Sunday, December 06, 2015

Humble radio turns lifeline for city in distress

The city rediscovered the charm and utility of the humble radio as several parts remained without power for three days. While those who had power supply watched the horror of the Chennai floods unfold on television, those suffering outages dusted their battery-run radio sets. 

And the channels became sounding boards and helplines at the same time. People in distress called in to give their addresses, requesting for food, water and rescue teams. Several of the FM channels suspended their usual song-based programmes and ran non-stop commentaries on the flood situation. 

"I have been a regular listener of radio, mostly to songs when I cook, but never before had I realised the power of the little box sitting atop my fridge," said S Devi, a resident of Alandur. 

The live updates, which the channels gathered from listeners calling in, came as a boon to many who were stranded. There were loud cheers in the southern neighbourhoods when the radio announced by Friday noon the reopening of Saidapet bridge that connects Chinnamalai with Saidapet and Nandanam. The bridge was closed since Wednesday after water from the Chembarambakkam reservoir started gushing a few feet above it. Below, the huts had gone under the whirling water. 

The FM channels doubled up as voice message boards, people who were without telephone connection conveying messages to their families, friends and relatives. RJs soldiered on for long hours, ensuring that the messages were loud and clear, and not just a cacophony of woes. 

And then came donations from abroad, through the radio channels. S Rajesh, a Chennaiite settled in Chicago, collected $4,000 from his friends and sent it to a city FM channel for flood relief. FM companies, on their part, sent volunteers to the waterlogged areas to distribute food packets and medicines.