A Day in the Life of Rhitu Chatterjee



Rhitu Chatterjee Courtesy of Rhitu Chatterjee

What I’m working on:

I’m finishing reporting and overseeing a six-part online food video series called Hot Pot: A Dish, A Memory, which features dishes from around the world and people’s memories of those dishes. The series explores various issues through the lens of people’s food memories, at the same time showing viewers how to make these dishes. This is a collaborative project by two different groups in NPR’s science desk—the food group and the global health and development group. I’m also editing stories for The Salt, and thinking of ideas for future radio and digital stories.

Where I work:

I’m based at the NPR headquarters in Washington, DC. I’ve only been here for a little over a year and my own desk is bare or messy depending on the day you stop by. To my left are gorgeous west-facing windows. That means great afternoon light to keep me awake after a big lunch. If I stand up and look straight ahead, I see a tall, stuffed giraffe and a commode (not in use) over by our global health and development group. These days there’s a stuffed shark head on the commode. The food group is marked by things less exotic—piles and piles of food books belonging to my colleagues. I haven’t been here long enough to collect enough.

Courtesy of Rhitu Chatterjee

Daily routine:

A little over a year after moving to DC, I’m only just beginning to settle into a routine. I wake up at around 7:00 a.m. I try to do 20 minutes of yoga at home—I usually succeed in doing this for three or four days a week. Then I turn on the radio for the morning news, put the kettle on the stove for some tea, then scan work email and news feeds. After that, it’s a mad rush to get out the door by 9:00 or 9:15. I’m lucky to have a short commute—a 10-minute bike ride, which in the peak of DC summer can feel like a sweaty slog. I usually eat lunch at my desk, close to noon. And I usually leave between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m.

Most productive part of my day:

Between 9:30 and noon. Sometimes, I have a burst of productivity just before going to bed as I try to plan the next day’s work.

Courtesy of Rhitu Chatterjee

Most essential ritual or habit:

Making tea. Washing my tea mug. Then, making more tea. Walking away from my desk and talking to NPR colleagues in the kitchen area (preferably while cleaning my mug or heating some water for tea) about what they are working on.

Mobile device:

I used to be an Android person till work gave me an iPhone.


At work, it’s a Dell. At home, I use a MacBook Air.

Essential software/apps/productivity tools:

Before coming to NPR, I used Scrivener and loved it. For my radio stories, I used Adobe Audition for editing audio. At NPR, my colleagues turned me on to Asana for planning purposes. It’s a great tool, especially when working with multiple people on a particular project. Also, Slack to bounce things off of colleagues.

Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:

Did I mention tea? Oh and Instagram and Faceboook, too.

My reading habits:

I usually read the morning news on my phone over my morning tea. I try to put in another hour of reading at night. I check my inbox for the daily digest from The Washington Post and The New York Times and newsletters from STAT, Circle of Blue, and a couple of other publications. I check my Facebook feed for news from India and for interesting stories shared by friends and colleagues. I’m a big fan of The Last Word On Nothing, so I read it regularly—their essays always inspire me. At night, before going to bed, I try to read a book. These days I’m rereading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a Bengali (my mother tongue) classic. I go through phases when all I have the attention span for are poems. I’ve often turned to Good Poems for Hard Times. It’s been good for my soul, even when times aren’t so hard.

Sleep schedule:

Ahem … this one’s a work in progress. For a few months now, I’ve been on a project to go to bed by 10:30 p.m. I often make it to bed between 11:30 p.m. and midnight.

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