Posts Tagged ‘Interview’


Mahipat Kavi – Dada as we fondly call him, is a storehouse of knowledge. I went to talk about puppetry with him with my book, pen and a set of questions: like all other journalists do. But soon, I had so much matter to listen that the writing part was sidelined! Mahipat Dada answers every question with a story, some also have the honor of Sanskrit Shlokas and Folk Songs. I knew him as a puppeteer, but he is a master storyteller as well. It makes you peep into yourself and your surroundings. Dada is a real inspiration to learn to live your life to the fullest and to romance with your art and work. Aditi Rindani.

How did puppetry start in Gujarat?

Puppetry is a Rajasthani art. It exists in Gujarat since thousands of years. But there is an interesting story behind the birth of modern puppetry in Gujarat, in around 1957-58. The art started from Shreyas School in Ahmedabad. Leenaben Mangaldas was the owner of the school. She was interested in educating the children through art.

Meherben Contractor was a portrait designer, whose two kids studied in that school. She had studied in England and saw puppetry as a means of education there. To implement the same in Gujarat, Leenaben sent her to study puppetry for three months in England.

Even today, Shreyas School organizes a Shreyas Mela every year that popularizes the culture and traditions of various states of India. Leenaben pioneered this insight of innovative methods of teaching children.

Since when, are you a part of puppetry?

I joined Meherben in puppetry since 1963 and worked with her for almost 15 years. Then, I started with my own organization called ‘Puppets and Plays’ in 1975. Also, I founded the Indian Puppet Academy in 1987 for training of teachers and children.

What made you join this field?

After completing my studies at the age of 19, my elders asked me to join the family business of clothing at Ranip. I denied the proposal as business involves being dishonest with customers. Back then, I had an urge to be at the service of the nation, so I joined Navjivan led by Gandhiji. After independence, the scenario changed. I joined the radio as a singer and further then, joined the Darpana Academy to learn Theatre in 1961-62. But then, I realized that my body structure was not suitable for a huge 40 feet stage!

During that time, Meherben had come to Darpana and showed the collection of foreign puppets to us. This was an interesting field and I made up my mind to work for puppetry.

What is the difference between traditional and modern puppetry?

About 22 small and big organizations work for puppetry in India. But the avenues for the use of puppetry in different fields are still unexplored. Puppets are widely used just for the sake of entertainment. It is not understood that there has to be a message for the society through this medium. There are no innovations in the traditional puppetry, may be because most of the puppeteers are not educated enough. However, plays related to religions and cultural beliefs are the most common shows with a message in India.

Puppetry is a field that should not be limited to any one subject or a class of people. Modern puppetry is all about innovations, which is yet not popularized in our country. On the other hand, traditional puppetry is a mirror of the traditions and cultures of that particular region. Each state has different subjects for their puppetry. Also, there are different stories for the origin of puppetry in different regions.

What is the story behind Gujarat’s puppetry?

Gujarat, as I mentioned, has followed puppetry of Rajasthan. The two states may have different geographies but they have shared culture and traditions.

Puppetry art in Rajasthan is called ‘Kathputli’ that was started by Kavi Kank who was the main poet in the kingdom of King Vikram in Ujjain. Kank used to ridicule all the new poets who came to the King. The poets were never satisfied and outraged by this, once a poet appeased the King and demanded that Kank should be ashamed of his acts. Kank was afraid of humiliation and he escaped to a village called Basi in Rajasthan. This village was known for the wooden statues made by the carpenters. Kank got a wooden head made and wrote the famous story of ‘Batris Putli’ based on this. In this way, the fantasy started and took the shape of puppetry.

Also, in Gujarat, there lived an alchemist named Pad Lipt Suri in Palitana. He was a Jain Sadhu who made robots and puppets for the spread of Jain culture.

How puppetry is important? In which sections can it be used?

I recently wrote a play titled ‘Gujarat Gaurav Gatha’ that talks about the progress of Gujarat. The play starts with the story of Lord Indra, Dadhichi Rushi and Vatrasur Rakshas. Then God Ram and God Krishna came. These were followed by Gandhiji and Narendra Modi. So be it stories like these or simply spread of awareness about Government policies, puppetry is an important medium. It is economical and equally enjoyed by the children and the old.

Apart from these, puppetry is also used in
– Children’s Education
– Mass Communication
– Education for the Disabled and Mentally Retarded
– Adult Education
– Entertainment for patients at the hospital
– Entertainment at hotels and restaurants
– Advertisements

Can you share a memorable incident related to puppetry?

One of the fields in which puppetry is used is for the education of the mentally retarded. There is a school for such children named Sharda near Ellis Bridge in Ahmedabad. Once while conducting a exhibition there, a boy saw a lady puppet and turned aggressive. He started screaming, crying and tore the entire puppet. When we inquired, we got to know that he hates his stepmother and took out all the frustration on the puppet, which resembled the face of that woman. The boy, after this incident, became normal! This was a miracle.

What is the difference between human drama and puppet drama?

Fantasy is the element that distinguishes the two of them. Puppet drama must have fantasy as the basic aspect. No human drama can be directly played through puppets, and if played, it will not be interesting. This is because puppets are different from human beings. So, a script has to be puppetized, just as a story is dramatized.

Do you think puppetry is a dying art?

No. Puppetry is changing its form. However, it is true that this art is not getting the importance it deserves. The modern society is too much inclined towards film and TV. Also, the people who knew this art have turned it into a business, a means to earn money. In olden days, there was no fee to see such arts! But today, everything is commercialized.

What should be done to save such arts?

Let me share a recent proposal. I have applied to the Central Government with a suggestion to start a residential school for such traditional arts. Students have to stay here and dedicate time for such arts.

There is no place for such art in today’s schools. Every school has an art teacher who teaches the student to draw a flower but never takes that student to a garden to see that flower, teach him not to pluck them and then ask him to draw. It is all about show off and modernization. But, what we forget is, man is born out of culture and if we lose the essence of culture, we are not human beings!

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How does it feel like to be a part of ‘The Hutheesing Family’?
With every privilege, comes responsibility. Therefore, when you hold a powerful legacy or are a member of such a family, it is a huge responsibility. This is because of not only people’s expectations, but also your own code of conduct. For e.g. If everybody is highly educated in your family, you need to maintain those standards. Hutheesing family has over the years, earned a lot of money and even spent and donated it well. Now, to donate, you need to earn and be wealthy. This in itself is a pressure! And wealth is not only about money. Education is wealth, respect is wealth and achievements are also wealth. I think it is a privilege for anyone to be born in a good family. There is nothing like a bad family, though! But by the term ‘good’ Imean ‘historic’. And when Hutheesing family has done immense work for the city, it is our duty to take it forward. And very often, this may even take a priority over your lifestyle or your own self!

True. You studied science and banking. So was this one of the reasons for the switch to this field?
Yes I have studied business & marketing from America and then studied banking at Japan. I am not an art student. I have inherited the institutes that I run. The institutes are mainly involved with art, culture, heritage and other historical activities. But what people forget is that even art &culture, hospitals, religious trusts – all require management. There should be accounts on the income and expenditure of the money, a legal structure and many other aspects have to be looked after.

How do these institutes differ from each other? (The Hutheesing Foundation, Hutheesing Art Gallery, Hutheesing Trust)

  • You must have heard of the ‘Maslow’s Law of Hierarchy’. It talks about the five basic human needs viz. food, procreation, clothing, housing and finally it comes to ego. Now, I have crafted five different abstracts that are perhaps ‘My Laws of Hierarchy’ and this is how I believe our society functions.
  • The first thing that any human being needs is HOPE. More than food, we need hope. If we have hope, we will live another day. But if we don’t have it, all our motivation will be lost. And who gives us hope? God gives us hope! Even a person who says he is an atheist, a non-believer in God, trusts Him as a divine power. If your child is dying and you cannot find a cure for his suffering, you will surely turn to God. So, God gives us hope and that hope keeps the society balanced and moving ahead. Therefore, we have the Hutheesing Trust that manages temples and derasars.
  • After hope, we want GOOD HEALTH. More than education, we need health. And so, we built the Hutheesing Civil Hospital. This hospital became the largest public charitable hospital in the world, with 4700 beds.
  • We have hope and good health. Next, we need EDUCATION. So we came up with the Ahmedabad Education Society, for which I serve as the governing body.
  • Being educated is not enough, we need CULTURE. And so we have The Hutheesing Visual Art Centre that teaches art and culture.
  • After all these comes HERITAGE, our values, our lineage, our history. So, there is Hutheesing Heritage Foundation.
  • The Hutheesing Family as these 5 trusts and all these trusts address different things. Each of these is important for the society to function. These are all independent and have their own systems. But there is a lot to follow up on.

How do you manage to justify all these roles?
I cannot say that I manage all these institutes. This has come down through the generations. And hence, each generation has to make its own contribution and leave its own mark, however big or small. It’s not that I have set up and all these and I manage them. No! There are systems, there have to be. Say for instance, the Prime Minister does not run the country. The IAS does. PMs keep changing. So, there are systems. Wherever and however I can contribute, I do!

One question out of personal experience. This Haveli, in spite of being so gorgeous, has less visibility. Why is it that people don’t know about it?
Because it’s private and not open to the public. It’s our home and not a museum or a hotel. It is a stately home and so many people of historical importance have stayed here. Also, it has been a home for the family since several generations. So, we would like to maintain that honor of the family.

Your views on Heritage Week and people’s perspectives. 
See I’ll tell you, I don’t believe in the celebration of all these days. Mothers’ day, fathers’ day, lovers’ day, secretaries’ day, rose day, today fingers’ day, tomorrow will be hair’s day… Nooooo! In other cultures and traditions, everyday is a day when you pursue what you believe in. There is no time-table where each hour is dedicated to a subject, like we did in schools. All tasks are done simultaneously to do good to the society. I believe these celebrations are needed for a larger audience. But we can’t take them too seriously. It is silly. If you really want to value and preserve our heritage, then do something concrete about it. The taste of the food comes from eating, not from the recipes. The ground realities are quite different. Government cannot reach everywhere, if people are really interested, then they should be encouraged to preserve their own heritage. And in turn, if everyone does this, the heritage of the city too, will be well preserved.

To what extent does the Government support with regards to this issue?

Government may come up with any role. Let’s take for example, ASI. Ahmedabad has 52 ‘A’ grade monuments, recognized by ASI, which is more than the Old Delhi. (There are gradations of the historical monuments. There are global categories. A historical palace and a Haveli in a Pol will not have the same grades. They both are heritage, but the grades define their level of importance) Some places of historical importance in Ahmedabad are really filthy. It is the Government’s duty to maintain them. However, there are communal and political issues that obstruct the maintenance. And heritage is a complex issue as it is multi-cultured. But we need to look beyond religion. Whatever heritage is present on Indian soil is Indian heritage. Hats off to our CM Narendrabhai, he has started the Sarkhej Roza fest and does many other such things. But I feel the support is not there! Then there is Heritage Tourism and we have Amitabh Bachchan as the ambassador. But where is the necessary infrastructure? Geer – no proper roads, indefinite availability of jeeps, no proper hotels, no cleanliness. Modhera Temple – fantastic, but when you go there, you find that there are no washrooms! Marketing is necessary, but ground level facilities are a prior necessity. We Gujaratis are very good at business and entrepreneurship. But we terribly lack at service. And art and culture is a part of the service industry, as it comes under entertainment. We have lost the spark. Where is Gujarati theatre? Where is Gujarati poetry?

So, what do you think can be done?
It is not a simple solution! Travel & tourism, art & culture, entertainment, events need to be excavated in Gujarat. Gujarat completely lacks in the glamour industry too, be it sports or political or any other. It could not make it to the IPL as well. There is huge amount of money in Gujarat, but zero glamour. And the aspiration of the youth, that constitutes 65% of India’s population, is nothing but to be a star. That is why the reality TV sells!

Glamour reminds me, you have the highest number of royal clothes in your wardrobe in India. How did you manage to get them?

A lot among them are inherited; many of them were bought by my grandparents and parents. Others are collected.

Since you are a fashion consultant as well, what’s your take on today’s fashion industry?
The fashion world today is buzzing. It is a very big industry around the world. Roti, kapda and makaan are the three basic necessities of any human being. And fashion is not an invention. It is a psychological and physiological need. If you look good, you feel good. And if you feel good, you make other people feel better. So, remember – fashion is not shallow. It brings happiness. Apart from this, the fashion industry employs so many people. It is not an entity of the affluent class of the society. Do you mean to say, poor and middle class don’t wear clothes?! Everything has cascading effect. But the raw inspiration is translated and brought down to various levels, various standards and various groups of people. So it has great domino effect.

What drives the trends, the fashion industry and the mindsets?
People are inspired from movies for their fashion and they follow trends, so that is the impact of entertainment. According to me, the glamour industry is a great empowerment tool. Today lot many people are taking this industry as a career. Many youngsters and college grads start their own event management company. This industry has even reached the smaller villages. With such cascading effect, this is the reducing pressure on the urban society. People used to migrate for better opportunity and better quality of life but now they are going back taking urban phenomena back with them, at very less cost. Every product needs to be marketed, even politicians need to be marketed, that’s what they do with the use of different media. And entertainment is great marketing and it’s all done by the youth through modeling, event management, hair-styling, make-up etc. Every girl, be from a metro or from a village, likes to look prettier. We need to understand the combined impact of beauty, entertainment and fashion industry. If we can develop this culture and mindset in Gujarat, then lot many people will get employment. And more importantly, it is self-sufficient, no bank is required to loan for that. I tell you, I had started ‘Lakme India Fashion Week 12 years down the line. And today, there are so many fashion weeks being organized all across India, promoting so many young designers who in turn employ so many artisans. Government has not poured a single penny for it; still it feeds lakhs of people being self-sustained without the help of Government, NGOs or any other external support system. These are the kind of activities required to be performed in order to empower the youth.

Somewhere heritage is being linked with fashion…
Fashion, historically, always comes from the top. See… Today what Kate Middleton wore, that became the trend, the fashion. It always flows from top-down. People in great position and power are the derivatives for mass clothing. Even if you look at our traditional system, the jewels that our Kings and Queens used to wear are being replicated by other classes of the society. The diamonds may be replaced by silver, but designs are the same. There is street art, popular art, but all these are more functional. Today, the youth want style, not functions. Though it has to be functional, but it also has to be stylish. And I think these both can very easily blend. For example, a saree. None of the designers in India has invented it. It is there for 5000 years. Why are we so afraid of the word ‘Fashion’? I want to get this myth out; people think fashion is something frivolous. No, it’s not. Every human being needs clothes! Both, fashion and heritage are very important for the human society. A tree cannot grow tall without its roots and heritage is our roots. If you don’t take care of the roots or cut them off, then how would a tree grow? Grass will grow, but not a huge banyan tree!

Just to end with, 10 years down the line, what do see Gujarat as? Would it be a heritage state, industrial hub, education city or something related to fashion?
Let me tell you, it already is a hub for fashion. 40% of the manmade, synthetic fabric in India comes from Surat; Ahmedabad was the Manchester of East and is the largest producer of cotton and denims, 80% of the world’s diamonds pass from Surat. Clothes and jewellery, two most eminent parts of fashion come from Gujarat, what else is left to focus on?! But we need fashion to convert the raw materials to final product. It is the value addition where we are lacking. And by doing that, we can multiply our growth, in turn add income for the state and employ youth as well. This is my personal wish too! For this, we need education and insight. We have education institutes like NID, EDI, NIFT, NIJD etc., we have NGOs like SEWA, Kala Raksha, Shrujan etc., we have mills like Arvind, Ashima, Garden etc., we have textile museums like, Calico, Shreyas, TAPI collection in Surat; we have it all. Gujarat will be a great center for fashion. It will be a great learning center for education and it has been since history. First school of pharmacy, first entrepreneurship institute, ATIRA, first school of architecture, first school of design, IIM etc. – Ahmedabad is home to all these. The vision of Narendrabhai is to make Gujarat, a knowledge corridor and he will do it by encouraging knowledge investment. Every economy is driven by knowledge and Research & Development. If you have knowledgeable people, you can do R&D. Gujarat will be an industrial hub for sure, but it will also be a knowledge driven society in a span of couple of years. Gujarat will be rocking and it should be rocking. And we really will make it. What was missing, was a catalyst and I think those catalysts are here now! (You are the catalysts and this is what you people are doing! You are taking it to the masses. It has to be inclusive growth.)

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• You are into so many activities. How do you manage to justify all?
I am a creative person. For me, creativity is more important than anything else is. I am also much disciplined, when it comes to work hours and projects. So, basically, it is about creative time management and depends on how you make your own timetable. I give a deadline and as far as possible, I stick to that deadline.I am not a morning person, I start work after 3 in the afternoon and that could be up to anytime in the night!

• What is the central idea of your books? 
Writing is my method of understanding myself better. As I belong to the Jewish community, I create a lot of fiction based on that. I grew up as a part of a minority community, in a country like India, where there are so many other communities. The main concern is how to keep your identity alive, as well be an Indian; because ‘Indian’ is a general and large term. I am not religious, but we all belong to a particular area or fields – say for e.g. the writer’s field. In midst of all these, you need to create your own self. So, I write about the Jewish life, especially Jewish women, because this is a group that is unknown to the world.

• Any inspirations?
Writers generally give a definite thing for their inspirations. But for me, there is no such muse. The only inspiration is my life, by heart I am an artist, because I was trained as an artist. While by profession, I am a writer. So I would not say that I saw a flower open or a child smile and I got inspired!

It is 99% perspiration. You have to keep yourself inspired all the time to write. Actually, this applies not only to writing, but also to whatever you do.

• How has the journey been from being an art student to a successful writer & journalist?
I used to write since I was an art student. It used to be about art and art history though, as a part of the studies. I was told by my professors that I was good at it and should continue with writing. It was then, in 1978 that I decided to switch my career to writing and did not wish to be an artist anymore.

I did not hold a professional degree in Journalism and was a student of Fine Arts. However, I got an opportunity to work for a newspaper as an art writer. In those days, we used to get almost half a page for our write-ups. So I could experiment and learn as well while writing. In the meantime, I discovered that I could do something better that would be more satisfying. Art had a limited scope. I have always believed that creativity is like a room with many doors. You should be able to open any door, and I felt that through my writing I could open many more doors. I could express myself better through the power of my pen and when people sit back and relax, I totally changed my career interests, at the age of 46. I turned to serious writing and got my novel published. It did well and my literary voice became stronger and stronger day-by-day.

Now, writing is my life, if I don’t write, it makes me feel miserable!

• What is your take on today’s women?
It’s very interesting but unfortunate that even when we are celebrating International Women’s Day and women are into different fields, we have absolutely no idea as to how this liberation came. There is no knowledge as to why do we celebrate this Day and where did this freedom come from. What is feminism, what is women’s liberation – are some questions that I usually ask people I meet, especially if they wish ‘Happy Women’s Day’. Today we move about freely in western clothes. But do we even know how difficult it was for women in the 40s and 50s? We cannot forget our past. Today’s woman who is multi-tasking and is efficient, lives in an era of ‘womanhood’. But sometimes I see that women forget that you are an individual, you also have a creative life your own that needs to be explored. Besides this, in this fast moving global world, materialistic pleasures are becoming more important. And in this race, we forget our basic values of being a woman, a family-maker, a mother. Today’s women are working hard and meanwhile, the family structure has a lesser priority. Children are left to themselves and the concepts have changed.

This may sound old-fashioned. But I really wonder, are we forgetting our values and the warmth of our traditions? Of course, there is no harm in being a global woman, but there is much more to be an Indian woman. This question needs to be explored. Are today’s Indian women ready to sacrifice in order to retain the values and the culture?

• Is there any particular issue about the modern women that affects you the most?
I think retaining culture, traditions and rituals – these are the three things that I find lacking a lot. Of course, you see them enjoying Navratri and other festivals with all fervor, but that is at a commercial level. So I feel it is the duty of the women to be more conscious to spread the culture, not only in the household but also beyond that. It just does not end by becoming modern or saying that ‘I am free’. Free of what? Nobody on this earth can be free of certain values and traditions.

• Can you share an incident that is the most memorable for you?
One of the very important moments was when I received the courier of the first five copies of my first novel ‘The Walled City’.

Second was when I received the Sahitya Academy Award. My son called me up at 10.30 in the night as the news came to the press and he works for one.

And the third was when my first grandchild was born, to my daughter in Paris, France. I think being a grandmother changed everything: my relationships, my talks, my meetings. So being called ‘Nani’ is the high point of my life!

• Your message to the society on Women’s Day?
I think traditions and heritage, is what we all women need to hold on to, in order to survive. I wish them all the very best and may they get the courage to fulfill all their responsibilities.

(Esther David is a Jewish-Indian writer, an artist and a sculptor based in Ahmedabad. A columnist for leading English Dailies and an author of a few novels, she says ‘I am just a seed of a buried tree!‘)

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Why HAM Radio is called Amateur Radio?
Basically, HAM Radio is a hobby, for which a person needs to be self-motivated. He has to learn the techniques on his own or go to a person who knows HAM well. It is not a very handy hobby. Amateur may be called the opposite of mature, it is a self-developed skill. Just like there are amateur photographers who practice photography but may not have a degree in the same field. Similarly this wireless technology of HAM has the technical name of Amateur Radio. And the person operating the HAM Radio is called a HAM.

Is there any full-form for HAM? How did the term come into existence?
No, HAM is not an acronym unlike B.Sc or B.Com. If you can recollect, the unit of temperature was Centigrade, later changed to Celsius. This was because Celsius was the inventor of the temperature meter. His name deserved to be remembered and linked with this invention. Similarly, there were three pioneer scientists in the invention of the wireless technology. Their names being Hertz, Angstrom and Marconi, Hertz invented the frequency; Angstrom was the founder of circuits while Marconi designed the first radio receiver circuit. Marconi is also the name of a famous radio brand. So came the term HAM by adopting the first letters of their names. Also, due to its high value during disasters, the full-form of HAM is formed as Help All Mankind.

What is the difference between a common radio set and a HAM radio?
HAM Radio is a one-to-one communication device. While radio has a mast radio reception that broadcasts and we as listeners can simply hear the songs or interviews. HAM Radio is a medium of two-way conversations. Also, commercial radio is allotted a particular spot frequency while HAM Radio gets the privilege of bands of frequencies. Unlike huge amounts of royalties paid by other radios, HAM Radio demands just a few rupees per year. HAM is installed, operated and maintained by the owner himself while in other communication mediums, different people play different roles.

How does the HAM Radio actually work?
HAM Radio works on the principle of wireless technology. There is no need of a third party or a service provider. It works on the Ionosphere and the radio waves. This means that the waves released from the transmitter travel through the ionosphere and reach the desired destination. So it is everlasting as the entire human kind survives because of this sphere on which the technology, too, is dependent.

How is the bandwidth decided? Is it possible that two allotted bandwidths might coincide? 
Every wireless device is recognized by its operating frequency. This frequency allocation is made by a Government body named WPC (Wireless Planning & Coordination). Police, Army, Navy, Fire Brigade, Civil & Aviation, Forest department etc all use the wireless technology. These all are allotted bandwidths in which they can communicate. Since the allocation is overviewed, there are no chances that the bandwidths might coincide.

How did the HAM Radio help during the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake?
This disaster was on a massive scale and it had affected Gujarat very badly. In the aftermath of the earthquake all the communication mediums had failed. The quake had struck at around 8.21 am but we got to know that Kutch was badly affected only by the afternoon, due to weak communication facilities. This happens due to two reasons: manmade and technical. Everyone tries to contact one another and the systems get jammed. Technically, the satellite alignment or the fiber optics in the ground gets disrupted during any such calamity. This is the time when HAM was working, because it is basically a wireless system. So we had reached Kutch and resumed the communication.

Generally, how does HAM help in any type of manmade or natural calamity?
We need a source of information in order to handle and overcome any kind of calamity. If there are helping agencies but they don’t have the required data like what are the requirements of the affected areas and the priorities, they cannot take a further step. So HAM Radio plays a major role as the information provider when there is a total communication blackout.

What is the technology behind HAM Radio?
This is called a type of wireless technology. There are two types of communication equipments: HF (High Frequency) which is used for global communication and VHF (Very High Frequency) which is used for local communication that covers a range of 25-40 kms.

Can anyone become a HAM? What is the procedure for the same?
The Government has kept the barrier of an examination in order to acquire a license to operate the HAM Radio. Once this exam is cleared, there is character verification (similar to one during issue of a passport) and thereafter the license is issued. There is no qualification barrier, but the person has to be an Indian National Citizen above the age of 14. The license is an authority to keep a wireless device, and so even HAM Radio needs a license for operation.

Are there any groups or clubs that work for HAM Radio?
In Gujarat, Gujarat Institute of Amateur Radio functions, this is the outcome of the 2001 Earthquake. This club has branches all over Gujarat. It conducts trainings, seminars and demonstrations at all major Government functions and at schools/colleges. Anyone, whether a HAM or not, can become a member of this club.

Can you share an experience when you have witnessed HAM Radio as a life saver?
I got the license to be a HAM in 1982. Since then, I have witnessed the role of HAM in more than 10 major disasters where we provided emergency communication. But the most memorable experience was during the Tsunami. We had rushed to Andaman and Nicobar Islands in December 2005 and our location was Campbell Bay, which is the southernmost island. Then, there was a total blackout of communication and we were supposed to rescue the people who were caught mid-sea. This was a worthy task undertaken in the worst conditions by the HAM Radio. Around 60 missing people were traced due to this technology.

What according to you is the future of HAM Radio?
Since we live in an era of communication, the technology changes day to day. So I can say that HAM Radio is not on the forefront. But whenever there is a disaster, all these latest, well-settled communication technologies fail. This is the time when HAM Radio is the only savior. Secondly, the youth can be well trained and the scientific skills can be developed. An interest needs to be generated among the youth to adopt this technology.

(Mr. Praveen Valera, Joint Secretary, Gujarat Institute of Amateur Radio)

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Give us a little information about the activities you and your organization are into.
Going down the memory lane, in 1993, National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) of the Indian Government conducted a study in different cities of India. The target groups were the high risk behavior groups who are likely to be infected by HIV, like the sex workers, homosexuals, slum population, migrants or eunuchs. I was the coordinator for that study in Gujarat. This was my first effort to understand HIV as well as AIDS sociologically. It was then that I worked with these groups in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara, Surat and Dadra & Nagar Haveli. We realized that it was very important to work on this issue in Gujarat.

One of the objectives of that study was to find NGOs who would be interested to work for this issue in the future. Then, it was only Jyotisangh, founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1934, the NGO that works for women, that was interested in working for HIV/AIDS. I supported this NGO as a technical consultant and now, the entire project is handed over to the women sex workers. This is called CBO – Community based organization.

What inspired you to work for such a sensitive issue?
The first inspiration is my subject – I teach Sociology. I have witnessed that there are a lot of groups that are never included in our course of study like the sex workers, homosexuals or the eunuchs. So the thought of imparting awareness about these groups to people always troubled me. Also my family background was such that I was always told to be good to common and marginalized people, understand their problems and talk to them.

What were the challenges and reactions you had to face when you started working on the issue?
When I joined Jyotisangh, the biggest challenge was the NGO’s negative attitude towards the sex workers. It considered this work a social evil. So the first step was to change its leadership behavior.

Another challenge was to face the fraternity of the teachers here at the University. They ridiculed working with this group of sex workers and at times, even doubted me!
Lastly, there was no history of people working with the sex workers in Gujarat. So even we had little knowledge and had to grow on our own.(Cont. from page- 1)
There are many notions that prevail in the society, the very first being HIV and AIDS are the same.

What are the other such perceptions?
Yes, right! The biggest perception is that HIV and AIDS are the same. HIV is actually a virus, through which a disease called AIDS spreads and that too after a span of 6-8 years. Due to this notion, people treat a HIV Positive person as a patient of AIDS and do not allow him/her to be a part of the society. Secondly around 86% of the people suffering from HIV in India have got the virus due to unprotected sex. But due to no scientific knowledge about HIV among the people, an HIV Positive patient is considered characterless and the entire issue is linked to our moral values.

A third important problem is that the HIV patients are not allowed to continue their social relationships. HIV spreads only through 4 main reasons: unprotected sex, virus from mother to the child, through infected injections or intake of such drugs. But people have the notions that HIV spreads by being with an infected person or the virus spreads from the air. They also believe that at times needles are pierced into, just to increase the members of the AIDS community!

What can be done to change these perceptions?
I very firmly believe that the first step to change these perceptions is to impart sex education. At present it is banned in Gujarat. If we’ll consider sex education as a taboo, it won’t be possible for the next generation to understand the concept of HIV scientifically and the misconceptions among them will increase.

Secondly, the talk about HIV should not be limited to just World AIDS Awareness Day but throughout the year, we need to work on the issue.

Thirdly, it is very easy to avoid getting infected from HIV. But the problem is that we try to see the virus as a medical issue and not a social one. There is a simple A-B-C-D formula to fight HIV. ‘A’ is avoiding sex, but this may not be possible for all. So then comes ‘B’ which says be faithful to your partner. Again if this is not possible, try ‘C’ that is use of condoms. And if A-B-C is not followed, then ‘D’ is for death.

What is the current status of AIDS patients in Gujarat/India?
Until now, Gujarat was considered to be a low prevalence state, which means that less than 1% of the total population was affected by HIV. But recently a report of NACO revealed that Gujarat has entered the middle prevalence states’ list as per the data of 2009. However, the overall number of HIV Positive people in India has decreased but in Gujarat the spread of HIV has reached around more than 1.50%, which is much above the national average of 0.30%.

People consider HIV as well as AIDS to be very dangerous. Is this right? If not, what should be done to consider these like other diseases?
The biggest problem is that we haven’t achieved any breakthrough for HIV yet, there is no vaccine available. So, when medical science cannot progress in any disease, its fear among the people rises. But, the fact that people don’t understand is that the HIV Positive people whose CD4 count is less than 200 are called AIDS patients. Now, if the patient takes ART –Anti Retroviral Therapy, his/her immunity to fight the diseases is maintained and the life span increases. But this awareness is lacking and HIV/AIDS lead to death is a very strong belief.

What types of programs are conducted by different organizations that work for this issue? What is their impact?
The first huge program is that of the Government that is called TI – Targeted Intervention. These projects target the groups who are most likely to get infected by HIV. TI identifies them, makes them aware regarding HIV & AIDS and this group then takes the project further.

Another type of organization is run by the HIV Positives themselves. Their network is called Gujarat State Network of Positive People (GSNP+).And the third type is the CBO – Community Based Organizations.

And there is a huge impact of such organizations in Gujarat over the last 10-12 years. First impact is that these marginalized groups were able to enter the main stream population of the society. Secondly female sex workers have started explaining their clients about HIV that may lead to AIDS and this has helped to generate a lot of awareness. Thirdly, people have started demanding safe blood as this disease spreads through blood too.

What are the common problems faced by the AIDS patients?
The first being the psychological problem; as soon as you know that you are infected with HIV, you start feeling that now there is no future. This type of hopelessness and helplessness shatters them.

Second problem is that the society does not accept them and there is no one to turn to when you find out that you are Positive.
The third is the monetary issue. Just recently, Government started giving the ART drugs free of cost at the Government hospitals. But apart from the medicines, the cost of eating healthy food due to which the immune system would stay fit is very high.

What are the efforts on the part of the Government?
I believe that the Government of Gujarat and that of India has taken this issue very positively. There are 5 year plans for this issue and the current policies will end in 2012. It includes free medicines for the HIV patients, education for their kids, and concessions for travel as the patients need to go to the hospitals frequently etc. the Government also supports the Network of Positive People and gives a lot of autonomy to the NGOs.

Your message to the society.
Let us develop a scientific temper for HIV. This will increase our knowledge for the subject, which in turn will lead to sympathy. Also, I will again insist that the new generation of Gujarat should be imparted sex education and the ban should be lifted immediately.
(Dr. Gaurang Jani, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Gujarat University)

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Radio: Today and Tomorrow.

If I talk about today’s radio, it has a lot of possibilities. Radio is a modern tool for communication and at the same time it is extremely popular with the young generation. Youth has got busier these days and they have no time for the visual medium. They tune into the audio medium for faster information. Gujarat is an advanced state in terms of industries. Also there are a lot of people coming here for work; there are a lot of avenues too. And radio is a tool for the betterment of the people. So radio definitely has a brighter and wider scope, especially with reference to Gujarat.

How has Radio as a medium grown over the years?

Since last 75 years, we have conceived All India Radio. In the ancient times, i.e. in 1936, Radio had a different concept. The Maharajas of Mysore, Hyderabad, Vadodara and other places had their own Radio Transmitters. But now radio is a medium that is in the hands of the Common Man, it is a relation of give and take and a participatory medium. The listener has the option to interact and listen through even his/her mobile phones.

Journalism is rapidly being replaced by the online media. Do you think that anytime in recent future, online radio will gain more popularity?

Listeners already have the options of listening to the Radio through their mobile phones and the internet. They can listen as well as download the news through just a click. The programs too can be listened through Airnet. Also, when it comes to participation, you need to be one on one with the listeners, you need to build interaction and through this online medium, your listeners are not away, they can be with you.

Do you think Journalism and Radio are interlinked?

Infact radio is a part of journalism; we can say its audio journalism. Basically, journalism is divided into print, audio and video formats. So we can always say that radio is all about audio journalism. It covers everything that any other medium does.

What is your take on Commercialization of Radio for Entertainment?

Commercialization to some extent is good. Sometimes it becomes necessary for survival. But it should not be undertaken in a way that the basic motive of radio is marred. Also, commercialization has got certain specific norms all over the world. If one crosses those norms and is overdosing, then the very content of the program or entertainment is being murdered. So if these limits are followed then commercials are good for the awareness of the common man.

Do you think Privatization of Radio has adversely affected the popularity of A.I.R.?

In the beginning, privatization was taken as a challenge. Gradually we learnt to survive this competition in the audio world. However, A.I.R. has some positive points due to which it is much above the other private channels.

  • It is a Public Broadcaster. So it is MASS oriented and not CLASS oriented
  • It covers 99% of the population of India and 98% of the area, which is the widest reach in the entire world
  • A.I.R. broadcasts in 29 languages, 46 dialects and 12-16 foreign languages

Thus we have an edge over the others due to all these strengths.

How is A.I.R. playing its role in the development of the State?

It definitely won’t be any exaggeration to say that whatever has happened in the country by means of awareness, education has been through A.I.R. Be it agriculture, green revolution, science or any other field – A.I.R. has been the first promoter. It has helped people to know various things and this way it has moved on. Any undertaking is not possible without people’s support and any one person cannot do anything.

How has A.I.R. met people’s expectations? 

This question reminds of a meeting soon after the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. All the officers present at the meeting decided that small TV sets should be provided to the rural areas as a part of disaster management. It was then that I put forward a request that instead of TV sets, transistors should prove a better option. TV sets require electricity which is often cut off in the aftermath of any disaster. Whereas radio is cheap, is easily accessible and does not require literacy unlike newspapers. So the point is even during any disasters, A.I.R. has stood the test of time and been the only source of communication for the people. Government messages, warnings and suggestions are broadcasted through this medium in times of emergencies.

Message from your desk for ‘The Namoleague Times’.

I wish that this e-paper becomes the most powerful and truthful voice for the common man. Truth includes journalism as well. It is above everything; it will surpass all and ultimately lead to victory of the common man. I wish Namoleague Times all the very best.
(From the interview with Smt. Sadhna Bhatt, Dy. Director, Regional Training Institute, A.I.R. Ahmedabad)

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What according to you is E-Journalism and how do you find its future?
Journalism is definitely about the print media. As for the E-Journalism it refers to the internet, mobile phones, TV channels, blogs and other such media. This reminds me of an article by Rupert Murdoch which says that the challenges before the future editor are to bridge the gap between the digitally immigrant and the digitally native people. Those born in today’s digital age are technology
friendly. The growth of Internet has been amazing in the past ten years. While newspapers took a whooping 43 years to reach a mark of 5 crore readers, radio took 12 years, TV took 5 years; Internet took only 1 year. Journalism faces the challenges of its own bias and ideologies and lack of interaction. While E-Journalism will definitely take over if it provides good content.

How would you list the roles & responsibilities of media?
Media has to more responsible than it is today in our country. It needs to stop the media trials that it undertakes may be because of the peer group pressures. Be it any case, media tries to dictate judgments even without studying the facts and figures, just to score over their rivals. This is really an irresponsible behavior that leads to disservice to the society as it does not provide a complete picture of the story. JOURNO + ANALYSM instead of JOURNALISM will soon be the motto.

Gujarat: 5 years back and forth
Since the past 7-8 years Gujarat has been vibrant in the true sense of these 3 pillars: best infrastructure, powerful law and order system and remarkable economic growth. Shri Narendra Modi says ‘Invest a rupee in Gujarat and you get a dollar in return.’  Be it roads, infrastructure, water or electricity, Gujarat has witnessed a remarkable change over the years. There has been focus on the rural sector equally that led to higher girls education, rural development and human development in turn.

Do you think that leadership has a role to play in the development of any state?
Leaders always have a vision and if I talk about Shri Narendra Modi, he has a vision to provide equal opportunities to everyone. He is concerned for the down trodden and aims to wipe tears from every eye. That’s the reason he visits all villages and is worried about all the parameters of development. Development is ultimately not only GDP, but the social development of all the strata of the society.

Your message on the launch of “The Namoleague Times”

My best wishes are always there for this new venture. Time has come to go global. Also I am sure this E-Paper will serve as a platform for people to know the realities. Many people have the habit of bashing an individual unnecessarily, I hope through this stage lots of clarifications will come and show the other side of the story to the people.

(From the interview with Shri Ajay Umat, State Editor. Divya Bhaskar)

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