Palak a journalism graduate believes in simplifying the complicated and writing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. She calls herself a " hodophile" or in layman words- a person who loves to travel.
From being an entrepreneur, an author, TEDx Speaker to being the Group-Head, CSR with the radio station, former Radio Jockey C. Pallavi Rao Narvekar has strived hard to earn the feathers gracing her accomplishment-hat.
In conversation with The Logical Indian, Pallavi open's up about her experience of being diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder, battle with cancer and losing the most precious thing, her voice, all during the peak of her career.
Pallavi is one of the few who has emerged as a fighter in the face of adversities, survived life-threatening disorders to become an inspiration for others.
Love With Radio
"Mujhe apni awaaz Radio mein sun ni thi! (I wanted to listen to my voice on the radio). I had always been fascinated with this concept where you capture undivided attention of thousands of people with just your voice! I used to see my father dedicatedly listening to the shows on his transistor and with time it became an obsession," says Pallavi.
Being born and raised in the national capital, Pallavi says that she used to relentlessly coax her father on taking her to the All India Radio (AIR) studio. Her father had retired as the sports editor with one of the leading publications and used to host sports update, a weekly sports magazine on Radio.
"I would request him to introduce me to the world of Radio and one day he surprisingly agreed. I was thrilled. He did take me to the AIR, however, he left me to find my own way into the building and the people," she remembers.
This fight for making a name in the Radio industry eventually led Pallavi to bag roles from being a side-score keeper in her first stint to work with All India Radio as an English newsreader. She went on to become a radio jock with Times FM, AIR FM 102.6, and AIR Fm Gold.
With the advent of private FM in the country, she eventually joined Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM, as the prime-time jock in Delhi and her show clicked with the audience gradually earning her the admiration of being a local celebrity.
Riding high on opportunities and success, Pallavi also worked with TV channels like Doordarshan, Star Plus, Zee TV, as a presenter, newsreader, and a voice-over artist.
"I used to teach the school children too! Kaam mein bahot maza aya, kaam ko kabhi mana nahi kiya par raaton ko neend nahi thi aur din mein sukoon nahi tha. (I enjoyed my work but wasn't able to do much after the work hours). I was forever working. For the initial ten years of my career I prioritised my work which later started taking a toll on my physical self," says the former RJ.
Meeting Her Love
While the 29-year-old RJ was exploring and juggling career tasks, she also met the love of her life Rahul Narvekar on the matrimonial site Jeevansathi.com. Rahul was residing in Mumbai then.
"He just fit my criteria! The only part that bothered me and stood in the way was Mumbai but we started getting closer. With every SMS, every email, we were falling in love.
I somehow convinced him to try Delhi for a year. And he agreed. But it's been 19 years since then. We did not shift to Mumbai and he still complains,"she says.
Pallavi describes her post-wedding days (2002-2005) to be one of the happiest days in her life with her career hitting the right chords, getting the dream home, attending industry parties with her partner-in-crime.
In the year 2005, she gave birth to a baby boy, Rian Rao Narvekar. During her pregnancy, she was off-air but was working as show producer from the comfort of her home.
Twist In Plot
A month-old Rian was cradled in her arms when Pallavi while humming a lullaby suddenly felt her tongue heavy, she started to slur.
"The next morning, as I started to brush my teeth, I could not spit out the froth. It went splashing all over the washbasin and my cheeks felt lifeless. I had to put my fingers inside my mouth to get the froth out. I was scared," recalls Pallavi.
The couple immediately rushed to the gynaecologist who asked them to visit the neurologist as soon as possible. After running a series of tests, the doctor diagnosed her disorder as "Myasthenia Gravis".
Myasthenia Gravis is an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder characterized by physical weakness and fatigue in the voluntary muscles group which is caused due to a breakdown in the normal communication between nerves and muscles.
The disorder can cause drooping eyelids, blurred or double vision, slurred speech, difficulties with chewing and swallowing, chronic muscle fatigue and weakness in the arms and legs where one is unable to walk even a few steps.
She had to undergo a surgery and was trying to regain control over her voice with the help of the doctors and experts...all this while the only thing that was constantly hitting Pallavi's mind was the show she had to return to.
"What came as a shock was that post my surgery too I was unable to speak clearly. The slur was gone but the voice was feeble. When consulted, the doctors informed me that one of my vocal cords got paralyzed during the surgery which was a non-reversible process," she tells The Logical Indian.
On the verge of losing of the only thing that meant the world to her, Pallavi says that "the doctor told me that I would probably not be able to go back on-air, ever in life again."
After a few months she was diagnosed with Thymoma tumour behind her left lung and another major surgery was conducted removing five tumours which involved chemotherapy and radiation.
Pallavi's life took a turn after the surgery. Her yoga guru had instilled confidence in her saying that he would ensure she gets her voice back.
He opined that since one vocal chord was paralyzed, they would work on the other. With yoga, pranayama and meditation, Pallavi returned to hosting her show as a morning jock — 'the jock who lost her voice, was back'
Months later, Pallavi after being on-air could feel the difference in the quality of the content being delivered. The experiences had taken a toll on her physical wellbeing which included the aesthetics of her voice.
She decided to step down as the Radio jock and instead took up the leadership role in the radio station's CSR wing (Corporate Social Responsibility).
"I started taking my health seriously. Trained with an instructor for quite a long time which made me participate in the 7 km dream run in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and a year later, I ran for the 21 km Airtel Delhi half Marathon.
Pallavi continues "A few months later the breathlessness started again and once again the tumour resurfaced behind my left lung and I underwent another major surgery and five tumours were removed followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
A few months down the line, Pallavi started becoming prone to illness and was put on ventilator time and again. She had suddenly lost weight.
A few tests and an MRI scan revealed "hot-spots" in her right lung. The doctors, after much deliberation, decided to remove the hot spots as a precautionary measure.
A third major surgery compromised her body further.
Worst Was Yet To Come
Post-surgery, she was unable to sleep on her back and faced partial-physical difficulties. One day losing control over her body she fell on her back, barely missing her brain. She was rushed to the hospital and was admitted to the ICU.
Inside the chamber, she started observing the beds around her to pen down short stories on her mobile phone which were then compiled into 'ICU Love Stories'.
Living An Inspired Life
"I am a living example of how thoughts shape your reality. I have experienced thoughts, good or bad, manifest in life. After the last surgery, I told Rahul that I wanted to be home and would not go for anything medical anymore and that conscious decision led to a massive recovery in my physical and mental self," says Pallavi.
She started with minor changes in her lifestyle including nutrition to lead her to bigger goals. She resumed her professional life which had taken a hit amid her health concerns.
However, it was also the time she realised that her story has could help bring a change in lives. Not just making people aware of the rare disease that she was diagnosed with but her fight and eventual victory over the hardship would inspire millions of people.
She started a dialogue around life— food, nutrition, career, rare diseases and about sailing through the storm through her inspirational talk and podcasts.
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