For aspiring Radio Jockeys, Sophie is an inspiration. Her own life has a daily transition from a homely girl to a chirpy anchor. Shazia Yousuf meets RJ Sophie.
She plays Bollywood music for people; listens to Sufiana at home. She addresses ordinary people, discusses their ordinary issues and makes them feel special. If they are sad she makes them smile, if she is sad she giggles for them. When she comes on air, her gestures change, her hands flap, her brows raise and soon she grabs the attention of thousands tuned in to Big 92.7 FM.
Syed Yusra Hussain in real life suddenly turns into an entertainer of masses that listeners in Kashmir recognize by a pseudonym – R J Sophie.
Born in south Kashmir’s Shopian town, Sophie was brought up in Srinagar. She studied at Presentation Convent and later took a degree in Arts from University of Kashmir. Since her childhood, Sophie wanted to become a journalist and lend her voice to electronic media. To back her dreams with a degree, Sophie appeared in the entrance examination for Mass Communication and Journalism at Kashmir University. Luck did not favour her this time and she failed to qualify.
But that turned out to be a blessing. “I got time to listen to the radio. I listened to Big 92.7 Fm, observed the work of different RJ’s, appeared in an interview when the channel was seeking more RJs and was selected,” she says.
The journey, she believes, so far has been a learning experience. Listening to people and their miseries, she says, has changed her perception about life. “Before this job, I would never bother about other people. I thought everything was fine with everyone. But now, when I speak to people and listen to their problems, my own problems appear very small to me. I have developed lot of patience,” Sophie says.
In a society rooted in traditions, Sophie didn’t let any obstacle come in her way. She believes that one should listen to the heart and follow dreams. “Be firm, otherwise people will take you for ride,” she asserts.
Her expressions speak her obsession. Her tone changes with tone of her listeners – most of whom are young people. Despite the obsession, she too sometimes craves for a break from the daily busy schedule of playing music and taking phone calls. “Everyday I arrive at 10:00 am and leave office at 8:00 pm. We have a small team and if someone goes off air, listeners ask for him. People know me more because of programmes like Sophie Ki Topi. I cannot even afford to fall ill,” she says. “The listeners seldom realise that.”
She is happy with the love she receives from people. “I love them and I owe them a lot,” she says with a smile. Though she plays hit Bollywood numbers for her listeners, Sophie’s favorite is Sufiana. “Whenever I get time in the evenings I either listen to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Abida Parveen. I play bollywood stuff for my listeners only. This, otherwise, is not my taste.”
The chirpy Sophie hardly talks to anybody back home. She hardly chats with her parents. In the evenings she either listens to Sufiana music or reads fiction. Alchemist and The Kite Runner are her favorite books. “I barely come out of my cocoon. I hate crowds and love my solitude,” says the bubbly RJ.
Her radio channel focuses more on entertainment than information. There is a lot of criticism going on about the content. But the RJ is not discouraged. “If 10 percent of population is dissatisfied with us, we cannot ignore the affection we are receiving from 90 percent people. And our focus is always on increasing the number of our admirers.”
Dressed in a blend of traditional and western culture, Sophie feels that in a conflict torn society like Kashmir, where life is very miserable, entertaining people is a social service. “If we can’t end their misery, we can at least make them smile,” she says while preparing for a smile.
When asked about the impact of Sophie on Yusra, she answers with a grin, “Sophie told Yusra that look, the world is much bigger than you had perceived.”
Sophie has not planned anything for future. She can quit her job and leave her fans guessing, anytime. “I am very unpredictable. I don’t plan things. I may continue for years or leave tomorrow,” she says.
Sophie has set new trends and many young people aspire to become RJ’s like her. She has some advice for them, “Work on fluent articulation. Think as a listener. Be one among them.”