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Gracefully yours!

Salma Sultan, the popular newsreader on Doordarshan, on life beyond the small screen

Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Vibrant Salma Sultan

Pride coupled with grace and humility — meet Salma Sultan, the woman who ruled the small screen as a newsreader for over two-and-a-half decades. A rose became synonymous with her and news reading, an elegant exercise.

Today, Salma, who is more than 70 years old, hasn't lost her charm and poise. A serious persona on television, it is hard to imagine that she possesses a tremendous sense of humour. Barely a sentence of Salma's is free from effortless wit.

Based in Delhi for over two decades, Salma lives in a palatial three-storey bungalow at Jangpura. An ardent Nature lover, she says, “Delhi is my karmbhoomi. It shaped my confidence and gave me immense strength.”

Born to scholar and former Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mohammed Asghar Ansari, Salma was her parents' second child. She did her graduation from Bhopal and her post-graduation in English from Indraprastha College, Delhi. Even while studying, she auditioned for the post of announcer in Doordarshan.

Salma became a newsreader by chance. “Those days,” she recalls “only Pratima and Gopal Kaul used to read news.” Kaul wanted to become a producer, so Salma stepped in. “News reading was a well-paid, comfortable job,” says Salma, who remembers how she nervously read a 15-minute bulletin in eight minutes. “The hapless producer decided to train me and that's how the journey began.”

She narrates the story behind the signature rose in her hair. “I once wore a pink rose to match my pink sari on TV. Telephone calls and letters of appreciation poured in. The days I didn't there would be letters of complaints and requests. So, the rose became a regular affair.”

After her retirement , Salma turned to direction with serials such as ‘Panchatantra', ‘Suno Kahani', ‘Swar Mere Tumhare' and ‘Jalte Sawal'.

The mother of Income Tax Commissioner Saad and choreographer-daughter Sana, Salma has two grandchildren. But, her quest for learning hasn't waned over the years. “I love music and am learning to play the synthesiser and the harmonium. I also love to work on the computer.” Her tryst with interior designing began when she did her 13-room bungalow in Bhopal followed by an apartment in Patparganj. Her house is proof of her refined taste. How does she keep fit? “I practise yoga and walk regularly. I treat my body as a gift from God. To purify my inner self, I offer namaz regularly,” she signs off.

RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN

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