India's first blind RJ delights in mysteries



BENGALURU: If visually impaired radio jockeys are rare today, they were unheard of when K Srikanth tried his hand at it two decades ago.Over the years, India’s first visually-impaired RJ has worked on All India Radio and BBC programmes.

“I was born with short sight. I had to hold a  book very close to read,” says the Chennaite, bringing his palms to his face.He lost vision in his left eye early in childhood. “I could manage with my right eye, but it required a few operations over time,” he says.

But, when he was 20, while playing cricket, the ball hit him in his good eye and it was complete darkness after that.Even as a child, he was fascinated by the radio.  “Ever since my father bought me a shortwave radio, I was hooked,” he says. “I would listen Voice of America, BBC, Radio Australia, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Overseas Radio for foreign nationals.”

In 1988, he got a job with the Food Corporation of India, but his passion for the radio and determination to push on landed him an interview on Doordarshan in 1990.“I was pretty nervous when I went on air,” Srikanth says with a smile. “After the interview, I got a lot of attention.”Four years later, he began his seven-month stint at All India Radio.

“Those days, I was called a compere, not a radio jockey,” he explains. “I compered for a show titled Elaya Bharatham in English, along with a Tamil compere.”He found the studio work, while on air or between takes, such as spooling recording tape, challenging.

“I had a senior, a Mr Neelakantan, who observed me spooling the tape wrongly in one of my first sessions. Afterwards, he told me that he had let me make the mistake so that I would not repeat it!” he says, chuckling.After AIR, he occasionally contributed to the BBC World Service programme Outlook, which broadcasts human-interest stories from across the world.

He particularly enjoyed accompanying BBC journalist Paddy Maguire around Chennai, uncovering interesting stories. He also interacted with contributors from Malaysia, The Netherlands and Nigeria.“Even before going on air, I had initiated a discussion with the other contributors. Paddy wondered aloud, ‘If he is so conversational before going on air, what would it be like on air?” says Srikanth.

Srikanth is an ardent follower of Vedanta philosophy and considers Swami Paramarthananda his guru.“I love mystery and suspense stories, including (Agatha Christie’s) Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes,” he says, adding that he listens to these audio-books on his Amazon Echo speaker.

“They are about finding a secret, and I feel the same way about Vedanta, because you are finding the secret to something about life,” he adds.He is also a fan of science-fiction and presents stories on a community radio in MOP Vaishnav College. And he occasionally sends friends trivia via recorded WhatsApp messages he calls ‘Srikanth Calling’.

“I consider myself primarily a storyteller. All this time I have been re-telling stories. Now I would like to create my own,” he says


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