What if you had a radio station of your own? Every time you go on air, you announce yourself with a snappy call sign, on a radio you put together from scratch resembling a secret service agent’s lair, much to the envy of your friends.

For entrepreneur M.I. Chan Basha and botany teacher A. Aslam, founders of the Tiruchi Amateur Radio Association, their attempts to woo youth towards amateur radio are justified. The duo, supported by members of their one-year-old organisation, is keen in popularising what is perceived as geek’s hobby. Though HAMs cannot broadcast to the general public, amateur radio as a means of communication, knowledge sharing and volunteering, still has its charm, in the age of cell phones and advanced technology.

Calling every one

Amateur radio is a mix of fun, learning and service, the duo asserts. “We want to rope in more amateurs and increase the number of radio stations in and around Tiruchi,” says Mr. Aslam. The association has an eclectic mix of various professions. Its president Rajkumar is a loco pilot and members include a farmer, an alternative medicine practitioner and bankers, though there are hardly any women. What attraction does HAM hold for a newbie? “I feel it is a community where like-minded people come together to discuss common interests,” says Suganya, a B.E. graduate, who is awaiting her licence.

Service from home

The hobby gives an opportunity to reach out in times of disaster and distress, that drives most HAMs, says Mr. Basha who was involved in relief work during the tsunami. “When telephone lines failed during the tsunami, amateur radio played an important role. Staying at home, I coordinated with HAMs on the ground. We were able to help connect tourists from Kerala who were at Velankanni during the tsunami with their families. With inputs from those on the spot, I was also able to network with organisations sending aid and information.” Be it rescue efforts during floods, crowd control at festivals, assistance during accidents and identifying rare blood group donors, have all been made possible through HAMs.

The association takes advantage of any opportunity to introduce HAM to students by putting up stalls in college fests and giving presentations in libraries and service organisations. They also help with exams, prerequisite for obtaining a licence. “We lend a helping hand with exam preparation to new entrants,” says Mr. Aslam. “The exams test radio theory, practice and familiarity with morse code. English, mathematics and fundamental sense of electronics is sufficient.” Of the 150 in the last batch, 52 have cleared their exams and awaiting their licence. Around 35 new candidates have applied for the forthcoming exams.