Kolkata: Ten days down the line, what has been your strategy to cope with the sudden 21-day national lockdown, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to control COVID-19 pandemic in India? At a time when many took onto social media to exhibit their culinary skills or enrolled themselves for online classes to upgrade their skills, or got back to their work station created in the cosy confines of their home, a bunch of educators, PhD scholars and activists in Kolkata came up with the idea of connecting people, through a web-based community radio station, during the self-imposed quarantine period.
Aptly christened as Radio Quarantine Kolkata, is an attempt by its creators to help people to overcome self-isolation, stay connected with their loved ones, deal with their lockdown anxieties and of course utilise their spare time constructively.
Talking to eNewsroom, one of the members of the core team, Kasturi Basu, a social activist and filmmaker said, “The very idea of not being able to go to work, meet people or move around freely for 21-long-days was unnerving for me. We also realised that self-isolation would be alienating the society and that seemed scary. Hence, we began to think about ways in which we could stay connected to take forward our brand of social activism and also help people soothe their nerves. And this gave birth to Radio Quarantine Kolkata.”
However, she added that the group had been in talks about this when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had introduced lockdown in West Bengal. But the radio became a reality when the self-isolation period got a 21-day extension.
What is this Radio Quarantine?
Explaining what this community radio is all about, was Darshana Mitra, a professor at the National University of Juridical Science (NUJS), Kolkata. “Most of us, barring a few, had zero experience in radio broadcasting. But still, we took a plunge. What makes our community radio different is the fact that it’s a web-based community radio station. Unlike most radio networks, we are not live.”
Those working for the radio content, work in advance to develop scripts, monologues, chat shows among others way in advance. “To be honest, when we began this community radio, we were not very sure about being able to have enough content. But given the response and cooperation from the participants and the audience is helping us run shows from 5 pm to 2 am. We have shows for kids (Chotoder Ashor), adults (Golper Ashor), pining lovers (Songs for hypochondriac and pining lovers), people worried about the pandemic (Quarantine diary, which is a news round up) and more,” said Mitra.
On being asked, what Songs for hypochondriac and pining lovers were about and how did they get the name, Sudipto Sanyal, the RJ for this late-night segment said, “I am sure when this lockdown was announced, a lot of lovers must have panicked with the possibility of not being able to meet their beloved. This segment is somewhat of a monologue, where my talk is neatly punctuated with songs of my choice at present. But the kind of response we are getting, we are trying to incorporate the feedback or demands of our audience.” Sanyal teaches English at Techno India Group of Institution.
Radio that advocates
However, what makes the community radio different is the fact that this radio advocate on social issues. “Most of us associated with this radio had been associated with the NO NRC Movement. Hence, we also knew that the lockdown would mean lesser community interaction, which in turn could weaken the movement, which was at its peak when the lockdown was announced. Hence, we have awareness programmes related to NRC, NPR and CAA.”
She added, “We have recently had a special episode, where we played back to back protests songs sung by Jann Gann Mann, a group which has been specialising this genre. It was well appreciated by our listeners.”
In one of their talk shows, a couple of junior doctors were interviewed to highlight the hectic schedule and stress that they are having to face in government hospitals in the wake of the global pandemic.
Needless to say, the audience, that Radio Quarantine Kolkata is targeting, is loving it. Partha Dey, a Kolkata-based musician, said, “It’s quite innovative and informative too. I not just listen to them but have also sent music composed by me and ghazals sung by my daughter to them and they have played it on their show. It’s an engaging entertainment platform using new technology to stay connected and not isolated in these days of lockdown.”
So tune into Radio Quarantine Kolkata, to banish your blues during the lockdown.