China to Chennai: A Tamil radio that bridges two cultures

PTI Beijing | Updated on December 07, 2014 Published on December 07, 2014

poongodhai   -  CRI Tamil

cri   -  The Hindu

25-year-old Chinese broadcast journalist Liao Liang speaks Tamil with such a fluency that will make a native speaker of the language feel envious.

Liao, who works in the Tamil Department of the state-run China Radio International (CRI) introduces herself on the show as ‘Poongothai’, a name that has become an integral part of her multi-lingual identity and to her listeners in India and around the world.

At the over 70-year-old China Radio, she is part of a 20-odd member Tamil language broadcast team, which includes mostly Tamil-speaking Chinese employees along with a few native speakers hailing from India.

Meet Liao and she would greet you with a ‘vanakkam’ and her hands folded in the Indian gesture. She says, “knowing Tamil lets her understand and connect with people of India.”

“I learned this language out of sheer curiosity. I know it’s a difficult language with a tough grammar but I wanted to learn it. And, so I enrolled myself at a university, where my Tamil (Indian) teacher gave me my Tamil name. And, from there my journey began,” Liao told PTI here.

Born in the city of Quzou in Zhejiang, an eastern coastal province, she moved to Beijing to pursue an undergraduate diploma course in Tamil from the Communication University of China, and after graduation in 2011 joined CRI.

Together with her colleague, K Manikandan, a Tamil Nadu native, who has been working with CRI in Beijing for the past one year, they have been working on a radio show on the recent visit of a 100-member Indian Youth Delegation to China.

“We interacted with the Tamil members in the delegation and many were surprised to see a Chinese girl speaking their (Tamil) language, and that too with such ease. For me, personally, it meant connecting with them on a personal level and they also felt happy about it,” Liao said.

Sanjana Konduru, a student of Women’s Christian College in Chennai, who part of the delegation said, “Though I had heard about the Tamil radio from China, I never could imagine its scale and reach, until now. I am now looking forward to hear the show (on the delegation).”

“We (Tamil service) broadcast to India every day. Now, we are trying to broadcast the show on the delegation visit soon,” Manikandan said.

Established in 1941 during the civil-war era, CRI broadcasts in over 60 languages from its multi-storey headquarters in west Beijing. On December 3, the network marked it 73rd birth anniversary.

The Tamil service started in 1963 has fans in Tamil Nadu where it has established listeners’ clubs.

Broadcasting daily, the south Indian language service, enjoys wide listnership, “receiving between 4-5 lakh letters from its listeners annually in response.”

“We get messages, fan mails and calls from India on ourshows. While people in India can hear it on short waves on radio, in Sri Lanka it is available on a particular station. But, people elsewhere around the world, can access the programme on the Internet anyway,” Liao said.

When asked about the Indian culture, she said, “I am very fond of it and like the food also, both south Indian and north Indian cuisine.”

Among her other popular shows are a music programme ’Sino-Music’, where she connects with her Tamil listeners on Chinese music.

Liao, who visited India in September this year, said, “her desire is now to visit Tamil Nadu and meet people there.”

E Deendayalan, 28, another delegate hailing from Chennai said, “Tamil Nadu and China have had connection since ancient days. The practitioners of weapon-based martial art ’silamabam’ also travelled to China in ancient days and influenced the martial arts in that country.”

Manikanadan, who hosts a weekly radio show ‘Natpu Palam’ (Bridge of Friendship) every Tuesday, says, “the radio waves are helping us break distance and language barriers and the delegation visit is about friendly exchange between the two countries.”

Among other foreign language services, CRI also broadcasts in Bengali and Urdu, though Bengali service is available only in Bangladesh, Manikandan said.

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Published on December 07, 2014
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