Flowers to God, Jal to the still-rising Sun, an ironed shirt for the man and a jasmine gajra for herself, Radha dexterously sped through all big and small chores in the morning.
As the station manager of ‘Waqt Ki Awaaz’, she strongly believed in the power of community radios. Radha happily traded her ‘normal life’ for a chance to make real change in others’ lives. Her station funded by an NGO had been catering to Kanpur dehat areas of Uttar Pradesh. The subjects and the stories all came from the community. Her team dramatized and added local voices to those issues.
Located in two small rooms of a dilapidated government building, the station buzzed with life and music. Adjusting the radio controls, Radha exchanged a quick smile with her colleague, who was already airing an educational program on farming techniques.
“Are they already here?” she whispered to another colleague.
“Who, the guest speakers on ‘Mann Ki Awaaz’? Yes, they are! ” he said pointing towards Sunil and Rani sitting in the next room.
Radha beamed a welcoming smile.
“Now, look at that school bag! What a smart girl! ” chirped Radha making visibly nervous Rani relax. Dressed in school uniform, with blue ribbons tied on two pigtails, 10 years old Rani stared unblinkingly at Radha.
Sunil, a 35 years old farmer, too looked edgy. His frail and lean frame did carry scars of his stint with a debilitating disease like tuberculosis.
Adjusting the headphones and mikes on her guests, Radha enthusiastically introduced them on the most popular program of the week.
“Sunil, da we are eager to hear your story,” signalled Radha.
“A few months back, I was a different Sunil. I coughed, spat blood and had lost a lot of weight. Waiting for death, I was overpowered by depression.
Then I heard Radha didi talk about tuberculosis on the radio. It was like a guiding light!
Amazing! With just 8 months of treatment, I am happy and healthy again.
It is not witchcraft friends! It is a disease and is curable!” closed Sunil, wiping off his tears.
“Commendable! Now Rani, what is your story? ”, anchored Radha.
“I was sad! I stayed at home while my brothers went to school. Baba said I am a girl and must learn housework.
When Radha didi spoke about girls’ education, my baba had a change of heart. Now on Independence Day Netaji even felicitated me for my academic excellence.
All girls must go to school, as it is their right” appealed Rani.
Cycling back, Sunil’s heart heaved with guilt. He had made a mistake!
Stopping at the grocer’s shop, he chose a notebook and pencil for his daughter, over a pack of bidis.
“Ma, did you hear the program?” shrieked Rani, hugging her mother.
“No! Ma, not me! Did you hear him?
That cough and blood you spit is curable Ma!”
The evening Sun’s gentle halo encircled Radha’s frame as she cycled home. She carried back her day’s earnings.
The trophies of gratitude!
gajra: flower garland for hair
da: big brother
didi: big sister
bidi: tobacco packed in dried leaf
Inspired from the innumerable success stories of the community radios across India. ‘Waqt Ki Awaaz’ reaches 3,00,000 listeners across 300 villages in Uttar Pradesh in India. Every day the radio runs for seven hours of a program on issues of grass root interests.
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