What’s new with my life as an entrepreneur?

It hasn’t been a journey without roadblocks for sure.

It surely seems like a long way before I can be completely proud of the brand created -Mums and Stories

However have to share that every milestone is a celebration by itself.  Right from working with biggest brands to chalking out our own novel ways to sustain and bring out cherished experiences for mums and kids, I do feel we are on track and about to do something really good.

Let’s hope for the best.


Beginning Video stories, Meet the expert and Pregnancy stories

I am busy with Mums and stories since the last one and half years and it has been an incredible journey.

At times I do feel I can manage another role and this one but there are so many things to do to grow Mums and stories as a platform that it is increasingly becoming difficult to take time for anything else.

Last few weeks have been busy with video stories that I wanted to begin for a particular campaign. My own myths and perceptions are getting busted thanks to the wonderful moms I am meeting and interviewing them.

A lot of people are connecting with me to express their interest of joining me to take the Mums and stories initiative ahead. But soon I find myself alone and I don’t think I should complain on that as long as it is giving me positive vibes and others too.





Events connecting mums, kids and dads too

It’s  been a year since Mums and stories has begun connecting with people, mums in particular.

However we have started doing events regularly and these are connecting with kids, mums and dads too.

Our events of Chai gup shup meets at cafes, bloggers event which was a huge success at Bhive, story book picnics for kids and many more are becoming a regular feature.

It is heartening to know niche events like listening to successful bloggers and mums, art of parenting for teenagers are resonating with our key audience of parents and kids.

Stories are being shared, being created and we are glad Mums and stories is building itself to be a community platform and responsible support group.

This Children’s day, we will be having two activities, Cook with Dad special and Hug a tree initiative.

Hoping we see a good response from parents and kids for both the events.

For interesting stories, log on to www.mumsandstories.com and keep a tab on our facebook page to know on the interesting events we line up every month.


Meet Prema Ramappa Nadabatti, Bangalore’s Only Woman Bus Driver

Meet the only woman bus driver in Bangalore – Prema Ramappa Nadabatti, who works for the BMTC, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation.


She is in a very unconventional profession as a woman, and she knows that very well. As I sit in an official’s cabin waiting at the corporate office to meet Prema Ramappa Nadabatti, she walks in after finishing her morning shift duty.

Prema is a driver for BMTC buses for the last six years in Bangalore. I had tried reaching her the previous day at 6a.m. in the winter chill, at the bus depot number 3 in Bangalore. All the male bus drivers and conductors were talking about the fact that again someone had come to talk to Prema. I wasn’t allowed to talk to her at the time, and was asked to meet her at the corporate office.

At the office as Prema walked in, her gait, body language, and her tough rugged look despite her huge earrings made quite a contrasting impression. She gazed at me as the official said that I had come for an interview. She gave a hint of a smile as though she is so used to the limelight. I mentioned to her that the story will be seen in online media on the Internet and she grinned and asked, “That means no paper to hold or no TV to see my interview?” I assured her that I will be back to show where her interview has appeared and she nodded her head with a warm smile.

“I am from Gokak in Belgaum district,” she starts in an accent that is typical to the people who speak in North Karnataka.

“As I was growing up due to financial problems, I had to start working. I had got a job as an assistant in a small private hospital. I was more of a nurse there assisting the team. However because of my interest and ability to drive, authorities at the hospital would ask me to travel and drive four wheelers like vans to ferry medicinal stocks.”

“I realized I truly enjoyed driving. But the opportunities were limited. I also happened to finish my B.A in Kannada, though I can read and understand English to some extent.”

“Soon I was married and I had a baby earlier than I expected. But things were not smooth in my life. Due to some health reasons my husband died. I was very young, in my twenties and was left alone with no income and a baby to take care of.”

“My mother supported me and asked me to quickly pick the pieces of my scattered life and begin life anew. I went to the RTO in Gokak and wanted to get selected for a six-wheeler license. The officials in the RTO perhaps thought I was joking. Everyday I would try to approach them and one day, one of them asked me to drive a truck that was parked in the premises. I did manage, and he was surprised and baffled. He was a good gentleman, and he ensured that I got the training and my license.” she expresses with a deep sense of gratitude.

“My mother told me to apply for government jobs, and around the same time I came across an advertisement in a Kannada daily on the announcement of hiring of bus drivers and conductors in Bangalore.”

“It was the first time that I had ever stepped out from my town. I had never seen such a huge city. I applied for a driver’s post in BMTC. Thankfully, I was selected, and the official at that time said with great pride, “She has to be trained well and she will be a shining example for others.”

When I ask Prema how people treat her at her workplace, on roads, and where she resides, she responds, “I meet a lot of people and many want to talk to me even though it is not just for interviews. Perhaps they are surprised I drive a bus. My neighbours, now of course, are used to me but people on the roads tell me that they have seen me on television or read about me somewhere. It feels good but life is much more than the adulation received. There are a lot of hardships. I am ready to face them for my son who is studying in class seven. I want him to be a pilot and he aspires too of being one.”

Prema says she has got interviewed in documentaries and videos by people, foreigners and many on the road take out a camera or a phone and keep asking her to ‘smile, smile please.’ She laughs, saying she often wonders whether she should concentrate on roads or smile for people or the camera. She is however happy she has had a no-accident record.

“Most of the people including my colleagues treat me very well. I am well looked after by my company, and I am happy no one has ever misbehaved at work or elsewhere. But yes, I have become tougher. Perhaps the Bangalore roads and traffic makes you tough enough to face a lot of things,” she grins with a ear to ear smile.

“There are kids who give me chocolates when they get inside the bus and see that it’s a woman driving. There are other instances, like at places of worship like at temples I am given ‘prasadam.’ These gestures do make me very happy about my work. Maybe unknowingly I have become an inspiration but for me, I am just doing my job. It is surprising to see such few women who want to drive buses. I strongly feel they can take it up as a profession.”

“I dream of big opportunities for my son. I want him to be a pilot. Now I don’t know whether it is just a dream or whether it will be fulfilled. I am doing my best.”

As I leave after wrapping up this wonderful interaction with Prema, I realize that the glass ceilings in the corporate world seem so frivolous; somehow they seem much more achievable for women, as compared to this woman who is in a completely male dominated work atmosphere. But she has soaked into that atmosphere and happy in the space she has created for herself.

Published originally on women’s web as part of women series: By Reshma Krishnamurthy



The Door – A short story of a holiday that went wrong


The door final

Surabhi was ecstatic of her holiday at this beautiful destination. It was a long over due holiday after her baby was born. She had been coaxing her husband Veer to plan out a holiday to a hill station. She loved going to the hills and she wanted to spend some time just looking at the sunlight kissing the mountains or the misty weather and so it was when Veer planned out a 4 day holiday to one of the quietest hills stations in the country.

As soon as they got out of the car, Surabhi gave the baby to Veer that she was holding all along the journey. Veer along with Surabhi entered the room. Their baby all of seven months old was sleeping blissfully and wouldn’t even realize perhaps where she would be for the next few days.

But this holiday was going to be cherished by her mama, and that’s what she anticipated.

As the porter took the luggage to the room Surabhi suddenly felt an uneasiness to enter the room they were allotted. Yet diminishing any unnecessary thoughts she stepped inside the room when she felt someone was standing in front of her. There was no one there and the porter left the room shutting the door behind her.

Veer said, “What happened? Why do you look so dull? It was me driving all the way for 6 hours” laughingly.

“ I am not feeling too good. It was as though some one was here right in front of me a little too close but I could see nobody”, she replied.

Veer didn’t pay much attention and asked her to take some rest. Anyhow the next day they had a schedule of going to a couple of view points.

Late in the evening post dinner that they had ordered in the room, Surabhi went to the bathroom to take a long shower. Veer meanwhile was busy playing with the baby for sometime and he said, “Me and Dhaani are going to be in the garden for sometime. Come over there. We will enjoy the open sky for sometime.” She smiled and said she will be joining them soon.

She took a long time to be in the shower. She enjoyed her leisure bath. It was as though all the stress that she had accumulated as a young mother was getting washed away. Then she remembered of having to join Veer. She tried opening the door but it was locked from outside.

Veer wasn’t there in the room, so she wondered how would she reach out to him. This seemed funny and scary that she had got herself locked in the bathroom. She tried several times to open the door but wasn’t able to do so.

Now she started sweating in panic and began banging the door calling for Veer, she started screaming ‘help’ but no one came.

Veer was with his baby at the garden for a long time. He kept saying to the baby “ Your mama takes a long time to get ready. Then he turned around and was surprised to see from the garden bench that the lights of the room were off. He assumed she would be joining in soon from the first floor room.

But time passed and even after 20 minutes, Surabhi was not there to join him. He went towards the door of the room and saw it was locked from inside. He called out to Surabhi many times but there was no response. He kept telling himself that there was no need to panic yet he went to the reception desk and told them he needs help to get inside the room.

“My wife has got herself locked inside the room I think”. he said in a worried tone. The reception manager gave a stare at him strangely and said, “Where is your wife?”

“In the room.. she had gone to take a shower”. “Can we hurry up please?” said Veer who now had little Dhaani getting restless in his arms.

“Mr. Arora, I am here all evening since the time you came. I have seen only you and the baby said the manager.

“ I want to go to my room. I had left the keys inside as my wife was there. Now the door is not getting opened. Please give me the spare key of the room” said Veer. The manager removed the spare key releuctantly thinking this guest has left the keys inside the room. Nevertheless he walked towards the first floor room and and got Veer lead him the way. When they opened the room, the  room was dark and Veer was calling out for Surabhi frantically. Adding to the chaos was Dhaani crying consistently. Veer went to the bathroom and saw the lights were switched on but there was no one there.

The manager said, “Sir, I didn’t see anyone else the whole evening. I just checked with the porter and the waiter too who had dropped the luggage and for the dinner to be handed over here. There was just you and this baby they said on the phone.”

Veer couldn’t understand what was happening. Where was Surabhi? Was he dreaming?






A Trip to the Zoo

Apoorva was quite excited of the note sent by her teacher to her parents in the class diary. Apoorva was in Class I and just around 6 years of age and could read the note slowly herself, to her mother. The note read, if interested to send your child for this year’s class trip. Do sign the form for ‘A VISIT TO THE ZOO’.

Date and other details are mentioned in the form.

The young girl’s mother while asking about the day in school told her that they would decide after discussing with her father. Apoorva waited every moment soon after her evening snack and milk to talk to her father.

Apoorva’s dad when he came back home late evening after work, reading the note surprisingly said “Yes”. He generally didn’t like Apoorva going on class trips for some reason, not very clear to Apoorva. But a trip to the Zoo got him to agree. Apoorva was ecstatic and hugged her father and mum for agreeing to this trip.

So came ‘the day’ of having to go the Zoo with classmates and teachers in the school bus. This was her first class trip and she was most excited to be in the school bus to see the animals. The teachers too seemed to be in that ‘extra fun’ mood. All were singing and playing antakshari and Apoorva and her best friends Ruchika and Shlok were too with her; happy and excited.

After some time they finally reached the zoo that was in the outskirts of the city. As the children were making a beeline to be guided by their teachers and school attendants Apoorva and her friends went inside and saw the very first cage that had peacocks including a white peacock who had spread her beautiful white feathers and was dancing.

All the kids were happy to see peacocks, peahens and then rabbits and birds. Soon after Apoorva went to her teacher and asked, “Madam, are the animals and birds happy to be in these cages or they are trapped here?”

Her madam answered that she will give the right information on this at the end of the visit and for now Apoorva could enjoy the zoo visit. She asked her not to worry about the animals as they were being taken care of by the Zoo keepers.

Once the class kids had seen various animals including Leopards, Elephants, tigers, snakes and hippopotamus, the kids were asked to have their lunch from the tiffin boxes they had got from home.

As biscuits and chocolates were distributed from the teachers to the students, Apoorva saw an uncle coming and standing next to the class teacher. He said turning to the kids, “Children, I hope you are happy being here as much as I am happy to have you all visit our zoo. I am the General Manager who supervises the Zoo’s daily activities. I think one of you have asked your teacher a very important question on whether these animals should be left in the wild woods and how we take care of them.

We are happy to say that the animals are kept here in the most hygiene conditions and surroundings that is similar to what they are used to in forests. Sometimes we get animals and birds who are injured and we need to take care of them.

So while I do agree living in the forests is much better for any animal, here too we are ensuring that their diet, skills in hunting and their surroundings are taken care of.”

All the kids were thrilled hearing this and Apoorva and her friends were clapping their hands in joy.

Now Apoorva was in much better state of mind to visit more animals who were in different enclosures and the day finally ended with a tiger safari which was the best part of visiting the zoo.

As it was getting late afternoon, the school teachers guided the children to the school bus and everyone came back home with lots of good memories.

Apoorva later in the evening in her home made a drawing of her visit to the zoo and stuck it to the bedroom door. Soon she went to sleep with good memories of the day; her trip to the zoo was going to be cherished by her.


Soniya Choudhury Faces Life With Grit And Looks Forward With Hope Despite An Acid Attack That Disfigured Her

An acid attack in May 2004 left her life and body in shambles, but Soniya Choudhury has risen above it. This is her story.


In a telephonic interaction, Soniya Choudhary, an acid attack fighter who is now a make-up artist and a beautician shares how much life has changed for her since a gruesome attack that occurred over a decade ago. This is a story of pain, heart-wrenching emotions but it is equally the story of grit, hopes and willingness to adapt to new opportunities and changes.

Perhaps it is the mentors or the inspiring people she has around her that has changed her perspective. “It was in the year 2004 in Ghaziabad where I stay that I was looking to own a simple mobile phone. I come from a background where my family had minimum resources. My father was running a very small business and my mother was a homemaker.

After my 10th grade, even though I wanted, I could not pursue further studies. I had to start working and I had begun my work in a beauty salon. Soon I was working in a bigger salon and I really worked hard. I learnt all the skills required to be good at my job.

It began small

When I was about 19 years, I wanted to have a phone to communicate with my family when required and it was a small desire. I went to two to three mobile stores to get my own connection. It so happened that I was denied obtaining a SIM card as I didn’t have an identity card. It was not just me, but my entire family who didn’t own any identity proof at all. I was unhappy that a simple thing like a mobile connection cannot be obtained. My neighbour, who got to know about this, suggested that he could get me a SIM connection and the mobile at a price.

Unwittingly I agreed and soon I owned a mobile phone. I was using the mobile for one week and everything was normal until one evening that a call came from a police station. I hadn’t done anything wrong in my entire life and I was petrified when I was speaking to the official over phone. He told me that I was using a stolen phone and I will be held responsible. Completely nervous I told the official everything. As to who gave me the phone, his name and address and that I was not the culprit. Before I could reach home, apparently the police had picked him up from his house.

The threats

Unfortunately as things happen, the very next day he was on bail and he came to me and threatened me of dire consequences if I didn’t apologize in front of his family and the entire neighbourhood.

I am not sure whether it was the right decision to be taken but I didn’t want to apologize for an act which I never really committed. However the matter didn’t die down there. I started getting more threats from this person. Even my dad supported me saying it was not my fault, but I had to be careful. I think the ‘male ego’ made this individual lose his sanity and the threats became more often.

More than saying sorry, I started avoiding this individual at all times. I am the eldest daughter and I was supporting my family financially too and was involved in my work. My father would drop me to my work place and pick me up whenever he could.

The acid attack

But one evening my father couldn’t come and I decided to reach home on my own. I was just about 20 to 25 steps away from my home. Suddenly two men came on a motorcycle, the first one –the rider was wearing a helmet and I didn’t even see him. The second one, the pillion rider was this neighbour. He suddenly opened a huge can and poured acid from a can of 5 litres. At that moment I didn’t even realize what was that liquid. I was just screaming in pain. Those two managed to escape and I was on the road lying down in indescribable pain.

Even now when the date comes closer; this happened on 12th May 2004 and to this date I feel very uncomfortable. Those memories invariably come back. I don’t know whether it was the shock or apathy but no one came forward to do anything. My mother who apparently thought a child was crying loudly came out to see what happened and she just rushed to me crying and hugged me.

I was then taken to the hospital and I had 65% burns with my right eye completely damaged. I was feeling I was on fire and did not understand what was happening to me. I collapsed on the way to the hospital.”

The aftermath

Soniya goes into a moment of silence before speaking again, “When I gained consciousness I was in the hospital was just numb at what had occurred in my life. My parents were naïve and hadn’t even filed a case. It was after a couple of days that a friend who knew someone in the media went to the police to file a case on my behalf. I was perhaps too ignorant or innocent, I hadn’t even heard of anything called acid attacks. I kept questioning ‘why me’? Soon the hospital visits became more often and there were a lot of expenses. We were hardly able to manage with the treatments and the expenses.

My mother had hidden the mirrors from the house. The first time I had seen myself I had cried for the longest time I could remember. The accused got arrested but came out soon too with the help of lawyers. It made me feel very depressed and I have even once tried to commit suicide.

One thing however changed, the entire neighbourhood stopped interacting with this individual. He had even got married somehow but when his wife came to know of this incident, even she distanced herself from him. His colleagues were not interacting with him and he became a loner. He went into a major depression and at the age of 24, he died of a heart attack.

The attacker was gone but I had my life to be taken care of and that of my family. I had to pick up the shattered pieces.”

When I ask her what about the rider? Was he arrested? Soniya replies, “He was never found out and recognized. The accused too never identified him and yes the rider is scot-free even to this date.

After the wounds healed

“For eight years after the attack, I used to hide my face and be myself completely covered. Only my eyes were seen little bit. I even now nightmares but I have learnt to cope up with the circumstances. I have had five surgeries and undergone many treatments. I wanted to get back to work but no one would be ready to employ me because of my scarred face. Least of all in the beauty industry. As a young girl I had many dreams like to become a known beautician and even an airhostess. Everything changes for a person when acid scars your soul more than anything else.

Last year I did get featured as part of a calendar like a model and it was awesome. It was in fact a news paper clipping where I saw other acid attack fighters like Laxmi, Rupa who seemed so confident and were not hiding their faces. By this time I had started working as a beautician in my own house. I had opened a salon within my small home. Many customers who started coming to me couldn’t see me at all for a long time. For the first customer I told her that she can pay me if she was happy with the service.

Gradually more number of people started asking about why I was covering my face and they could see some scars, I would get defensive and answer, I had an accident of gas cylinder burst, boiling water on me, all excuses but never the truth.

Facing life

It took me a while to admitting to what life had thrown on me and asked me to face it. So I started talking to people about the incident and it felt better in healing to some extent. In fact people around me in the neighbourhood too started talking to me positively and were encouraging me to carry on with my life in a positive way.

It so happened that I got to know of Stop Acid Attacks organization and since the time I am with them my confidence and accepting myself has become better.

Soniya’s voice suddenly indicates a smile when I ask her what is she been up to these days. “We are setting up a café-salon and a lounge with a spa in Gurgaon. I also work at the Sheroes hangout café in Agra when time permits. ”

She tells me that through a reality show, she has had one of her wishes fulfilled of meeting beauty expert icon Shahnaz Hussain. The episode on Colors is yet to be aired.

Dreams for tomorrow

To make the conversation little lighter, I ask her if she wants to meet an icon or a celebrity for whom she would like to do make-up. She is silent for a few seconds and shyly utters ‘Salman Khan’.

As I tell her perhaps after reading this maybe Salman Khan might try to reach her, she laughs and says she adores his carefree attitude in life.

As a dream Soniya Choudhary now is hopeful of becoming an entrepreneur and setting up more salon-spas in the country. For now she is working on her project in Gurgaon.

As the conversation comes towards an end, I cannot help but admire Soniya’s attitude towards life and as she says the scars are on her body but she has been able to rise above and looks forward to meet life every single day with hope.

Images source: Reshma Krishnamurthy.

Originally published on women’s web


Time to explain to my child on the religion I belong

Generally I commute by my own vehicle in the city of Bangalore. This becomes an exception when I have to travel with my child over long distances.

This evening I had to travel over 20 kms and more than the distance I was not comfortable taking a 6 year old in the city during the evening rush hour.

It was a visit to my child’s grandparents home and it was time for us to leave considering we would take an hour or little more to reach home.

In the evenings it will be your good fortune if you happen to get an autorickshaw who agrees to take you you to your destination.

So after about 7 to 8 of them refusing, one who was not wearing his driver uniform agreed. He asked me to guide him on the route and I agreed.

As I sat in the hired vehicle with my child, I was not comfortable that he was not wearing his driver uniform. Somehow only then I realized that a uniform portrays a sense of responsibility. Nevertheless I brushed aside my thought and was relieved I had got an auto.

After 2kms of  travelling, the driver suddenly started driving too fast and rash. I asked him to slow down even while my child was looking at me for security if the driver uncle of the auto was driving right. I felt the young one caught me twice closing my eyes as the driver almost brushed aside other vehicles and the child could feel his mom holding his hand more firmly. Even then the young one was trying to smile at his mom’s fear which perhaps he thought was amusing.

After another 4 kms I told the auto driver again to slow down and yes I told him politely that I was in no hurry to reach home but I wanted to reach safe with my child.

The driver gave me a stare that was not pleasant. I tried looking up to the sheet where driver details are mentioned but saw that it was stuck far away near his seat and in the darkness, in the evening I couldn’t see any details.

As we moved through crowded streets and roads at a crossing we just missed hitting into an oncoming vehicle. This action  finally again prompted me to speak and I told sternly that I am not interested to go in a hurry.

The driver then just stopped the vehicle at a corner and asked us to get out. I thought I heard him wrong but he said loudly GET OUT.

It was a main road but due to metro construction and other work, the road was dark and I stepped down hurriedly and grabbed my child to put him down.

As I was removing the billed amount according to the meter of the auto, he told me ” I am not your servant to listen to you”.

I told him I cared for my and my child’s safety and this action of asking the passengers to get down midway on an almost deserted road was wrong. Meanwhile my child kept asking ” Why have we got down?”

As I made him quiet and told the driver that this was incorrect suddenly I told him if he was right he could come with me to the nearest police constable or traffic policeman and I will pay him in front of him.

The driver sternly told me to get into the auto and he would take me to the police station to solve this matter.

I dared not step inside and told him that I will walk with my son and he could come along and kept my 100 rupee note inside my wallet.

My little one screamed, ” Accha ki mumma”

I gestured towards my son to be quiet and kept walking briskly towards the next road hoping I will see more crowd or an individual in police uniform if I required help.

And suddenly I was worried; I was concerned what if the driver came back and removed a knife, what if he had an acid bottle. You would think I was thinking or imagining too much. Probably, but the recent year’s reports have made me more alert and skeptical too, even though I consider myself to be an optimist.

I turned back to check if the driver was coming and I decided I will pay his billed amount and not argue.

When I was at the next signal where there was more light, more traffic and more people I asked myself why I hadn’t clicked picture of the auto driver or the vehicle number. Instinctively I had reacted as a protective mum. Least of all I wanted my child to be harmed due to my imaginary act of bravery.

Within ten minutes we found another auto, the driver wearing typical attire where you would recognize his  religion. It really didn’t matter as I was more keen on reaching home safely.

As we reached home my son asked me what made the earlier auto uncle to leave us midway. I really had no explanation but I did feel it was time to explain only two kinds of beings exist in the modern world when it comes to people.

Insaan aur Haivan.(Humans and Devils). These two categories are more than enough to determine our character under every situation in front of anyone.

I do not think we require any further categories of people based on background, language,  region or religion.







How Shamantha D.S. Went From Page 3 Reporter To Running A Rural Radio Station

A dream by a media professional Shamantha D.S., to begin a community radio station, has ensured it has impacted far many more lives than she ever imagined she could.


She is hopeful the dream continues to live on.

A print journalist, a film critic, a radio professional, a script writer, a travel journalist, documentary film maker, founder of a NGO, founder of a community radio station, author of 13 books; these are just a few descriptions of this individual spanning her dynamic 20 year professional career.

Broadcasting on 90.4 MHz

Shamantha D.S. is the driving force behind Sarathi Jhalak 90.4 MHz, a community radio station at Anugondanahalli, approximately 70kms away from Bangalore in rural district (Bangalore) in Hoskote taluk.

Sarathi Jhalak radio station is situated on the eastern periphery of Bangalore reaching over 200 villages. The programs relayed cover Malur and Anekal taluks, Sarjapura, ITPL, Whitefield, Marathahalli, and Kundalahalli gate to name a few, catering to a population of close to a million.

This has been a project that has seen growth, but has encountered various struggles to exist and is currently straddling on the thin line of existence due to lack of funds.

Yet an interaction with the president and founder of this special community radio station makes one feel she is optimistic, as the station has grown from being her baby project to something that has impacted many lives in rural Bangalore.

Recipient of several awards, Shamantha has also won the Karnataka Madhyam Academy Award for initiating the first women’s community radio in Karnataka. She has also won the Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award in 1999 for being the first woman to write in Kannada literature, for her book on Nepal Himalaya’s expedition.

Sarathi Jhalak was started in August 2012 and has come a long way in reaching out to a huge community. The coverage area has a mixed population of educated, semi-urbanized, illiterates, and predominantly young people who are at the threshold of urbanization. The community radio station believes it can enable opportunities for development, education of young and old alike including counseling and can effectively integrate the residents with city life.

The tiny station premises are nestled between tomato and cabbage gardens and is housed in a small space in a building, with absolutely no frills, unlike most urban radio stations.

Yet the station is as vibrant as any other commercial radio station even with limited hours of ‘on radio time’ from Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 4pm and from 6pm to 9.30pm. Sarathi Jhalak airs various programs related to farming, health, devotional programs, education, women, among a few light entertainment programs. This juggling exercise of balancing between a community radio station and touching upon a few aspects of being a commercial radio station, has been tough according to Shamantha.

The reach and impact is higher as the radio jockeys are mostly from the nearby villages and speak in local language, primarily in Kannada.

Who is Shamantha D.S.?

Shamantha, who has largely grown up in Bangalore, did her education in law like her father who was a practicing lawyer. But somehow she was inclined towards media and landed a job in a media organization as a Page 3 correspondent.

“Initially I used to love going to these glamorous parties, covering, reporting about them, celebrities, film personalities and well connected individuals. But soon the honeymoon period got over,” she laughs.

“Gradually I started feeling that I wanted to write on subjects that would make a difference in other’s lives. I always loved books. My mother was a voracious reader and my parents ensured that my siblings and I were exposed to world literature. I was also fascinated by the great works of Kannada literature.”

“My mother wanted me to be a doctor but I was very weak in Science and Math. But after class X, I chose to pursue Arts and it then onwards that I really enjoyed learning or in fact educating myself. Until then it was a torture for me to scale up from one class to the next one.”

“It is ironical that I actually never got officially trained in journalism or went to specific colleges but media became my lifeline and I have always expressed myself through this medium, in all its channels of being a print, radio and television journalist.”

Branching out

“Soon, on a trial and error basis, I started making documentaries, working with NGOs, and did a lot of programs related to various issues that truly mattered for the society, for Kannada channels, and the Government. I slowly established my identity as an independent media professional. Apart from this I also founded an organization relevant to my interests – an NGO Sarathi, a resource centre for communications primarily for developmental activities.”

“As a developmental and independent media professional, I had started working on projects involving Anganawadi workers. Everything I did was learning on the job and right from scratch. Once I was in a session where NGOs and educational institutions were informed and educated on community radio stations. I was overwhelmed by this, and decided that this is what I wanted to do.”

Starting Sarathi Jhalak

“The people at Anugondanahalli and surrounding villages had shown interest in participating in workshops, seminars, discussions and so in August 2012, we started Sarathi Jhalak on air. We have come a long way from just Anganawadi workers working as RJs, to now where colleges are sending their students for internships with us. We currently have radio jockeys who have been thoroughly trained and can compete with any other professionals in the same field.”

“But all of them are working on minimal salaries and for a long time we went without any funds or salaries at all. The initial seed funding went into setting up the studio, equipments and other things required for setting up a radio station. It was tough as me and my friends too had to pitch in with initial investments and in September 2015, the radio station went off air for a few days.”

Local support

“But the people who have become loyal listeners from nearby villages really wanted it back on air and came out in support. There is a sense of ownership from the listeners and that’s why we are not ready to give up.”

And yes now we have begun our operations and trying to reach out to more organizations to get this going in a sustainable form in the long run. We currently depend on the resources raised by the individual contributors and voluntary efforts from individuals.

We have resolved many issues like finding a boy lost from his parents, helping an accident victim get justice and compensation, and even finding lost cows for a farmer,” she says laughing, much to my amusement.

“The community radio station has been instrumental in getting the youth professionally trained. They come and work as radio jockeys and have moved on to other careers. But they become aware of many issues, do research, get the knowledge of how to talk to people, build customer base in airing relevant programs. Of course a few radio jockeys who were there initially are even now there with us and I am glad that they have been around in spite of pursuing other careers like those who are beauticians, teachers and others who are working on part-time basis with us.”

Looking ahead

Shamantha says she is in a more of a supervisory level asking radio jockeys at her community radio station to discuss important programs with her before it gets aired and she pays a lot of surprise visits and checks. There is the second level management and radio jockeys who manage the shows on air.

Sarathi Jhalak is a women owned community radio station and though it began as an all women employee station, now they have both young men and women working in different capacities.

Shamantha can talk for hours on her project and she does that with immense pride. Sarathi Jhalak as a community radio initiative has become a source of support of knowledge and trust for many who have become its listeners.

Shamantha wants her dream project to have a better form of sustainability and manage her initiative with appropriate funding and technology to impact many more lives.

Image source: Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma.



About the author Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma

I am an independent writer, storyteller, blogger and a mum residing in Bangalore, India. Having explored various careers like being a radio jockey, PR manager, communications manager in a hospital, I have fairly been loyal to the world of writing. Besides my love for writing stories for children, I am also involved in being a content curator and editor for a page on social media called Mums and stories.

Author’s Blog: http://www.reshmaks.com