That driven voice

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That driven voice…

Arti Jaiman’s ‘best friend’ had always been the radio for as long as she can remember; born and brought up in Delhi, her ‘mantra’ in life is based on a simple question: “Why not?!” This exploratory streak has served as the basis for many an ‘adventure’, including spearheading ‘Gurgaon Ki Awaaz Samudayik Radio’, the only civil society community radio station in the National Capital Region of India, broadcasting continuously 22 hours a day, since 2009.

Says Arti: “I always loved communicating; specifically, letters were an integral part of my early years, when I indulged in writing many. I explored other forms too: photography, theatre, radio…Subsequently, I ‘formalized’ my love for the art and science of communication through my graduation from the Indian Institute of Mass Communications, post which I joined the Economic Times – as a freelancer, rounding off as a full time employee. It was at the brink of turning forty that the life-turning moment came.”

Arti was offered an opportunity to set-up a Community Radio Station (CRS); neither having led a team before nor having any experience in setting-up a CRS, she took-up the challenge. Her mantra: “Why not?!” Moreover, she loved the medium of radio and its nuances. “I remember being asked about the risk involved in taking such a decision at the age of forty, but then age is just a number for me. I have always loved the experiences, the years bring with them.”

The challenges were galore. Arti recalls the hours of learning, unlearning and relearning, but what she also mentions is the steep learning curve – from zero to ‘everything under the sun’ about setting-up and running a CRS. The second challenge lay in the recruitment of a driven team. “I was always open about not knowing things; one can’t know everything about everything, and that is ok. I had no qualms about asking for advice from experts, professionals, and peers. Recruitment was, by and largely, from the local area; today, we have a committed team working with us, some from since the station started operations…passion is the key word,” says the dynamic station director. Though raising funds has always been a weak point, Arti has learnt to manage that aspect too – from writing proposals, documentation, striking partnerships and more.

The station offers a wide spectrum of programmes –healthcare, civil reporting and livelihood. In a place like Gurgaon, where media platforms are abundant, the CRS has carved a niche for itself by providing a unique voice to local communities, across barriers. Explains Arti: “For a festival, for example, listeners ‘plan’ the day’s programme, visit the CRS, meet one another – perhaps even for the first time – intermingle and interact like old friends; the bond they share is the power of the voice that connects them all. That’s the biggest reward – the dissolution of man-made barriers into a sense of belonging and sharing.”

What would she like to do differently, if at all anything? “I would have liked to focus more on content, with another team member focusing on financial sustainability. During my journey with GKA, it has been ‘doing everything’ for me.”

Submitted By: Sarah Berry
(Consultant, specialising in Public diplomacy, outreach and training.
Currently serving at the Indian School of Public Policy.)

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