'My Mic Is My Weapon': How an RJ in Rural Telangana Is Preserving Her Culture
Hailing from Telangana's Pastapur village, Narsamma has been working at Sangham Radio since she was 15.
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"This is my weapon, I carry this in my bag everywhere I go," says 40-year-old Narsamma, pointing to a field recorder that she uses to capture bytes for the radio.
'General' Narsamma, who grew up in Pastapur village in Telangana's Sangareddy district, is a radio manager and producer at Sangham Radio, a community radio station fully owned and managed by Dalit women of the village.
She joined the radio station after Class 10 and has been working here since.
This is the story of Narsamma and the power of her mic.
'No Permissions for a Long Time'
Narsamma, and two other women in the village, run Sangham Radio, whose target audience is primarily farmers, women, and children. The programmes are broadcast from 7 pm to 9 pm everyday.
"I edit, I design programmes, I conduct interviews and discussions, I prepare the magazine, and I anchor for broadcasting. I do everything. Two other women work with me now – we do everything," she says.
Sangham Radio had its first broadcast on 15 October 2008. But getting permission to run a community radio station was no easy task.
"Earlier, people from outside would come here and take video or radio bytes for programmes. Then we had this idea – why should someone from outside do it? Why can't we do it ourselves? Then we got equipment for the radio. But there were a lot of problems. We needed permissions. We told them that we are villagers, poor people, women – and that we wanted to do this. They did not give us permission for a long time."
Narsamma says that they had to resort to narrowcasting (transmission to a narrow audience) for a while. "Only later did we get permission for broadcasting," she adds.
'Why We Need Our Own Radio'
Narsamma, through some of the radio programmes, strives to keep her language, culture, and her community's way of life alive.
"The dialect we speak is slowly disappearing. Some words have already vanished. Youngsters don't even know some of our phrases. The stories of our ancestors, the stories shared by nomads and vagabonds – they have a lot of meaning," she says.
"We need our own radio because other media, be it TV or radio, talk about what's happening at the town level. A lot of big media have come here and worked. But they were not able to capture or understand our cultural and agricultural knowledge. If there's a community media like Sangham Radio, there's someone to talk about the community's issues."
Despite her efforts, a few years ago, Sangham Radio was on the verge of shutting down because of a fund crunch. The enterprising women, however, managed to keep it afloat through crowdfunding.
"These funding issues are always there. We can keep it running only if we have the support of the government," she adds.
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Topics: Telangana Women's Day Community Radio
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