Bay Area desis ring in a new wave of connectedness via Asian Indian radio station KLOK 1170AM
Nothing says home as bits of conversation by passers-by in native tongues floating up your window, moms calling out to their kids—Aa jao, Ye re, Va di, Aai—temple bells, the azaan, and native sounds emanating from the television and radio in your own home. Non Resident Indians, also called desis, have adjusted by bringing home DVDs, subscribing to desi cable channels, and going online for music and news: Pockets of comfort. However, in the car, a place that for many of us is our other home, we had to make do with radio personality Delilah as our on-air maasi(agony aunt); and NPR as our news source. Well, that has changed in the Bay Area.
KLOK 1170AM has brought us home, getting us the always-on desi vibe, 24×7. Having tested the smaller Asian Indian market in Dallas, Principle Broadcasting Network, the owner of the station, decided to spice up radio-frequencies in the Bay Area beginning midnight of June 1, 2009, with South Asian music with a fusion of Bollywood and world hits. At any given time, listeners from Monterey/ Salinas to Stockton/Modesto to Sacramento and everywhere in between, including San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland can hear conversation and music in Hindi, Telugu, Punjabi, or Indian-English on air.
Speaking of the decision, Bill Saurer, President/ CEO says, “The Asian Indian population has become the fastest-growing, best-educated and most-affluent market segment in the United States, and we are very excited that KLOK serves such a community.” On-Air Dil Se was the first program with a live host—Seema Mahajan, software professional turned radio jockey. “I wanted to do a music based hotline show because I can not live without music myself,” she confesses. On-air Dil Se is a show that was conceived to connect people, to bring out the extraordinary element in our daily lives.” Being the trail blazer at the fledging radio station, when the phone lines were opened up for the first time on June 14th, she wasn’t sure whether there would be any callers. Interestingly, the first call was from an American caller, who, obviously inspired from the movie Slumdog Millionaire, said he was Jamaal, and before dedicating a song asked if Seema knew Latika! The calls haven’t stopped since then.
Neither has the programming. In July 09, Raj Budwal, the first Punjabi, investment and real-estate broker host at KLOK went live with a Hindi-Punjabi talk-show, Bay Area Third Eye. The show enlightens listeners about new advances in any field that touches their everyday lives, including science, law and medicine. One of his recent guests was Lawrence Stone, the tax-assessor for Santa Clara county—a well-recognized name among home-owners. Being a Bay Area/ San Jose resident for over 20 years, Raj likes to give back to the community. After the shooting death of a new desi immigrant in Sacramento, Raj motivated his listeners to give generously to the grieving family, collecting over $5000 in donations.
Community awareness is a recurring theme at KLOK. Recently, the station started a “Helping Hand” Food Drive, in a bid to connect the needy with the ones that want to help out. Giving back to the community or inspiring connectedness is a theme that Mantra the host and “dost” (friend) at Morning Masti also echoes. “It thrills me to wish the listeners every morning.”Morning Masti is a commute-time show that starts with a devotional song followed by “Mantra ka mantra” —one of his mantras is “Speak good and good will follow.” The show has a little bit of everything to prepare listeners for their day: astrology, stock updates, news tidbits. On Mondays and Tuesdays, people calling in for song requests can also opine on the topic of the day, for example, “Why can’t we live happily?” The “masti” (fun) element comes with Mantra teasing reactions out of his listeners by picking outrageous or personal topics: One day it was “ganjapan” (baldness); another was a silly fact-finding mission, such as how many knew of the word “jugaad” loosely translated to mean “making it happen” in Hindi.
Radio provides the anonymity and a go-to place that people need for some of their queries, like those on beauty. On her show The Beauty Show, Seema Kapoor, a beautician for over 14years and owner of 2 salons that serve about 800 clients in Sunnyvale and Milpitas, circled back with her listeners in a unique way. She got them to share their own home remedies for beauty issues. “Wrinkles, dry skin, and hair loss are real problems in people’s lives, but they hesitate to talk to a professional about them. KLOK has made it possible for people to connect like it wasn’t possible before,” says Seema, whose favorite everyday beauty tip is regular moisturizing. “It’s the best way to keep wrinkles at bay!”
Each KLOK program has its own place by the hearth so to speak, that you can cozy up to. “The Indian Angle” is a forum to discuss the Indianness in what we do, from sustainable landscaping to extreme athletics. “Indians are intellectuals, conscious community members, parents, professionals, but above all, we’re homesick immigrants,” says host Shachi Patel. Through Conversations and Connections, Shachi, a healthcare IT professional by day and Asha for Education volunteer and KLOK host by night, guides listeners to share their opinions and experiences, get advice from experts on various subjects, and learn from others experiences.
Sure, KLOK is still in its fledging everything-goes days: Ten minutes at any given time on 1170AM will have you listening to Telugu hits to classical Bollywood to Punjabi folk to fusion. Bi- or tri-lingual shows are the trend; but hey, that is the Indian way of being. Besides, one can choose from over fifteen hosted shows. The truth is, the feeling of having arrived home rings loud in spite of the dissonance.
(As published in India Currents)