Communication and Culture

1. Katha Sarovar: Phase II (2013-15) 

Aims: To train rural educators and THT’s community radio team to use storytelling through theatre as a tool for social change and education, to encourage enjoyment in reading, writing, and creative expression such as drama and puppetry among young people, rural school students and children, to stimulate interest in local folk lore and creation tales which the radio team would record and publish as booklets for children, to provide intellectual and social entertainment for rural communities.

book 1The intention of the project was to engage the local populations in lively expressions of their contemporary and traditional experiences through new creative media of theatre, story-telling, puppetry and community radio. 

During this second year of Katha Sarovar 2, our objective was to conclude the training phase of our project and establish an independent cultural and communications group within the umbrella of the Himalaya Trust.

To that end performances have been held in twenty villages in the Garur Valley, as well as in Almora, Kausani and Bageshwar.

 Sustainability: The Puppetry and Theatre groups have been registered with the “Soochna” Department which will give them a small but adequate remuneration and incentives to carry on their work independently.

Publications: Two booklets were published by THT based on the folk stories and performances of the theatre group: Jaago, and Kumaoni Lok Kathayen

2. Community Radio for Uttarakhand (2001-2009)

44As a sequel to the Oral Testimony Project the Himalaya Trust set up three Community Radio centres in 2001 to serve the information and knowledge needs of Garhwal and Kumaon regions. These centres are run by young volunteers who have been receiving hands-on training arranged by the Trust from time to time. The radio groups use the narrowcasting technique (cassette communication system) for playback of locally made programs which are recoded on cassettes or CDs.

Two of the stations, Hevalvani and Mandakini ki Awaz now function independently of the Trust. They will be licensed to broadcast shortly. THT’s Kumaon CR centre, Pradeep Samudayik Radio, has been reorganized following the death of its young founder, and continues to be assisted by the Trust.  

3. Katha Sarovar: Phase I (2008-09)

Katha SarovarKatha Sarovar is a story- telling training project designed for the young community radio group, Pradeep Samudayik Radio, located in Garur in Bageshwar District of Kumaon.

The young communicators of the radio centre and a group of teachers from our Room to Read project have been brought together to receive professional training in the art of story-telling.

The project aims to revive an interest in local literatures through the recording of short stories to be played back for village communities and young persons. The training sessions helped the young participants to become creative and effective communicators, and to fill, in a small way, the huge intellectual void in rural people’s lives through developing the habit of reading and enjoying listening to good modern literature. The project process is expected to demonstrate the impact that good communication skills can have in enlivening the process of learning with lasting results. The trained team has recorded 20 stories read by local volunteers, expected to be in circulation shortly.

Our inspiration for the Katha Sarovar program was a young postman in the Balganga valley in Garhwal, who would stump his way across the mountains with a bag full of letters and books. The books, he said, were his mobile library. He offered them to the households where he stopped to read letters aloud, and picked them up again on a return trip some days later!

So, the story-telling idea came to life as “Katha Sarovar” for our young Community Radio group in Kumaon. The postman will get his share of the cassettes we have recorded!

Our target audience for the “Katha Sarovar” stories that our Community Radio group is recording are the people in remote villages who have no access to books or learning, for young students and children, and young women who lose interest in reading because of other media such as TV. Our cassettes will be distributed to those having a play back facility. The stories will also be part of a program capsule which will be relayed through an amplifier system to a live audience (narrowcast), or relayed through TV, a service willingly provided by local channel services.

The short tales chosen for recording have been selected and adapted from Hindi, Kumaoni and Garhwali literature to resonate with local cultures and situations. We hope that their subtle social messages will excite interest and curiosity, start a debate or discussion, and encourage story-tellers from the villages to share their own stories, extending the Katha Sarovar process.

4. Oral Testimony Project for Mountain Peoples (1994-2003)

This unique collection of recorded life-stories was part of Panos’ International Mountains project. The aim of the project was to explore the changing environment and cultures of the mountain regions through the direct testimony of those who have lived sustainably and in harmony with their unique environment despite its harsh climate and difficult terrain. Through the recorded memories of elderly residents, we hoped to raise awareness and understanding of the accelerating impact of development, and to communicate people’s experiences and perceptions of the changes – social, economic and environmental – taking place as a result.

The Himalaya Trust covered the western Himalayan region of Garhwal and Kumaon, and also Kinnaur, for the Project. We have an inspiring and educative collection of 250 testimonies in our archives.

Two books based on the collection were published by THT under the series title of Amar Gyan. Panos published a collection of translated testimonies titled Voices from the Mountain”

The entire collection may be viewed at www.mountainvoices.org

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