On instinct, I fought back and somehow managed to keep the cassette. I was disappointed that there was police nearby but they pretended like they didn’t see. It did affect me on some level because you lose that confidence but you can’t let something like that stop you.’
The only time when she took a break from her career was when her son was born in 2008. In 2010, she joined as the Assignment Editor at Frontier TV. After about 2 years, she jumped at an offer from Aaj Taak, and then she went on to work for NewsX as well. Recently, she is part of Radio Mirchi team in Guwahati. ‘I feel lucky to get an opportunity from a renowned group like Times of India to work as a Programming Head of the first radio station of the third Phase.’
Talking about the current state of TV journalism in the Northeast, she feels that it’s not as it as professional as it should be. ‘Earlier, genuine stories were covered, but now that trend has changed. Nowadays, you need to understand that most of the times the journalists are not making the call; everything is decided by the owner of the channel. It’s like this, the owner of the house gets to decide what curry will be prepared for dinner, not the guest. But all hope is not lost; there are some channels who are trying to bring in quality news.’
She is married to Baharul Islam, a government employee and her son is 7 years old. ‘My son is my greatest treasure,’ she smiled. Afrida feels that all that she has achieved would not have been possible without the support of her family. ‘The freedom that I have is all after my marriage, my father is very supportive and I adore him but he was very stingy when it came to freedom. When I was in school or even college, he would follow me to tuitions on his bicycle. It was so embarrassing and my friends would all tease me. And when I was sick, he would ask the local chanawalla not to give me anything so when I would go to the cart, I would come back empty-handed. It sounds so funny now but then I used to be so angry. But then where I am today is all because of the support from my parents, my husband and my son,’ she laughed.
In her free time, she enjoys cooking. ‘My son loves it when I cook. I always add my own twist, sometimes it comes out great but sometimes it’s plain horrible that even I don’t want to try it,’ she smiled. One dream of hers that is yet unfulfilled is to learn the violin. ‘I do know a few notes but I never found the time to learn properly. Even if I don’t get to play, I still want to learn the violin and I think I will someday soon,’ she said confidently.
Experiences and Achievements
-Director of a documentary on “Shapawng Yaung Manau Poi and the Singphos of Arunachal Pradesh”. Produced by NEZCC, Government of India 2011, it was screened at the 13th International Short and Independent Film festival Dhaka in October 2014.
-Director of a documentary on “4th National Bodo Festival at Chirang”, which was produced by Bodoland Territorial Council, 2011.
-Produced a video film in Assamese, under my banner YASHVIR FILMS, named “TARAMAI” in 2012
-Nodal officer on an honorary basis, between the Centre and State by NCMEI since 2013
-BBC 3, India-A Dangerous Place to Be a Woman: March 2013: Fixer and associate producer, she was also involved in translation, research and setting up contributors.
– Completed Defence Correspondent Course in 2014
-Speaker at National Conference on ‘An Understanding of Educational Aspirations and Attainment of Minority Girls in India’ and presented a paper on ‘Socio Economic Status of Minority Women in Assam’.