For a country with close to 600,000 villages where nearly 850 million people live, India is not just underserved but, in my judgment, criminally underserved by serious rural journalism. Villages are treated with such flagrant apathy by the media that they might as well not exist.
That is about to change with dear friend, fellow journalist and fantasy chaser Neelesh Misra and his terrific team of young journalists set to launch what could well be the country’s first substantial and substantive rural news and information show. Neelesh, who has pulled off a remarkable feat in starting and successfully running a solid rural newspaper Gaon Connection, is launching a sort of TV version of that. The show goes on air on June 9 on India’s public broadcaster Doordarshan.
I am glad that it is being carried on Doordarshan because, although and perhaps because it is a state broadcaster, it can afford airtime for a show like this. Other private 24/7 news channels, where gladiators masquerade as anchors in suits, will carry a show like this only if it means guaranteed commercial viability. While that is very much a consideration for Neelesh’s professionally produced show, it is certainly not the driving force. The show will be hosted by him drawing on his immense popularity as a radio narrator of great merit. It will be broadcast on Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m., which is primetime.
I have a miniscule role in the show as the first Indian journalist based in America who will report exclusively for a rural show. The broadcast will be in Hindi. While I consider myself an effective writer and speaker of the language, I have never done television in Hindi. There could be a learning curve because I find myself lapsing into Urdu fairly frequently because that is the language I have been most drawn to since my childhood. Also, I will have to retune my rhythm while speaking the language for a TV show.
It is a show I look forward to simply because I know that Neelesh and his team have done a stellar job with the weekly newspaper Gaon Connection, now a little over one-year-old. I use my blog to reach out to whatever thin readership I enjoy across the world to not just try and watch it but find ways to financially support it.