Thursday, June 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, Radio Tarana: Vatan ki yaad - Memories from back home

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Radio Tarana – a radio station which saw its genesis at 5pm on 15th June 1996 has achieved momentous status in its 20 years of existence. And one of the continuing achievements has been proudly maintaining New Zealand’s number one place as its Hindi Radio Station. However, with diversity and demographic mix of People of Indian Origin (PIOs) from around the globe, the expansion and adjustment was necessary, and that record now stretches to still being New Zealand’s number one Indian Radio Station.

Robert Khan, Managing Director of Radio Tarana - he has steered the station to the level no ethnic media has achived
”…Vatan ki yaad dilaati hai…” (Reminds you of the home country)..this used to be the promotion theme song often played on Radio Tarana , and it rings so true. There is something unique, some belongingness with Radio Tarana that it reminds you of your home country, be it India, or especially Fiji, because the format rightfully mirrors our stations in Fiji, and many announcers are Fiji-trained Fijians. One of the hallmarks and perhaps marketing tools of Hindi Radio Stations in Fiji has been free death messages. This has become norm with all Hindi Radio Stations worldwide with links to Fiji, and Radio Tarana follows this tradition.  What reminds Indo Fijians of their home country is the music and song that is played at end of all death maalik tere bande hum…(Oh God, we are your children). That is the same one that has been played at Radio Fiji and its predecessor, Fiji Broadcasting Commission for some fifty years. That is what we mean, bringing the best from back home - the memories and tunes we grew up with, what we call vatan ki yaadein.

The all familiar logo of Radio Tarana
My first contact with Radio Tarana came in 2003 when Pravin Kumar, Managing Director of Lotus Money Exchange made my contacts with Pawan Rekha to speak about my Girmitiya ancestors in May 2003 during Girmit anniversary. At that time I was still resident in Fiji but had come here for a visit, and had an emotional talk and talk back on history of Girmit, the indenture. This was followed three years later in 2006, when we again got together and did a live radio broadcast to mark Girmit anniversary, by when I had migrated to New Zealand. One of the highlights was the presence of the well-respected Fiji school teacher and maternal grandfather (Nana) of Managing Director Robert Khan, octogenarian Master Sultan Ali. He enlightened us about early history of Fiji. Ali was a well-respected school teacher in and around my hometown of Ba. We were fortunate that in 2015, when Minister Kubuabola attended Girmit Day organised by Fiji Girmit Foundation of NZ, Radio Tarana did a live telecast of the proceedings.
The heart of Radio Tarana, Pawan Rekha
Radio Tarana well recognises its role as the custodian and archivist of Indian history in New Zealand. They have pledged to preserve recordings for coming generations for research and education purposes. So we can be rest assured that our achievements and history will be accessible to our grandchildren in 50 years’ time. And its generous sponsorship of community functions shows it fulfilling it role on a wider sphere. A radio station plays a more important role in community apart from news, music and entertainment - and that is community development, community’s wellbeing, community partnership, a historian and a voice museum. 
Hemant Parikh, an old timer and the face of Radio Tarana

Radio Tarana features multi lingual religious music and discourse in the mornings, news, interviews, birthday announcements, community and death messages throughout the day, and favourite music from 50s to the present era, and much more. That much more, among others is multi-lingual programmes that, among others include Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil and Gujarati. Radio Tarana is essentially a music station featuring a range of popular Hindi songs from the past and present era with local as well as overseas artistes.

The "Captain" of Radio Tarana, Saten Sharma, pictured here paying tribute to Guru of Radio Stations in Fiji, Anirudh Divakar.
A Radio station need not try to establish its popularity by wishing to remain bearer of good news. Media, be it print or broadcast, survives from public audience and hence owes it a duty of care. They need to be watchdogs of the community and public morals. We have grave issues about family violence, mistreatment of elders, abuse of women, abuse of employees, especially Indians and other social ills in the community. We have some other ills imported in this country by People of Indian origin from their countries of birth. Hindi Radio stations need to emulate English stations like Radio Live and News ZB which have no fear in openly having talk-back shows on issues affecting the community. It is hoped Radio Tarana is bold enough to venture in this area.

We happily note some changes coming in with new breed of radio announcers on board. They seem to be bolder and asking those hard questions. They have become bolder and changes are on board. The other day I was somewhat surprised to hear a talkback on “menstruation” (period) of women and their suitability for religious activities in this period (pun intended). This shows that they have developed and matured, and for this I salute Robert Khan for giving more leeway to the station.

Overall, New Zealand’s People of Indian Origin are today richer for the fact that they have now three 24-hour radio stations in their own language. Among the three, Radio Tarana stands tall, has won numerous awards, and has been the first ethnic radio station to stand proudly with the mainstream ones. It has also done much to ensure upkeep of culture, and have still maintained the dignity of Hindi language that goes over air. The only thing they need to be careful is that we do not understand some of Valmiki or Tulsidas Hindi language. For example, most Indians do not know that ‘Saamling” means gays, and ‘Sthai Sachiu “means permanent secretary,  “prashanic karyawahi “means disciplinary actions,  and others like “sakraatmak, nakraatmak, baam panthi, praja tantra…and many more are Greek to many of us, especially the new generation. While using these hard Hindi, they may help educate us by repeating its English meaning. As they say, the purpose of language is communication.

The A-team of Indian Radio in Auckland- TEAM TARANA
As a media critique, I am wary of Media, especially our Indian media, and do not please easily. However, when I say we are proud of Radio Tarana and its activities in the community, it comes from deep inside me. Therefore, we are content with the fact that there still remains a radio station that we can trust, rely upon and overall, which reminds us of good things back home-…vatan ki yaad dilaati hai….. And that is…Radio Tarana. 

Aayushmaan Bhava, Cheeranjeevi Bhava-Happy Birthday, blessings and a very successful long life. Vijai Bhava-may you remain number one

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is the principal of blog FIJI PUNDIT and Indian Media Watch New Zealand. He has a postgraduate qualification in journalism (with honours) from Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) and a former media personality from Fiji. He is a media commentator, specialising in social media, Fiji and local ethnic issues. E-mail:]

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