Friday, February 18, 2011

Touching rural lives through AIR

Dr. M.S. Vijaya Haran, Station Director, All India Radio (AIR), Mysore, has been serving Akashvani for the past 37 years. After completing PU in Kolar, she obtained BA Honours in Kannada and MA in Kannada from Bangalore University.
Born in Kolar district in 1952, Dr. Vijaya joined Akashvani in 1974 as an announcer at Bhadravathi Station. After eight years of service, she became a Programme Executive and served at Gulbarga, Mysore, Bhadravathi, Hassan and Mangalore Stations.
Working as Assistant Director in Mysore Station, she rose to the post of Station Director at Hassan. Since 2005, she has been serving as Station Director in Mysore Akashvani. A Ph.D degree holder from the Mysore University (1998), she is also the author of 'Aaloka,' a collection of articles on literary criticism, published by Samvahana. Dr. Vijaya spoke to about her journey in AIR and how this media has touched the lives of millions of listeners including her own. Excerpts:

Your entire career, you have been continuously serving AIR. How has your journey been so far?
Dr. Vijaya: I have been listening to AIR since I was a little girl. Once I auditioned for a drama for AIR and got selected. Joining AIR was like a dream job for me. I thought we needed some special qualification. However, taking the advice of elders, I applied for an announcer's job and my journey with AIR began. I took the UPSC exam for programme executives in AIR and qualified for official grade. From then on, I worked at various Stations across the State.
It has, however, been very challenging. We should know how to act when some important news comes in and know how to assign priority. Also, like other media, we cannot give our own statement or comments on people and institutions. In such cases, we should conduct interactions by involving authorities and public and broadcast their views to tell people what is right or wrong.
Human resource management, programme management and relation with public are the key factors. But it is not difficult if you love your job and I can confidently say that I have 100% job satisfaction.

It was a common notion that after the advent of TV and later the private FM channels, AIR would have fewer listeners. Do you think it is true?
Dr. Vijaya: Though some people thought AIR may close after the arrival of TV, it is not really true. Urban listening may have got affected but think of our rural mass which is the majority. They either don't have TV sets and even if they do, there is no power. This is when AIR comes to their aid. They even take the transistors to their farms and call us from there.
Also, people do ask us about how we compete with other private FM channels. But AIR is not just limited to entertainment and there is no question of competing. AIR is like a big University. It includes programmes for farmers, literary, rural, science, music, education, children-related, news and infotainment through entertainment.
Earlier, communication was just one-way. Radio would broadcast and you had to listen. Now it is two-way as there are participatory programmes and public can interact with AIR through phone-in shows. AIR has become for, of and by the listeners.
How powerful is Akashvani as a means of mass communication?
Dr. Vijaya: There have been many occasions in the past when people would call AIR to clarify and check the authenticity of news which was being broadcast on TV.
When Veerappan abducted Dr. Rajkumar, no one could reach him. But the radio station did. We used radio as a medium to communicate with Rajkumar. Through radio his family informed about the medicines he had to take. And the public were relieved when they heard his voice through radio. Same with the wildlife photographers Krupakar and Senani; we broadcast their experience also. We were particular to tell the public that they were fine and need not panic. Even when tsunami hit, news was aired all over the country within no time. That is the power of Akashvani. You can say that wherever the sun's rays reach, AIR will reach there.

Being a woman, has it been difficult to handle such a big responsibility?
Dr. Vijaya: Personally I have enjoyed working here. If you know man-management and keep a balance, then it may not be a problem. Once people know your capacity and efficiency, they automatically start respecting you. You should be impartial in your judgement and treatment to others. Analysis, patience and impartial judgement are the   keys to management.
One challenge here is to constantly provide people with new infotainment programmes and see to it that they don't lose interest in our programmes. People had a belief that programmes for rural mass and farmers were least listened to but Mysore AIR has proved this wrong as many listen to these programmes with great interest.
People get to know the plight of farmers through such shows.  Also in any work, planning and scheduling are very important.

Which is that one programme which has had a huge impact on people?
Dr. Vijaya: Based on popularity, it is 'Hatti Harate' and 'En Samachara.' But in terms of impact, it will be 'Kisan Vani' and 'Navilugari.' One good example for this is 'Banuli Krishikara Company' started in 2006 which is the brainchild of Banuli Krishi Belagu programme of Mysore AIR. The company now has over 500 farmers and allows the farmers' products to be directly sold to consumers. The consumers can even become shareholders of the company.
AIR Mysore's name has been recommended to International Radio Asia Pacific Broadcasting Conference to be held in Delhi from Feb. 21 to 23, for our work on rural programmes and I will be representing Karnataka in it. AIR Mysore has also bagged a National award for a programme on Soliga tribes, entitled 'Dodda Sampige.' The Akashvani Sahitya Sammelana and Krushi Sadhana Samavesha conducted by Mysore AIR have been the first of its kind in India.

And the programme which has had a personal impact on you…
Dr. Vijaya: For me it is 'Chintana.' The programme covers various topics which help shape the personality of a human being and it has made a huge impact on me.

Any one memorable incident…
Dr. Vijaya: Once I had been on a visit to a village and told the officials not to tell the villagers who I was since I wanted to know what people felt about programmes on AIR.
We saw a blind farmer listening to radio in his farm. When I spoke to him, without any introduction, he recognised my voice as that of 'Hatti Harate Hanumakka.' He knew the Stations where I had worked and that I was the Station Director in AIR. When asked how he knew, he told us his story.
His brothers had left him with dry land since he was blind. When he was on the verge of committing suicide, he listened to 'Raitarige Salahe' programme about how to cultivate dry land. He contacted officials and started cultivation. Such stories are very touching and give us a sense of satisfaction. It is not enough if we just broadcast programmes, it should also have a personal touch. It should have an impact on people's life. Only then what we do is worthwhile.

Dr. Vijaya's husband Dr. B.S. Pranathartiharan is a retired Kannada lecturer from the Commissionerate of Collegiate Education and is the Founder-Director of Samudaya Adhyayana Kendra in city. Her daughter Sharvani Haran, who worked as a software engineer in Infosys, has translated DVG's 'Mankuthimmana Kagga' to English. Sharvani and her husband are presently residing in California, US.
(Published in Star Of Mysore dated Feb.16)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Young Trekkie @ 60

Can a person, even at the age of 60, be enthusiastic about going on trekking expeditions to various parts of the country, instead of leisurely sipping a cup of coffee, reading newspapers and watching TV? All those who disagree should meet K.M. Gopi, Organising Secretary, Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI), Gangotri Unit in city.
A very friendly and jovial person, age does not come in the way of Gopakka's (or Gopamma as she is known to her friends) trekking.
We were curious to know more about how trekking became an integral part of her life and here is what Gopi had to say....

How did this thirst for trekking begin?
Gopi: During my childhood days, since we siblings grew up with our cousins — most of whom were boys — I became more like a tomboy. Also in school, we had a lesson on Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay conquering the Everest and wondered if I could at least go anywhere near such an achievement. The spirit of adventure was always there in me.
Later on, when I shifted to Mysore, the adventure spirit was rekindled when I saw a news item by the Youth Hostels Association in Star of Mysore saying there was a trekking expedition to Himalayas. As I was working and independent, I thought why not give it a try? I registered my name for the expedition and the journey which began in 1993 is still going on. A part of the credit also goes to Star of Mysore [laughs].

A little about your family and education…
Gopi: I am a native of Kerodi near Sakleshpura. I have six sisters and two brothers. Since we had some financial problems, I left studies after SSLC and got a job. I have been working at the Co-operation Department and will be retiring this April.

How was your very first expedition?
Gopi: My first trek was to Himalayan Chandrakhani Pass. I was then 43. It was a new, scary and exciting experience. I had no idea about how such expeditions are carried out. YHA was very supportive and provided all the necessary equipment. The first few days were tough. The cold weather, heavy backpack, steep routes and the stress got the better of me. But I did manage with a little help from fellow trekkers. At that time, I thought I will never come on a trekking expedition again. However, once the trek was completed, it gave me an amazing feeling, a sense of accomplishment.

How has your journey been since then?
Gopi: From then on, I started going for trekking every year and completed all the National-level treks. In 1997, I was made the camp leader. It has been wonderful and I am ever grateful to YHA for providing such an opportunity. You get to meet people from different walks of life and learn so many things. All my leaves at office get over soon. But I have no regrets as these experiences and the friends I have made are priceless. Also, for the past few years, I have been celebrating my birthday in the Himalayas!

How did it feel to be a part of the tiger and elephant census team?
Gopi: I was lucky to get such a chance. We traversed to every nook and corner of the forest and I got to see the real natural habitats of these animals. It was very exciting to follow the foot prints of tigers & cheetahs and see almost a hundred gaurs resting together. The knowledge I acquired about the animals from the forest staff and tribes who accompanied us was immense.

You have been to innumerable treks within the State and the Country so far and you would have been part of many interesting incidents. Can you share some with us?
Gopi: We had once been to Bisle Ghat near Sakleshpur for trekking. While walking in the forest, we realised that we had lost our way. Not knowing what to do, we decided to follow a stream thinking it will eventually end in a waterfalls. After a long walk, the stream vanished leaving bare rocks exposed! But we heard the sound of water and reached the falls.
We had to go down the falls to reach the village. There were 8 women and 3 men in our group. We made our way straight down the falls in the water using ropes. That night we camped in the forest, taking turns to keep guard and continued the next morning. We were supposed to reach the destined village on the previous day at 4 pm but we reached only the next day at 3 pm. It was a great camping experience.
During another trek, we were walking on snow and one of my friends wanted to make an ice sculpture. I found a stick lying on snow and thought it would be easier to use it to dig the snow. I pulled hard at the stick but it did not budge. Later we realised that we were standing atop the roof of a house covered completely in snow!
However, not all treks leave us with happy memories. There was this one time when we were trekking on Chamundi Hill. Someone from top disturbed a bee hive close to the path we had taken and the bees started attacking. They don't sting if you remain still. But a kid in our group moved and the bees attacked him. To save him, our leader covered the kid with his shirt and rushed downhill, getting continuously stung by bees.
At the foot of the hill, a person helped to drive away the bees and they were taken to the hospital. I had to stand still, balancing on two rocks, for almost 20 minutes until the entire episode got over.

A few words about YHA.
Gopi: As its motto says, the Gangotri Unit of YHA is a real 'Home away from home.' Girls and boys, young and old become like a family. Girls have complete security at the hostel and all are well-behaved. Habits like smoking, drinking and gambling are strictly prohibited.
We take up many social causes apart from trekking. Recently we had organised a drive to clean Chamundi Hills of plastic. One more was to plant saplings at Karighatta to make it greener. We have a lot of support from our members and public for such causes and plan to conduct more in the future.

You will be retiring from your job this April. Will you be retiring from trekking also?
Gopi: Trekking is like an addiction but a good one. It has become a part of me. Retiring from job is more of an advantage. I will then be free to pack my bags and leave for a trek anytime! 

(Published in Star Of Mysore dated Feb. 17)