KATHMANDU, Aug 28: On September 15, 2007, Dhading’s first ever radio station, Radio Dhading, broadcast its first news bulletin at six thirty in the evening. At quarter to seven, a jingle played in a different language. It was time for the news in Chepang language. The nervous news presenter entered the studio.
When the technician gave him the cue, he started to read the script from the paper in a panicky voice: “Jhoralang! Ngya Uddav Chepang ngya khabar latti wangalang dya sainu laiko bhasako khabar.” Namaste! I’m Uddav Chepang, and I bring you the news. Now, listen to the news in your own language.
He felt as if he had to break a Herculean boulder when he had to spend a mere five minutes inside the studio that day. Every morning and evening, for the next three years, he translated the Nepali news into Chepang language and read the news. Today, Uddav is the station manager of FM Radio Rajmarga 92.1 MHz.
Born in Dhusha Village of Dutrang in Dhading District, Uddav is 24 years old. The Chepang community is happy that he has become the manager of a radio station.
“We’re happy that even from a community like ours, which is geographically distant and backward because of the negligence of the state, a hopeful human resource has come out,” says Central Committee Chairman of Chepang Organization, Jitendra Chepang.
A door has opened through Uddav, whereby the queries of the Chepang people can be raised as well as the Nepali people can be made more aware about this community.
After working for three years in radio, Uddav quit his job in 2010 and joined a non-governmental organization (NGO) in hopes of a better career. However, he was reeled back in by his love for radio. The villagers also kept encouraging him that he should continue with the radio. “Hence, I continued with radio journalism,” he said.
Uddav’s past has been full of struggles. When he was four years old, his father Prem Bahadur Chepang left his family in hopes of earning money. Four years after that, his mother also left after not being able to take care of her four children. She married again. He, including his elder sister and two younger brothers who were 5, 4, 3 and 1½ years old respectively, were left in a lurch.
Their upbringing was left in the hands of their grandparents. Uddav spent his day collecting firewood, grass, and fodder and herding animals. Later on, he started helping his uncle with household chores and also enrolled in a school.
He finished his secondary level from Chandrodaya Secondary School. After eight years, his father appeared with a new wife.
Uddav, who became a veterinary JTA through the scholarship arranged by the Nepal Chepang Organization after completing his SLC, was attracted to radio while he was working with an NGO. “I had never thought I would be a journalist,” says Uddav.
Uddav, who entered the field of journalism from Radio Dhading, also gave continuity to his studies. He is currently doing his Bachelor’s. He began producing and broadcasting Chepang Rorang Weekly Radio Program, a series which brings into light the hidden issues of the Chepang community.
After working for three years in the radio and establishing the organization, Rajmarga Media Center along with his coworkers of which he was the secretary, Uddav was appointed as the station manager. Narayan Chandra Subedi, who began journalism the same time that Uddav did, is the president of the organization.
Introvert in nature, Uddav was promoted to the managerial post because of his honesty, sincerity and creativity, says Subedi. When required, Uddav also handles the technical, production, presentation and news reading aspects of the radio.
“We don’t have the habit of compartmentalizing ourselves, saying, ‘this is my work,’ or ‘this isn’t my work.’ When in need, I myself run marketing errands, too,” he shares. He mainly produces and broadcasts a weekly program, “The issues of the Chepang.”
When he began working as a journalist, he had also taken a three-day workshop on the fundamentals of radio journalism. Later on, he began training on the job itself. The radio station, which he currently manages, employs 14 personnel and is running with an input of Rs. 5.2 million.
The Chepang community feels elated when their issues and stories are aired on the radio. They also inform the radio station if there is any special occasion or festival being held, or any incident that has taken place.
Because the Chepang language does not have its own script, it is impossible to preserve the original language in written form. However, the language is being preserved in Devnagari script.
Living mainly in Dhading, Makwanpur, Chitwan, Gorkha, Lamjung, and Tanahu districts, there are approximately 80,000 Chepangs in Nepal. Dhading alone is populated by 17,000.
The Chepangs, who have been surviving on wild tubers, plants and animals, are slowly being empowered and made more aware.