Tune in to the sound of the sea

At this bustling seaside town, Kadal Osai, India’s first FM channel by and for fisherfolk, is creating waves with its shows on marine conservation and everyday life

Appa, I hope you’re listening. I wish you get plenty of fish today.”

“Stay safe, appa. Don’t forget to wear your life-jacket.”

M Saleas, a radio jockey with Kadal Osai FM 90.4, is used to such lines spoken by fishermen’s children on her evening show. She invites a child a day to the studio and they interact with her, share jokes and experiences from their lives. Fun for the most part, there are days the show ends with long pauses, punctuated by a pleading voice. Like when 13-year-old M Subiksha requested her father to stop drinking, and spend more time with her. “He actually did,” recalls Saleas. This is among the Rameswaram-based FM channel’s numerous little joys. With several shows tailored for the fisherfolk, the community radio station’s core philosophy is to contribute for the betterment of the sea and her people.

Tune in to the sound of the sea

Started by Pamban-based Armstrong Fernando, who is from the fishing community himself, the FM channel is the first of its kind in the country. “We are by and for the fishing community,” says the 43-year-old, the station director. With a state-of-the-art studio in Pamban town on Rameswaram island, the channel was launched in August 2016 and is 16-members strong. The RJs, who also double up as reporters, are all from the fishing community.

Kadal Osai (meaning ‘sound of the sea’) offers infotainment in a format that seamlessly merges with the lifestyle and ethos of its audience. “We cannot be too preachy,” notes station head Gayathri Usman. “But we slip in important messages wherever possible in subtle ways.” Their day kick-starts with the weather report, for weather dictates a fisherman’s schedule. “We share the weather report every hour actually,” adds Armstrong.

Tune in to the sound of the sea

Their morning show Kadal Osai Thandora shares fish prices from sellers, diesel rates, and employment news pertaining to openings in the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. Reporters get the information directly from the field, fresh with the sound of waves in the background. Their 9am to noon game-show is popular, where RJs involve fishermen in some friendly banter. Fishermen get an opportunity to talk about themselves and share a few laughs. “We’ve had them reading out their poetry on the show,” says Gayathri.

The show Samudhiram Pazhagu has marine conservation at its core. They talk about sustainable fishing practices, importance of keeping our sea plastic-free, help local women making craft items out of shells market their products better, fishing craft of the past that were kind to Nature... “On one show, I told fishermen how important Olive Ridley turtles were for our eco-system,” says radio jockey Lenin Raj. “The turtles feed on jelly fish, which eat up fish eggs,” he adds. “I explained to them that by releasing turtles that get caught in their nets, they are keeping the numbers of jelly fish in check.”

Tune in to the sound of the sea

A fisherman himself, Lenin is an Engineering graduate. “I enjoy my job,” he says. “I spend most part of my day interacting with fishermen. But if I were fishing, my interactions would have been limited to people in just one boat.” The 27-year-old says that his knowledge about the community helps him pose nuanced questions to his interviewees. “It is heartening when they actually listen to me when I encourage them to bring back to land plastic bags in which they take groceries for their fishing expeditions.”

The content for some of their shows, Gayathri says, comes from organisations such as the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Tamil Nadu Marine Police, and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.

Right now, Kadal Osai’s transmission range is a little over 10 kilometres. “We do reach places 20 kilometres away on occasions,” says Armstrong adding that they hope that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting provides them more wattage allowance. “Ultimately, we want to reach more people,” he adds. “When cyclone Gaja loomed over Tamil Nadu, we swung into action, announcing the news to our people. As a result, not one life was lost in our region.”

Change is evident. Lenin says that he was thrilled to see videos his fellow fishermen shared of them releasing Olive Ridleys caught in their nets. This is the best thing about community radio; there is instant feedback and criticism. And some delicious crab curry, if they are lucky.

“We’ve had our listeners cook us a portion of their day’s catch and bring it to our office,” says Armstrong. For the fisherfolk of Pamban, or any region for that matter, offering a portion of their catch to someone is a precious expression of love. “This happens a lot of times,” adds Armstrong. “They come straight to our studio from the sea.”

Listen to Kadal Osai FM’s shows on Spotify and Anchor.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 7:38:41 PM |

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