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Historian who works for Radio

 by M.D.Riti

Published in: The Times of India, Bangalore, Wednesday, April 5, 1989.

Dr. Jyotsna Kamat, station director of All India Radio, Bangalore, has a particularly unusual hobby. The cultural history of Karnataka fascinates her and her research in this subject has made her somewhat of an acknowledged historian. The outcome of this interest has been the compilation of little known facts about the rich and varied past of the state in the form of various publications in English and Kannada.

The most recent of her books to be published is a Kannada tome titled 'The tradition of education in Karnataka'. Bombay university published this book last year. Another of her books, Social life in medieval Karnataka, published almost a decade ago, has been described as an "authentic, well-documented account of the cultural life" of the kings and the people of this region between 1000 A.D. and 1400 A.D. In order to gather information for this work, Dr. Kamath studied numerous inscriptions and literary works in English, Sanskrit, Prakrit and Kannada.

New dimension

"Most people regard history as an account of the political happenings in a place", she says. "I feel it should really be the story of the lives of the people of those times. I found that dimension of history so fascinating that I was tempted to delve more and more deeply into it. And I decided to share some of the interesting information I gathered with other people by writing it all down".

It was the most mundane of factors, her need for a steady, salaried job, that led this interesting woman to AIR. She was born in Karwar and grew up in that small town in Uttara Kannada district. She graduated in Sanskrit from a college in Kumta, near her home-town. Then, she acquired another degree in education from a college in Dharwad and worked for three years as a lecturer at the training college for women in that town.

During this time, she completed the master's degree in history and political science and registered for a doctorate in the former subject. Meanwhile, she worked for two years as a research assistant in the department of history in Karnatak university. She was looking for a job as a lecturer and sat for the central civil services examination. As soon as she passed the examination and the interview, she found herself posted to Dharwad as a programme executive in the AIR station.

By a happy coincidence, she joined the radio station at a time when the Konkani broadcasts were started from Dharwad. This was in 1964 when Goa became a part of India. The fact that Dr. Kamat's mother-tongue was Konkani made her presence at the Dharwad station most fortuitous.

During her two-year stint there, she married Dr. Krishnanand L Kamath, who had done a doctorate in environmental sciences from Syracuse university in New York state. He was working as a scientists' pool officer at Udaipur. Dr. Jyotsna got a transfer to Jaipur so that both husband and wife could work in the same state. She handled Hindi broadcasts and programmes for women and children at the Jaipur station.

Four years later, she was back in Dharwad, with her young son in tow. She discovered that her PhD registration was still valid and that she could complete the doctorate she wanted to do if she worked hard. So began a new phase in her life. She worked till 5 p.m. at the radio station, caught a bus to the university and work in the library until dinner time. Some people helped her by taking care of her son during those long evenings.

The stint away from academics and the experience she had gained as an adult over those years helped her look at her research subject with a new perspective. "The maturity, I had gained helped me to digest whatever I had read more easily and come to interesting conclusions", she says. "My thesis turned out to be far better than it would have been had I had completed it as a fresh student".

Frequent transfers

She knew, of course, that the additional degree would make no substantive impact upon her career in AIR. It was just her genuine interest in the subject that made her do it. Her first posting in Bangalore was in 1975. Then she was in Calcutta for three years as assistant station director and returned to Bangalore, this time with the commercial broadcasting service. Her first posting as station director was at Mysore, in 1983.

During her, stint at Mysore, AIR published two of her books. One was a collection of poems by young poets. The other was a documentation of her attempt to revitalize a weekly programme on Gandhiji's thoughts by inviting intellectuals and writers such as Dr. U.R. Anantha Murthy and H. Raja Rao to comment upon the Mahatma's relevance today.

After that, she went to Bombay for two years. Unlike several women in government service who resist transfers as far as possible, Dr. Kamat accepted these shifts with equanimity. "It was very difficult for me," she confesses.

"I had to leave my husband and school-going son behind in Bangalore each time I was away from here. But my husband gave me much moral courage and support. He told me that I should either compete with men on an equal footing and do whatever they did, including moving around as much as was required, or just give up my job and sit at home."

"I have scant regard for those women who profess to be equal to men but still want to avail of all the benefits of being women like avoiding transfers. Are they not practicing double standards? You should compete with men and succeed because of your caliber, and not use your gender to gain some advantage."

Dr. Kamat has just completed one year as station director of AIR, Bangalore. Her present responsibilities include liaising with the state government and its news and government agencies. During the past year, AIR organized a workshop in writing for the radio, because it was found there was an acute shortage of such writers. About 50 young men and women were trained under this project and more than half of them do radio programmes regularly. The station hopes to conduct another such workshop this year.

Other landmarks during Dr. Kamat's current tenure have been programmes to educate women on health issues, an invited audience programme in which 120 women (and no men) participated and the initiation of an attempt to record the writings of some of the leading Kannada writers for the archives.

Listeners' Taste

Dr. Kamat notices a few significant changes among radio listeners in Bangalore over the past decade. "Radio no longer fascinates the people as it used to when I was here last, in 1977", she says.

"Television has taken over now. We still do have many listeners, of course. The second change that I perceive is that the cultivation of music and fine arts is no longer considered as important as it was over a decade ago. Everyone wants quick results and instant fame now. Consequently, they come for audition before they are ready for it, and fail abysmally. There is also a change in the listeners taste in music now the accent is on pop and light music."

Dr. Kamat continues to write research papers and articles on her subject for magazines and journals. She also writes short stories and humorous essays in Kannada and English. A collection of the latter, Samsaradalli Swarasya, was published in 1987. Among her less serious hobbies are swimming, reading and early morning walks.

The primary goal she has set for herself at AIR in the near future is the building up of groups of regular radio listeners and a radio repertory. After she retires, she plans to devote more time than now to writing. "More than anything else, I would just like to eat and sleep after I retire from here," she quips. "I am through with working so hard for so long."

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