EXCLUSIVE | Indira Rangarajan, Mirchi: How 2020 changed the soundscape of our lives

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Indira Rangarajan, National Content Director, Mirchi, is one of the most respected creative professionals in content on Radio — actually, a multiplatform content specialist with more than 20 years’ experience in advertising, media & entertainment.

Indira has been associated with Mirchi for more than 14 years and instrumental in ushering in a new era of content. Indira has made it possible for radio to become not just an auditory extravaganza but also a visual treat, with shows like ‘Calling Karan’ hosted by Karan Johar and ‘What Women Want’  hosted by Bollywood A-lister, Kareena Kapoor Khan.

Indira brings her innate musicality and vast experience while creating content for TV  like Mirchi Music Awards and Mirchi Top 20. She now handles digital content with Mirchi, developing mobile-friendly formats which includes podcasts, web-radio and video originals. This former creative director for leading advertising agencies like Ogilvy and Mather, SSC&B Lintas is vociferous about women’s issues and strives to promote mental-health awareness.

As Indira thinks back on 2020 in this exclusive piece, she shares a truly touching reflection of the sounds of silence, the sounds of our fears, of empathy, of compassion, and says it is our ability to listen that will strengthen us as we move ahead. Read on.

Silence isn’t an absence of sound. It is sound itself. 2020 was the year when so many of us truly confronted silence.  The regular sounds that make up our lives, sounds we hardly notice or sometimes complain are too loud were gone.

Hi silence! You were surreal.

No doorbells ringing, no vendors singing their way through the streets, no honking of irritable cars (maybe a blessed relief), no thud thudthudang of the construction next door, no dubdubdub of motorcycles raring to go, no tinkling of children’s cycles going around the building accompanied by delightful shrieks of laughter. No woosh of the fast-local whizzing past in a slow station stop. No crackle of caramel popcorn in the theatres, no party mix of Bollywood songs from the colony next door. The rush and roar of our usual daily busy world suddenly felt vacuumed out of our lives.

The regular sounds that make up our lives… the rush and roar of our usual daily busy world, suddenly felt vacuumed out of our lives: Indira Rangarajan

We heard the birds yes, the woosh of heavy afternoon breeze and the hum of the long nights. For some lucky enough to be locked down in large high rises with money and family, it was the whirr and whip of Dalgona coffee and the clink of the glasses from the stocked up liquor, it was the clickity click of online ordering and grunt push of exercise videos.

For some it was frantic dragging of furniture around their match boxy homes, this is the office, this is the school, this is the playground, this is the kitchen, spaces demarcated within inches of each other where the ‘when can you finish this project,  deadline was yesterday’ to ‘children mute your mikes’ to the ‘whistle of the pressure cooker and clanging of dishes’ all collided with each  other.

And for others, the not-so-lucky ones, there was the scrapping up of all belongings and trudging down highways in the April heat towards home. Their bare feet on the scorching roads made no sound, but we heard it resound heavily in our hearts.

2020 was the year when we truly understood the sounds of our fears. The sound of our heartbeat thudding in one’s ear when we heard a loved one cough. the stress in a colleague’s voice even when she said everything is fine, really, yes. A ping of an email from HR saying we need to talk. The ting ting ting of WhatsApp notifications on a work or family group telling us one of our friends-colleague- family had Covid.

Audio has an intimate quality to it like no other. Every cadence, every hmmm and every word carries a story, and people need stories as much as they need food and water. The pandemic has created in people a desperate need to connect, and the audio medium is tapping into that: Indira Rangarajan

Amidst all this were the sounds of empathy, of compassion, of companionship. A phone call that went on for hours, that reassuring voice on the radio – Hi, you are listening to me and you know what, I am listening to you too. Voice notes replaced typed WhatsApp messages. Can you really make a typo in a voice note? As the weeks and months progressed, we dropped the video from the video calls and just kept the voice.

The world learned what we in the audio business knew for years. That audio has an intimate quality to it like no other. Every cadence, every hmmm and every word carries a story, and people need stories as much as they need food and water. The pandemic has created in people a desperate need to connect, and the audio medium is tapping into that.

We’ve seen a huge resurgence of audio this past year. India has emerged as the third largest consumer of Podcasts after the US and China. Many audio streaming OTTs have reported an uptick in podcast consumption. Radio listenership has also risen, the familiar voices on the airways proving comfort like a pilot’s reassuring voice during a turbulent flight. Clubhouse, a new iOS-based audio-only app has begun to create a flutter in the social media ecosystem. No pictures, no videos, just audio and conversations!

One of the biggest learnings that we take back is that as long as we have sounds and silences and the ability to hear one another, we will survive.  All we need to do is listen: Indira Rangarajan

It’s almost coming to a year to the first lockdown and we have come to terms with so much. One of the biggest learnings that we take back is that as long as we have sounds and silences and the ability to hear one another, we will survive. All we need to do is listen.

Your thoughts, please