Saluting the fauji with a radio station
One of Chaya Srivatsa’s most vivid memories of her honeymoon in March 1966 is of her breathlessly rowing a boat on a lake, in tandem with her 31-year-old navy officer husband. That was when Commander Srivatsa spoke to his young bride about how ‘anything can happen to him’.
It is not as morbid as it sounds. The two were rowing away in Ooty, when other honeymooners caught Chaya’s eye.
“The other wives in the boats would sit there wearing dark glasses, with their pallu over their heads, looking very filmi, while their husbands rowed,” remembers Chaya. “Looking at that, I told my husband that he should do the same. And he just stared at me,” she laughs. “He explained that we will have to work together if the boat has to move.” The officer wrapped a handkerchief over one of the oars and gave it back to Chaya, who was clueless about manning a boat. Their boat kept moving in circles and they had a good laugh over it.
But the analogy was not lost on the 19-year-old woman. She understood that her husband was preparing her for the unpleasant uncertainties that came with being married to someone from the armed forces. The lesson helped her stay tough eight years ago, when Srivatsa died of brain cancer.
It was a deep desire to give something back to the armed forces community that motivated Chaya and her son Anil, who is also the CEO and co-founder of Radiowalla.in, to launch a new Internet radio station called Fauji Radio on January 26. “The radio station aims to boost the morale of the armed forces and humanise the lives of officers,” explains Anil.
For the fauji, by the fauji
Fauji Radio, which will be streamed live 24/7, is the product of a month’s worth of interviews, research and sleepless nights. While Anil explains that he’s dreamed about launching such a radio station for a long time, his mother jokingly complains that she knew of no such thing. In fact, it was only a month ago, two days before Chaya’s brief vacation in Hong Kong, that Anil told her about the idea. “I spent the whole night drawing up segments and interviewed the daughter of an air force officer in Hong Kong,” laughs Chaya, an independent journalist, writer and life coach.
There are a variety of programmes. There is Desh Ke Bacche, a collection of interviews with officers’ children and Chitthi Aayee Hai, where officers’ letters to their families (some of written from the war front) will be read out on air.
“Subhashini Vasanth, wife of Colonel Venugopal Vasanth (who was killed in 2007 in Uri, Kashmir, while valiantly fighting off terrorists), shared some of the letters that he wrote to the family. The letters are very personal, touching and are descriptive of the life he led while away,” says Chaya, who remembers her own uncle, a lieutenant colonel in the army, who used to write to her even when posted all over the country. “In his letters, he used to describe the weather, ask me about my friends… Imagine how it was for an 11-year-old to receive such letters!” she exclaims.
Chaya Srivatsa with Sabarina Dutta, daughter of Rt Wing Commander LK Dutta, who spoke about her life as a fauji kid on air
Bringing the nation closer
Other programmes include Ajeeb Kahani, a segment on extraordinary stories about officers, and Kaha Gaye Woh Log which will pay tribute to our brave, deceased soldiers. Discussions with retired, top officers (like the Coonoor-based legendary astronaut Rakesh Sharma, with whom Chaya managed to get a phone interview) will also be aired, in addition to information on the rehabilitation of war widows, interesting trivia such as the different kinds of salutations (Each salute has a different meaning, Chaya tells us) and how civilians can join the armed forces.
Sitting in Bangalore, the biggest hurdle for Chaya was translating all the matter into Hindi, as 80 per cent of the programmes will be broadcast in the language. “I went on social media, asking for help to translate the work into Hindi. Many people volunteered. A lady from Chandigarh even sent me back the translated content,” explains Chaya. “Right now, an organisation in Jaipur is translating and packaging the content for us,” she adds.
Chaya’s upbeat about the radio’s future “This is just the beginning,”she says. “Ab aage aage dekho kya hota hai. Wait and see.”
A song for a soldier
Anil Srivatsa points out that the station also has an advisory board in place because he does not want it to become a platform for anything that is against the nation. “The main idea is to bridge the gap between the civilians and the armed forces,” explains Anil. “There will be song requests and dedications being played on the station. So anyone from, any part of India, can just call up and sent their wishes to the soldiers.”