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In their own language

The radio gives voice to villages on the
outskirts of Delhi


The channel records and plays folk music, its most popular programme

By Ravleen Kaur

Naresh Chauhan is the  fastest editor in the studio of Gurgaon Ki Awaaz, a community radio channel of rural Gurgaon. A Class X dropout with no experience of computer operations until nine months ago, Chauhan runs a programme called Gurgaon Sports. The lanky 22-year-old manages everything from reporting and editing to packaging the programme. If one asks him which software he uses to edit, he does not know the answer, but ask him how he edits, pat comes the reply: “I use multitracking.”
Chauhan and his friend Amrit Barwal were caught loafing around in their village Sarai Alahvardi by Ashutosh, a social worker who worked with schools in the area close to the Delhi-Haryana border. He told Arti Jaiman, the channel project manager, about them. “I said we will take them. The only requirement is they should know Gurgaon well. He told me that’s what they do all day, loiter around,” said Jaiman of ngo The Restoring Force that started the channel.

Sharmila, who hosts a health programme on the channel, has come to be known as the radio lady in her village.

Naresh Chauhan gets to do what he likes: indulge in sport

Asked what programmes they would like to make, Chauhan proposed the obvious: cricket. Captain of his village team, he gets all the more opportunity to meet coaches and players from various fields. His friend Barwal suggested Apna Nazariya, Apna Kaam, a programme featuring entrepreneurs who started businesses with the money they got after selling agricultural land.
Three months into broadcasting now, Gurgaon Ki Awaaz receives maximum feedback calls from taxi drivers. Their main request is to play Haryanvi folk music. Gajraj Singh Yadav, a taxi driver, listens to only folk music, raginis and bhajans, on the channel, unless his passengers demand something else. “I myself approached them to record raginis since I’ve my mandali (group),” said Yadav, who belongs to Alwar district of Rajasthan but has settled in Gurgaon.
Anita Saroha, a self-help group worker in Dhankot village, has her cell phone antenna held at a certain angle when she is not working. “Jokes broadcast on the channel take one back to the language we are forgetting. The earthy tone of each ragini and bhajan and their history that musicians explain are also interesting,” said the thirty-something. Gurgaon Ki Awaaz on FM 107.8 covers eight villages from its transmitter in Electronic City in old Gurgaon. “Quadrant, an IT company, gave this space to us as part of corporate social responsibility,” said Jaiman, standing in the studio twice the size of a table tennis room. “We did everything ourselves from painting walls to sticking egg trays on them for sound proofing.” The ngo invested Rs 10 lakh to set up the channel and pays its eight trainees, all local youths, Rs 1,500 a month. Next on the channel’s agenda is to get local ads so that it can bear its expenses.

Before recognition it was like playing with gadgets. When the young reporters saw village elders regarded them with respect, they realized the power of the medium
—ARTI JAIMAN Project manager

Jaiman recalls how difficult it was to train the youth. Many times they would go play cricket and not turn up in the studio. They had to be encouraged to experiment with the editing interface in English. “Till now it was like playing with gadgets, like a new mobile phone. What worked was recognition. When they saw that their village elders and people they interviewed held them respectfully, they realized the power of the medium,” said Jaiman.
Sharmila has come to be known as the radio lady in her village Burhera. Down To Earth caught up with her when she was covering an exhibition on solar lanterns in Burhera. “I carry a recorder wherever I go. Women here remain in ghoonghat (veil) but they speak openly to me about education, early marriage and benefits of loans from self-help groups,” said Sharmila.
Chauhan and Barwal do not want to leave the channel. Barwal worked in a Café Coffee Day earlier but felt out of place. “Here we can talk to people in the language we learnt when growing up,” he said in chaste Haryanvi.



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