Passionate about radio and its anchors, Neha Katoch always wanted to become a radio jockey since childhood as it is the only medium her parents could afford for entertainment at that time.

And after she came to know about a community radio station, just a few kilometres away from her stitching centre near Tapovan in Dharamshala, she decided to try her luck.

(Neha was undergoing training for tailoring after completing her 12th class studies to support her family) “One day, I just barged into the office of Gunjan Radio and asked the persons present there about my ambition of becoming a radio jockey,” Neha told The Statesman.

Neha was first asked to audition by the radio at Gunjan NGO that works for community development in areas surrounding Dharamshala.

Since her voice was a bit rustic, she was asked to undergo training for oral communication after which she was allowed to go on air on Gunjan Radio.

“Neha was so enthusiastic, full of zeal and her determination to become a radio jockey that we couldn’t say no to her and decided to provide her with the opportunity,” Sandeep Parmar, executive director of Gunjan NGO, said.

And that’s how Neha’s journey on fulfilling her childhood dream began in July 2017. Once a bit hesitant and nervous while performing on radio, she has now learnt all tricks of the trade and she can single-handedly handle all the work at the community radio station.

“It was just like a dream come true as no one from our Gaddi community had been able to achieve the feat. I just feel a star in my village as locals now identify me as ‘radio wali ladki’ (the girl from the radio),” she quipped.

The younger of two siblings, she lives with her parents and grandmother in Khaniyara, around 10 km from Dharamshala in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.

Earlier her parents were also hesitant about her decision but as fame dawned on her and the family, they are now quite comfortable with her choice of profession.

“From a dream to become a radio jockey, now the radio has become a lifestyle for me as I love performing on air,” she added.

Neha loves interactions with local residents about happenings in and around Dharamshala for the morning show and also the programme with children.

Gunjan Radio (91.2 FM Dharamshala) invites kids from surrounding schools to visit the studio to discuss their experiences and share it with other kids of the community as part of the Baal Umang programme.

‘Baal Umang‘ aims to ensure community participation from children so that they can contribute by sharing their learning and experiences with the community, she added.

“Apart from other programmes about community development and children, I feel that I am giving voice to the aspirations of Gaddi community whose voice have been left unheard or unnoticed,” Neha said.

The Gunjan organisation is implementing community development and capacity building programme in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh since 2003. This is being done in partnership with volunteers and local communities.

The initiatives on folk music, promotion of traditional food of Kangra region, working on economic empowerment and skill building among people at high risk and general communities, etc., are the major activities.