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More than just the ‘Queen of Traffic’

From morning traffic updates to empowering women through the arts, Jayshree Parasuramen is a real-life South African hero.

You might recognise Jayshree (or at least her voice) better as the free-spirited woman who makes sure you don’t get stuck in traffic on your way to work. But there is more to this traffic reporter than staying up to date with accidents and broken-down vehicles. She’s an accomplished playwright, actress, teacher and comedian. We chatted to her about her career and her many initiatives aimed at empowering women and the youth.

Jayshree is just one of those genuinely lovely people. Her electric personality stands out wherever she goes. She’s smart, outrageously enthusiastic and an independent woman, bursting with ambition and creativity. You can hear it and feel it. Even in the face of some of Durban’s most tragic days, she stives to be an instrument of service on East Coast Radio’s breakfast show. Her mission is finding the real-life unsung people and bringing their lives and history to life through theatre with the hope of inspiring others positively.

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Photo: Lee Kunene

Single (and happy) and mum to ‘zero brats’, as she says in jest, Jayshree has been a thespian for more than 20 years and known on air for well over a decade. Much like her sense of fashion (classic, posh and a whole lot of fun), her Morningside apartment oozes artsy charm.

There’s a large wall she’s painted black for a theatre effect and a cool background for DIY videos she sometimes makes. The walls are home to large frames that house a poster of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe among other posters of her own theatre productions. As she likes to dabble in oil paintings when the opportunity arises, some of her own works of art are also hung about. While there are lots (and lots) of books and bookshelves, her home is also peppered with storyboards for upcoming work and post-it stickers and notes to remind her of her goals.

“I’ve made my space all about me and what works for me,” she says. “It’s definitely not the ideal home scene … accept for my bedroom. There’s peace in my bedroom. The rest of my apartment is organised chaos that not many get to see. I seldom have visitors. I like my privacy. I’d like to say my apartment would be a treat for any child. It looks attractive with lots of colour and creativity and to me it feels like a home. There’s also lots of candy and chocolates, which my mother wouldn’t agree with.”

Driven by a passion to make a difference where she can and the hoping to leave behind a legacy, Jayshree is both an early riser and a night owl, with a work day that starts at 4am gathering data for her morning traffic reports from a host of contacts she’s secured over the years thanks to her dedication to her job … SANRAL, METRO, SAPS, paramedics on scene, emergency services and motorists on the road who call the ECR Traffic Line.

“I’m a workaholic. I chose to make such sacrifices for the greater good of humanity.”

From looting and shooting to fatal accidents and devastating floods, Jayshree is always ready to report – in her own unique way – which is to be factual and calm.

“My first thought is always what can I do to make the situation a little better; how can I help to make people feel less anxious or not panic. Most often this is through empathy.

“I’m compassionate and I easily lend a listening ear or send out a soothing message. I’m also emotionally strong – an objective and balanced approach is necessary too. I try at all times to keep calm even under very trying situation, like with the unrest. I was angry but I had to control my anger. I did vent on my own social media platform on really bad days.”

Photo: Lee Kunene

What she sees and experiences, Jayshree says, never leaves her memory – from the scary to the terribly sad – but prayer, meditation,  a feel-good movie,  listening to music and walks on the beach are her therapy.  When she’s not high in the sky in a chopper or in-studio with the East Coast Breakfast team, Jayshree is more than likely on stage or hosting events aimed at empowering women.

She also loves to travel … to visit places she’s never been to before. In the theatre world Jayshree has all the titles – playwriter, director, actor, producer … Being a creative soul, she says she chooses to bring entertainment together with women empowerment.

“It’s more fun. I’m a liberated woman so my events are not strictly for women but the focus is always on women. I use entertainment and fun trips around KZN to help create a safe and secure platform for women to network and grow together. It’s all about creating opportunity and hope.”

As CEO of the Adoeete Foundation, a non-profit company that helps artists and the underprivileged, Jayshree also encourages those who attend her events to contribute any grocery item for the foundation. “These are used to help women and men in need of food.”

Then there’s her series of fast and furious women-empowered motoring events (Heels and Wheels) that has created a platform for skills development for young girls and woman keen to learn more about the motoring world.

“The idea was to recognize women already excelling in the motor industry and to inspire more girls and women. It’s been a resounding success as a work in progress with so much more coming up. Giving back is also a value that I try to express as often as possible.”

She’s currently working on topics that can help women understand health and wellness more, as she says not everyone gets to wake up and have five minutes to themselves in the morning or even throughout the day.

“I am also working on a new theatre production which will be staged at the Rhumbelow Theatre in July. It’s a political satire taking the mickey out of the current situation faced by many in South Africa, so get ready for some rip-roaring laughter.”

Details: IG: jayshreeparasuramen and FB: Jayshree Parasuramen

 

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