Raj Mathai

“India is an easy place to love” ~ Raj Mathai

Raj Mathai is known for his unique style and being the most outstanding personality in the Desi in the U.S. on television. Mathai is not only the sports director on the acclaimed NBC Channel but has also won two Emmy Awards for his work. The vivacious television anchor, you will quickly learn is not only interesting and close to his Indian roots, but incredibly modest. The sports reporter also avidly works with various charities and as an interesting fun-fact, he was voted as one of the top 50 Coolest Desi’s in America, which also provided readers with this fascinating tidbit, “Raj entertained a group of journalists who watched him eat a Dosa with a full suit on, minutes before going on-air and never spilling a drop on himself!” Raj speaks to Roshni Magazine about being cool and on television.

You are one of the most prominent Desi faces in the Bay Area on television. What made you choose television? Start at the beginning.
I’ve wanted to since I was a little kid. We moved here from India when I was seven from Mumbai and right at the point, I wanted to get into television when we got to America.

You are of course sports anchor on NBC, you’ve won many awards including two Emmy’s and even been chosen to run the Olympic Torch three times. How does it feel when you’re reminded about all your accomplishments?
I don’t really pay too much attention to it. It’s nice; once in a while I’ll think about it. But it doesn’t do me any good to get better or to get future jobs—at least I don’t think so. It’s nice like I said I look back on it and I’m happy with what I’ve done but I don’t dwell on it too much.

What are some sports you are interested in personally?
I like playing Basketball. I’m a pretty bad golfer but I enjoy it. And I’ll play Tennis with my wife but she’s a better Tennis player than I am.

What about some popular Indian sports, hockey and cricket? Any interest?
No, but I’m trying to get more interested in cricket. I spent most of my childhood here, in the U.S.

In what direction do you see sports in India headed to?
It’s going up! Just the business and the marketing and the money that is pouring into the Cricket leagues; its huge. And Indian television is slowly getting to be more like western American television. They have all these News Network and soon there will be a Sports Network, lots of reality programming that is increasing. So for better or for worst, it is going to catch up to American Television slowly.

I’m not sure if you know this, but you were voted as one of the top 50 coolest Desi’s in 2005. Did you know that?
(Laughs) My Dad forwarded that to me, yes!

Did you imagine you would become so popular?
No but once again, I don’t think of it like I’m that popular. I just think of it like I’m doing my job and people happen to like it. I get a kick out of it, it’s nice. But I really don’t think about it too much. It’s cool though, believe me. I would be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t cool. It’s cool. Its just more of a fun thing to go along with everything.

How do you manage to stay close to your Indian roots while living in America?
I think it’s just my parents and my family. They raised me pretty well I think and taught me the values of both cultures being in India and America. So I think have American roots and Indian roots. I think wherever you grow up you should just have an appreciation for that culture. It’s easy. I love visiting India, I married and Indian woman. I visit there as much as I can. It’s not a hard place to love. It’s an easy place to love, India.

What is one question you are often asked?
(Laughs) “What was your most embarrassing moment on television?”

Oh yeah, which is?
It was my first night when I was chewing gum on the air and I should have just swallowed the gum but instead I spit it out on television and everyone saw it. I get that one pretty often.

Who are some of your favorite anchors on television?
Now, that’s a good question, let me think about that. The late Peter Jennings was my favorite. Currently I like Anderson Cooper, I like his style. I like Charlie Gibson on ABC. Those two stand out… and I like Bob Costner, who does sports and news.

You’re also known for your great sense of fashion. What is fashion to you?
To me it’s something that is not too difficult and that looks good. If it’s too difficult, and I don’t know if this is a guys point of view, but at least from my point of view, if it’s too difficult and time consuming, then it’s a headache and I don’t like it. So fashion to me is something easily attainable and you’re still able to look good.

Who are some of your favorite suit designers?
(Laughs) I don’t really have any favorites! Hugo Boss I would say.

What are some of your goals which you haven’t achieved yet?
Something on a more regular network level. And maybe having another child (laughs).

And what are some interesting things we will see you doing soon?
I’ll be at the Olympics in Vancouver in six months. That is the next big project. On a short term, our Sunday night football coverage on NBC begins in a few weeks. So you’ll be seeing me on Primetime Sunday nights.

~Roshni M.
(September 2009)

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