While growing up in Dubai, Meenal Patil always turned to the radio as her main source of entertainment. “I would listen to it all day, pretend to be one of the ‘announcers’, and my mum would always say, ‘Tu announcer ban ja (become an announcer)’ so I grew up knowing that this is something that would make me happy,” says the bubbly Meenal, who got her first job as an RJ at age 19 when Radio Mirchi was launched in 2001 in Pune.
Today, after almost 17 years in the field, educating people while entertaining them, what defines her is her joie de vivre and cheeriness in person and on the radio. But few know about the tough times and personal challenges she has been through – because if there’s one thing that the Radio One music jockey has learnt, it’s how to show up day after day with a smile, no matter what.
Born and raised in Dubai, Meenal moved to Pune for her B.Com. She aspired to be a film editor but life had other plans, and she ended up working as an RJ instead. “My parents went through various financial challenges due to losses in my dad’s business ventures. Once I was 16, I was told that I would have to pay for my own expenses! I’ve always been brought up to believe that financial independence is of utmost importance and that once you are financial stable everything else follows,” she says.
But while her career took off early and brought in much confidence to Meenal’s life, a string of unsuccessful relationships in her 20s left her disillusioned with the idea of ‘love’. At 32, she finally “caved in” to her mother’s demand for an arranged marriage. “I met over 10 boys before I met Vikrant [who worked in the merchant navy]. One meeting and I was in love. I knew right then that this guy would change my life!” she laughs.
To maintain a healthy relationship, Meenal believes you should always trust that your partner loves you more. “My husband cooks for me, looks after the house (when he’s around) and does a lot more for me than I can ever do for him,” she admits, adding that it’s a challenge to live without him for long periods of time when he’s sailing.
“It’s a professional challenge: staying happy and sounding energetic on the radio when all you want to do is cry or stay quiet. I remember this time I had a massive breakup with my boyfriend, and I did a show with a lump in my throat. The day Vikrant sails away also feels like a difficult time to do a show. My mum passing away was a difficult time too,” she shares.
Meenal’s mother passed away in 2016, a year she says was one of spiritual growth for her. “It changed me. I felt like I had so much more love to give and I became a lot more concerned about the people I love. I became a lot more calmer and I definitely felt like proving to my mum how proud I want her to be of me, so I worked extra hard,” she shares, in a rare display of seriousness.
The one takeaway she wants people to learn from her life is to keep smiling all the time. “My mum was like that. We went through some severe shit in life but she held the fort and never once made us believe that it was hard on her. I want people to read my story and believe that whatever happens, all you need to do is look at the bright side and SMILE!”
First published in eShe’s March 2019 issue