A couple of weeks ago I issued a statement announcing my imminent departure as the principle anchor of the show I’ve had the pleasure of hosting for the past thirteen years. On the 21st of July, I will be taking a bow as the presenter of Eastern Mosaic to commence work on a new TV series that airs in early 2014.
I’m very excited about the new project, but it’s also a bittersweet moment.
It may come as a surprise to some, but I’d actually been wanting to withdraw as the anchor for EM for several years now – but stayed on because I felt a sense of loyalty to the show and its audience. I find it hard not to be emotionally attached to a show I dreamed up one wintry weekend in Johannesburg, while confined to my study for hours at a time, feverishly making notes and drafting logos and graphic elements on a deadline for the pitch to channel execs. I still keep a folder crammed with images, drawings, storyboards, mock-up scripts and structure notes from that bout of almost orgiastic creative output. Here and there you’ll find traces of both the mad scientist and the sentimental old fool in my personality profile!
Sentimentality aside, there were also practical considerations for not leaving earlier. As the only male anchor, there were initial concerns that my exit might result in a gender imbalance or vacuum. Sponsors at the time started to get a bit jittery at the prospect. Channel representatives also expressed their “reservations”.
Happily, these are no longer major concerns or impediments.
Of course, I did expect that some of our regular viewers would be taken aback by the news (I’m so synonymous with the brand that some have sarcastically referred to it as “The Imraan Vagar Show”), but I wasn’t quite prepared for the sudden outpouring of affection and support from the show’s loyal fan-base. I was so deeply touched, humbled and overwhelmed by how many people expressed their genuine disappointment and even sadness at the prospect of my leaving that Sally Field’s famous (and often misremembered) Oscar acceptance speech came to mind!
You know how it goes? You do something for long enough and it comes to define you (well, at least in the eyes of the viewing public in this case). To loyal audiences I’m that regular, comforting face and voice on a Sunday morning. Faithful virtual companion to families, non-Church goers, hung-over party animals and those who appreciate sumptuous South Asian culture. Unlike my previous shows – which were extra-glossy, prime time offerings – EM’s Sunday mid-morning time slot engenders a more intimate, personal connection and relationship with audiences. Some love you. Some love to loathe you. That comes with the territory when you’re a public figure. But whatever they think of you, they figure you’ll always be on the other side of that screen when they turn on the telly. And when they learn that you won’t be anymore, there’s a vague sense of loss that comes over them. At least this would certainly characterise the mood of a lot of the e-mails and telephone calls we’ve been getting since the announcement. Even the questions and subsequent write-ups in the press and social media have all sounded a bit like obituaries!
Of course, saying goodbye is seldom easy. Saying goodbye to the viewers of a show you helped create, foster and sustain for over a decade is harder still. My final studio for EM will no doubt be charged with emotion and significance, but I suspect the thing that’s really going to be a test of whether I can keep it together will be when it’s time for me to say thank you to all of the people who have shown me such love, respect and affection over the years. When I give thanks it comes from a very raw, core place inside. My heart swells with so much gratitude that I’ve been known to literally choke on occasion.
There are so many wonderful memories I’ll be taking with me. So many amazing experiences to reflect on. So many warm hugs, handshakes and smiles along this extraordinary journey that I feel so privileged to have embarked upon. And though it’s nearing its end, I feel grateful, sated and very, very proud.
Some commentators and even friends have referred to it as “the end of an era”, but I think that’s far too high and mighty a send-off.
I prefer to think of it as simply the wrapping up of a previous chapter…
And the beginning of a new one.
Picture: Tyrone Crossman Photography