-Yam Bahadur Dura
I was born in a remote village called Bhangu, Duradanda, in Lamjung District. My village lacked modern facilities like roads, telecommunications, health services, and many other basic requirements. I was brought up in a completely rural setting. There was no ‘fast’ or processed food and the only means of knowing what was happening elsewhere was radio. Obviously, I grew up very close to nature. Boys and girls of my age in rural Nepal at the time were brought up in a perfect agrarian society with no signs of modernity.
My sources of knowledge were bedtime stories told by my grandma, my own observations, folk art, social gatherings and knowledge delivered by the schoolteachers. Reference materials like storybooks, newspapers, comics and cartoons were a distant dream. My sole frame of reference was the rural lifestyle and surroundings.
Radio was the only modern means of communication and source of knowledge I had during my childhood. To me it was an extremely unique and marvelous thing. It could sing, speak and tell news. I was surprised with these ‘heavenly’ functions of radio. As a kid, I believed that there were miniature human beings inside the radio set who could sing, speak and tell news.
My father, now 75, was serving in the Indian Army at the time. I remember he had bought a radio set when he had come home on vacation. It was my first introduction to radio. I cannot guess my exact age at the time. Maybe I was around 5 years old. My fingers used to run on the knobs without knowing how to adjust it and I also have a hazy memory about my father selling or giving it away to somebody before rejoining his platoon. My mother gave birth to three daughters after my father retired in 1974. But that was the first and last radio he ever brought home.
Unlike other Lahures viz. armies with hobby of playing radio and cassette players and tempting the villagers to listen the war stories, my father did not buy any radio set in his entire retired life. Nor did we ask him to buy a radio set.
Since I had no real radio set I used to play with a dummy made of a matchbox. I used thread as shoulder strap of the matchbox radio. For sound, I used to catch some flying insects and lock them inside the matchbox: their buzz in captivity was the music that came out from my play radio. I also had another radio set, one made of banana trunk. I used to hold it on my shoulder with a piece of rope and I sang and spoke to give it voice. This is how my childhood interest on radio grew over time.
Generally, in those days, only the educated and well off used to own radio sets. I came from a family that could have afforded a radio but my father did not think it an investment worth making. I think he didn't realize that a radio was an important source of knowledge and entertainment, especially for children growing in a rural environment.
But I always wanted to be near a radio. I wouldn't miss any opportunity to overhear what radios in the neighborhood said or sang. My desire to listen to a radio grew by the day and before I knew I had fallen in love box that spoke. Radio Nepal, the only national broadcaster at the time and there was no way I could listen to foreign stations, mainly because of the language.
I used to be happy when we had visitors who also brought their radio set when they visited. These were times listen in the comfort of the house. My neighbor had a radio made by Philips. The owner was a retired British Army Captain Bakhan Singh Dura. He was also a social worker. Later, he was elected as Pradhan Pancha, the equivalent of today’s chairperson at a Village Development Committee. I went to his house often and the only reason was to listen to what was on radio.
In the beginning, I was impressed by the folksongs and drama. Growing up, I began to internalize the meanings and sense of the radio shows. I loved literary programs, children's shows and programs for women. I was impressed by the presentation styles of anchors, programs hosts and newsreaders. Without knowing I had become a fan of the radio personalities I had never met.
I purchase my first radio after I completed my intermediate level of study. It was my unrestricted access to knowledge on radio. Radio program hosts delivered content with sweet and influential voices that always made me think that they were superhuman. While listening, I used to imagine how they looked, their height, weight and personalities.
I hoped to meet those personalities of my imagination someday. The opportunity came when I came to Kathmandu for intermediate level study. It was also when I visited Radio Nepal for the first time in my life. There I met the legends of my imagination: Pandav Sunuwar, Ms Suryakurmari Panta and Basudev Munal, among others.
I talked to them with great respect but did not find them to be what I had imagined them to be. It was also when my childhood heroes and heroines died at once.
But I continued to listen to radio and followed programs such as phone-ins and one on pen pals. The pen pal program helped me widen my circle of friends and helped me link up with some creative friends as well as a 'radio listeners' club'. Then I began receiving brochures and program schedules of Deutsche Welle (DW) and Voice of America (VOA) from a Birantnagar based 'radio listeners club' that assisted to widen horizon of my understanding about radio and broadcasting. I also received many letters from people I knew through radio. In a way, radio listening assisted me to explore new friendships and eventually my interest in journalism.
Radio Nepal used to broadcast letters and articles sent by the listeners and writers. I also wanted to get my letters and articles aired. But I was struggling with fear that my letters would not be broadcast. Eventually I did write the first one to the children's program. And one day, I heard my name and the entire content as I had written. This was enough encouragement to write more and soon I was flooding Radio Nepal with letters about just anything I could think of. This chain of unfolding events erased my childhood fantasies on radio and I happened to land on reality. Even though radio demystification started within me as I grew up and garnered maturity, these fantasies with a radio set have a deep impression in my life to select media and communication field.