peace in a pod Society

Stories from the ground

Hello, doston,...main aap sab ke liye ek kavita layee hoon, jo maine khud likha....” Halima begins Babli Ka Show.

Kaash tum hote, to ek doosre ka dard bante/tum kehte, lockdown mein ghar pe rehrehkar pak gaya hoon/ main kehti meri achche achche pics dekhkar time pass karo/aur tum mere baatein sun sun kar khush ho jaate.”

Halima is one of several trainees who are part of Free/Dem, a digital media literacy programme run by the Delhi-based Ideosync Media Combine, and Babli Ka Show is one of six shows produced as part of the Free/Dem Community Podcasts. Venu Arora, Ideosync’s Director of Projects, describes the podcasts as an offshoot of their WhatsApp Radio, run by members of Tajpur Pahadi and other urban slums in the National Capital Region.

The shows are run primarily by young people ages of 16 and 23, and deal with issues related to gender equity, freedom of expression, human rights and justice, seasoned with a healthy dose of romance and humour drawn from the everyday lives of the community members.

In an episode of Zyada Bolne Wali Aurtein (Women who talk too much), 16-year-old Divya asks a group of women, “Aapka pati ka naam kya hai?” and interrogates the patriarchal norms that prevent them from calling their husbands by name, as well as the deeper belief that a woman’s identity is tied to his. In another episode of this podcast, Sarita, a 40-year-old homemaker articulates a long-felt discomfort, about why housework has come to be seen as woman’s work.

Young roles

But there are other concerns that are close to the hearts — and minds — of the young in the community too, such as 16-year-old Hemlata’s exploration of educational options in Zaroori Jaankaari, where she talks through the difference between arts, science and commerce streams.

Or in 18-year-old Sulaiman’s retelling of a family love story that led to his aunt and uncle being ostracized by the community, in the show Love is Part of Life.

One other show — the Corona Special — focuses on the community’s experiences during the pandemic, with conversations ranging from loss of livelihoods among women to access to health and relief, to the problems faced by young people trying to access online lessons.

Everyday negotiations

There’s a charming spontaneity to the shows that opens a window into the hopes, anxieties and everyday negotiations of the community, and even as it is particular, manages to speak across cultural and class divides.

Arora speaks about the need for such hyperlocal media that can get people talking about their own micro-level concerns — “because contexts shift so quickly”.

Such a platform is particularly relevant to a community like Tajpur Pahadi, made up mostly of migrants, who are “so to speak, part of the city, but they have none of the resources that the city has to offer, including the resources for having a voice.”

In large measure, the Free/Dem podcast series — and the WhatsApp radio venture — is a digital workaround in the face of a restrictive Community Radio policy that has made it virtually impossible for non-academic community organizations in urban centres to obtain a radio license.

Arora notes that while they are aware of the tensions around the digital — whether it is to do with access or ownership or data capture — it has allowed them to develop capacity in the community to tell and share their own stories.

As the host says in the introduction to the show Azaad Lab, the Free/Dem channel, is “ek aisa channel jo aapki baat sunta hai aur sunaata bhi hai”.

The shows are available on the Ideosync Free/Dem page of Podbean and through the organisation’s website.

The Hyderabad-based writer and academic is a neatnik fighting a losing battle with the clutter in her head.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 9:59:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/stories-from-the-ground/article32869495.ece

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