Gham Chhaya – Golden Times

– Shakti Gurung and Mrs Madhu Gurung

Gham Chhaya – Golden Times

What makes us take different roads at varying points in our lives – the choices we make in pursuance of a dream that starts as a mere idea, to become a journey of possibilities can never be fully answered. So great is the pull of the idea that it excites us to hunt high and low for ways to make it take a form, and then a life of its own.

Living as retirees in Dehradun, our story also started with an idea to unite the Gorkha community to come together in unity and pride. Initially we thought like everywhere else in India, we too should organise a Gorkha fair. But for too many years living away from the community we had had our fair share of competition, so we were more ambitious, more unafraid to trying new things, so our USP as we grew as a group, was to think not just big but bigger, an event that we could pull together on our own steam without the army cover under which we had lived all our lives. What started as possibly a one or two day event snowballed with a life of its own into a four day grand Gorkha Dwi Shatabdi Mahotsav. The website – thegorkha.com that we created after the Mahotsav captures some of its essence. For the first time the Mahotsav brought thousands of Gorkhas living in independent warrens across Uttarakhand together to publicly demonstrate their pride in their “Gorkhaness”.

The immediate fall out of the Mahotsav was the creation of the Gorkha Kalyan Parishad. It was the first official acknowledgement by the government of Uttarakhand. Headed by Lt Gen Shakti Gurung, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, VSM, who had been appointed on popular concensus, the members of the Parishad however did not enjoy the same support. The result was it fractured the Gorkha community on party lines and made the government effort seem not serious and well meaning. However, the recent upheaval of the Uttarakhand government has caused the dissolution of the Parishad but the processes that Gen Gurung put in place, continue.

It was the formation of the Parishad that gave birth to the website: thegorkha.com that will serve not just as our documentation center but will be an interactive stimulus for intellectual debate. We are happy with the responses of our viewers. We are constantly working on ways to improve the content and incorporating the work that we are doing.

The other equally meaningful endeavour that stemmed for the same felt need for an interactive platform to reach out to the community and continue with the gains of “Gorkhaness” the Mahotsav had created, was a kernel of an idea of starting a community radio.

While the website we had created catered for the technically savvy generation of Gorkhas, the radio on the other hand is aimed to capture the space that was empty as a “binder” embracing the community speaking in Nepali.

The radio allows us the enormous span and platform to project the untapped talent of our young musicians, poets and singers. It allowed us freedom to create, tell stories, showcase our culture, language, history and tap on to our vast plethora of music, and bring together all the local talent we found in the wake of the Mahotsav and showcase it.

The Bible says for everything under the sun there is a season – a time to sow and a time to reap. The idea of having a Gorkhali radio station started as a small seed with tremendous potential. We realised we had a brilliant idea but little expertise to execute it. But the more we thought of the idea of a community radio we realised it would be the best tool to reach out – to inform, educate and entertain the community. The Gorkhas had never found a voice and never broadcast it. We also did not have the money to the tune of Rs 25 lakhs to get a license to broadcast and have a radio station of our own.

So the idea began to falter even before it took off, that was the time we began thinking out of the box. The idea of a community radio was too good to be abandoned so we began looking for ways to make it begin. A phone call to the head of Radio Khushi, Arjun Kaintura in Mussoorie for air time for us elicited a response that was not only encouraging but we also got him to come home and talk about how we could go about it. The next step was to introduce him to the small band of people who were sold on the idea of radio. In the hall of Gorkhali Sudhar Sabha where we invited him, he came with his team of RJ – Kiran Thapa, and his production head, Madan. The team read to him, sang for him and asked him endless questions.

The meeting was a turning point as the support of Radio Khushi was whole hearted. Radio Khushi housed in Gurunank Fifth Centenary School in Mussoorie, reaches across most of Uttarakhand and is broadcast on 90.4 FM.

We asked Arjun for a two slots every week as none of us were professionals and we felt that we had to build our capacities. The truth was none of us had any idea of what it entailed but when you take an idea and think of it day in and day out, you can create paths. A music band, “Maya,” that had played for the Mahotsav had two key players Vikas Mukhiya and Finny Joseph, both musicians with expertise in their own fields. While Vikas was the band’s lead singer, composer, Finny was the sound expert.

It was this duo that came to our rescue. Finny Joseph a young man who worked some ten years for a corporate in Delhi came back to Dehradun to pursue the love of his life – music, and raise a family. Vikas Mukhiya, a musician par excellence wrote songs, composed and played in all fancy places across the country and whose passion for life stemmed from his music. He has already got fame doing biblical albums and is the one who composed the most beautiful song for our Mahotsav titled, ‘Bir Gorkhali”. It is on our website and a must listen for all the people who question Gorkha identity.

Together these two young men wrote, composed our promos, recorded them and wowed the community. We hope that our promos in times to come will become an anthem among our people. Finny continues to record for us and his ability to fine tune flagging voices, boost confidence among a team of radio jockeys, who till a few weeks back saw themselves only as students, housewives and retired army men. The excitement of wearing a new garb is hesitant but each episode when recorded gets aired, the instant emotional response fills us with wonder of its possibility and gets us back to the grind to better ourselves.

We are for a professional radio, the most unlikely team to produce radio programmes, but our USP is our heart. We know what makes us tick, we know our stories and together we are learning to say them in a way very much like the last frame of a beautiful movie that stays with you long after the images have faded. We have realised that in a way we are all story tellers as we only have the listeners’ ears so we paint with colours of our past, pride in our present, and hope for our future.

We have been asked why radio – it’s a medium that can reach out across the board to a community, as friend, adviser and a fellow Gorkha. It’s a platform for Gorkhas to interact, put forth their word and find a common solution. The forthcoming elections, 2017 may just get their Gorkha MLA, making history happen through a medium we have only just started.

The possibilities are endless.

Where do we go from here, the roadmap leads us all the way to having our own Gorkha broadcasting radio station. As we learn the ropes as tug boats hooked on to the big armada, Radio Khushi, we know we will find our own patch of land where the sky carries our name very soon.