Radio for the Community! Spoken Histories From 3ZZZ

Our special guest for today is Resmi Somasekeran, the passionate host and convenor of the Malayalam Program at 3ZZZ.

Radio for the Community! Spoken Histories From 3ZZZ highlights the impact that 3ZZZ broadcasters have made to their communities, increasing diversity in community media, benefits of multiculturalism, sacrifices made by new migrants in Australia, and benefits of volunteering in community radio.


Maram Ismail: Welcome to a new episode of radio for the community, Spoken Histories from 3ZZZ, where we highlight and celebrate the stories and contributions of 3ZZZ community Radio volunteers. I’m your host, Mariam Ismail. Our special guest for today is Resmi Somasekeran, the passionate host and convenor of the Malayalam Program at 3ZZZ.

Resmi Somasekeran: We need to have a logo for the program. We need to have a jingle. We need broadcasters who are ready to get trained and who are willing to come in and do the show on a regular basis. So it wasn’t that easy, but it took some time for them to establish that, and we did it.

Maram Ismail: Resmi has been sharing the rich cultural narrative of her community with Melbourne for five years, and we can’t wait to hear more about her experiences with me. A seasoned analyst with over two decades of experience in Australia, discovered her passion for community radio through a blend of serendipity and dedication, sparking a cultural celebration journey through the airwaves with the Malayalam program.

Resmi Somasekeran: I’m the convener of Malayalam programme. My name is Resmi Somasekeran and I’ve been with the Malayalam radio for the past five years. We started on 2018 and it was a great journey for us. Like we have a few like minded broadcasters who are keen to produce programmes and we are doing well for the past five years. So excited about that. This is one of the unique languages in India. We have many languages in India, but this language is spoken in the south part of India which is in Kerala. Uniqueness. Each language has its own uniqueness. But this is a language I would say it’s hard to learn when you talk about Malayalam. It’s a little bit similar to another language which is Tamil, which is in south as well, which is in Tamil Nadu. Some words and things are similar, I would say. Yeah, it is from Sanskrit. Anyway, origin is Sanskrit. When you talk about India, like Hindi is the national language and most of the people from Kerala are really educated and they can speak English other than Malayalam, and a lot of people can talk other languages in India as well. If you if they live outside our state, they automatically learn that language like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, all those languages. So Malayali people do that. But I think it is hard for other people to understand and learn our language. I came to Australia a long time ago, more than 25 years now. So I came here, did my master’s in Applied Statistics at RMIT, and I started working as an analyst in commercial industry for a long time now. Currently, I’m working with the Latrobe University in their marketing and recruitment session as a senior analyst. I’m pretty busy with that. I’m a full-time worker there, but these are my sort of volunteer work, which I’m passionate about, like I’m passionate about media. Uh, the Radio Malayalam started in 2018. One of my friends told me about this. We are starting a Malayalam program and you, you know, willing to join as a broadcaster.

Maram Ismail: Like many women, Resmi is a multitasker who adeptly balances her roles. She’s a senior analyst, a dedicated mother, and a volunteer broadcaster. Despite the challenges of daily life, she seamlessly integrates her passion into her busy schedule.

Resmi Somasekeran: I have two girls. They are grown up now. Still, they need me as a mum and uh, it is a big task. But the way I look at it is if you’re passionate about something, you always find time for it. So it is more like organising your time. And, uh, just keep going with that. If you say I don’t have time for something, that means you are not really keen on doing it. That’s my point about it. But I do so many things. I did learn dancing during Covid time, which is classical dancing, and I did my Arangettam, which is the first performance as a dancer back in India when I went to India last, uh, this year in June, I performed there and after coming here, I also performed in stages here. So it’s like it was my passion and I dedicated some time for it during the week.

Maram Ismail: The inception of the Malayalam program is a tale of passion, determination and community spirit. The program’s team worked tirelessly to secure a spot on the air, driven by the desire to connect the Malayalam speaking diaspora with their linguistic roots and cultural heritage.

Resmi Somasekeran: It is because of the some of the like minded, passionate people who really worked hard to get this one hour slot for us on Wednesdays. Part of the reason is moving from our country to country like Australia. You know, we don’t want to forget our language and also our next generation. We want to pass that to our kids who are growing up here. They don’t get that opportunity, you know, like they go to school. They talk only in English. But teaching them in a hectic life like this is really hard. So at least they get that opportunity to learn about, you know, our mother tongue and also our, uh, sort of music and also history or also our culture. Uh, we thought it’s really important. So that’s where it’s all coming up. It wasn’t that easy. It took, uh, I think a year or something for them to actually convince. And also they need to arrange people around us who are really passionate about it to actually come in as broadcasters and, you know, start this show. I mean, it’s not just a. Adding a program. We need a lot of, uh, input. Like we need to have a logo for the program. We need to have a jingle. We need broadcasters who are ready to get trained and who are willing to come in and do the show on a regular basis. So it wasn’t that easy, but it took some time for them to establish that. And we did it.

Maram Ismail: With a team of 13 volunteer broadcasters. The program reaches Malayalam speakers worldwide, offering a weekly haven where language and tradition thrive.

Resmi Somasekeran: Basically, this is a Malayalam language program. So the people who know Malayalam, who understands Malayalam, that’s our audience, who are in Australia and also in India, we have audience from different parts of the world because we have connections there. Like if I have a friend in living in UK, if I tell them I am working in a Malayalam radio like this, you know they will be keen to listen to our program. So, so it’s sort of um, connections. And you know, also we were trying to market or efficiently with a few different programs and you know, so I would say we have uh, audience from US, UK, India, Australia.

Maram Ismail: From the moment she was invited to join the radio program, Rishmy’s answer was a confident yes. Her enthusiasm for broadcasting was matched only by the joy she found in bringing various voices to the air, from local singers to international actors.

Resmi Somasekeran: It didn’t take any, any moment like the next moment. I said yes when I joined the excitement of actually talking, doing a actual broadcast by myself, which was really exciting for me. And also I have brought in so many interesting candidates, a lot of, uh, singers, a lot of actors, and, uh, some inspiring people. It was interesting to get to know those people and, um, bringing them and recording those interviews. It’s all inspired me, actually. Also reading news and also collecting information for events and news segments. It’s all inspiring. Also, getting ready for a broadcast itself is exciting. We need to collect information. We need to research the way how you want to present it. It’s all interesting. For me.

Maram Ismail: The show serves as a cultural storehouse where festivals, music and stories from Kerala come alive for the community in Melbourne, creating a window into the world which they cherish.

Resmi Somasekeran: Because, um, we have, uh, you know, the culture of India. It goes back to ages, centuries. So when we produce programs, we have so many celebrations happening in the state of Kerala, which is where the Malayalam language is spoken. We try to talk about our celebrations, our cultures in different broadcasts. So we do research on that. And uh, it is actually we bring in guests to talk about it as well. Like, so it is it is good for the audience to listen to that or refresh their memory. And also for the younger generation, get to know, oh, these were some of the rituals or these were some of the things that happened as part of the culture or these are the things that happen in the history. So it’s good to know, like, good for them to understand all those things.

Maram Ismail: Resmi recounts the collective efforts of her colleagues to reflect the full spectrum of Malayalam culture in Melbourne.

Resmi Somasekeran: As broadcasters, we get together for, uh, Onam is one of the, uh, biggest celebrations in Kerala state, which is a harvest festival. So at that point, we actually arranged a get together in actually in the studio three studio itself, we brought in the vegetarian feast for that function, and even we invited all other people who were present at the studio at that time just to come and taste our food and, you know, try to understand this is our culture. So we had a good time. And, uh, you know, we tried to have a get together for all these celebrations. And, uh, also we talk about it in our radio so people can listen to it. Also the music we play as part of that, it’s all contribute to that.

Maram Ismail: She takes pride in how the show has become an essential part of the community, providing vital information on topics such as migration. Additionally, it provides a platform for crucial discussions on issues like mental health and domestic violence.

Resmi Somasekeran: Some of the programs we brought into our show are. We have. People working in different areas in Melbourne. Like we brought in some real estate interviews, like some of the people who are working in the buyers market and sellers market. So that’s really informative for our community, people who are really trying to buy a house or sell their property or whatever, that was really informative. And also we brought in migration Agent, who is from our community. We had a 2 or 3 sessions divided into migration of parents, migration of students and skilled migration that different levels of migration. And that was really, really good. Like a lot of people approached us. Can we talk to that guy? You know, like we have this question. So it’s all informative and we try to incorporate the people that are in our community who are in different areas, like in Covid time. We brought in doctors and even nurses who were working really hard at that time. We just wanted to let the community know these are the things that are happening. You know, like we are all locked up at home, but these people are really working hard. We had a workshop kind of show with a few different doctors from India and also in Melbourne in different sessions.

Resmi Somasekeran: So talking about what actually the vaccine do, and people had a lot of fear at that time, like whether we should take the vaccine or not. So that kind of interactive sessions helped people a lot, I think. And also we had a mental health sessions with the psychiatrists and psychologists here. That’s another session. So I think we are trying to connect to the community by bringing in people from the community who are into different areas like this, which are helpful for our audience. And also we had a music competition. We arranged, which the way we did this, like asked people to send us audios, you know, like the songs they sang. And actually we have a couple of good singers in our broadcasters group, so we asked them to judge the, you know, audios from them and select good musicians from there. And that was like a competition kind of thing. And so the winners from that show were given a mentorship with a musician from India. So that was free actually. People were so keen to participate in that, and it was an encouragement for them.

Maram Ismail: Amid the tales of inspiration, one story resonates deeply with Rzmi, reminding listeners of the enduring human spirit.

Resmi Somasekeran: There are a number of shows I have done, but, um, one of them that is standing up in my mind now is one of the guys who is actually helping out, uh, the people on the street in India, you know, the beggars and the people who are really disadvantaged. And that guy, actually, he he has a group of people. He’s helping them. And they actually if you see someone who is lying on the street, they may be really dirty, dusty, you know, with a lot of sicknesses, who doesn’t have food to eat. So they actually take them to their place and clean them, give them food, medication, everything. So, I mean, it was really inspiring for me to listen to that, like people who are doing, actually helping others, fellow beings who are disadvantaged to come back to life and that kind of thing. So it really inspired me. I mean, it’s not easy for people to do that.

Maram Ismail: And there is a reason why Resmi thinks that this kind of story is important to share with listeners.

Resmi Somasekeran: You guys come to a different country for a better life or whatever, but you shouldn’t forget your roots and you shouldn’t forget the fellow human beings who are disadvantaged. So you should have that mentality to help others as well. Like, you know, it’s not just like I have a better life now. I don’t need to worry about others. So it’s more or less like a mentality and a kindness that that’s really important.

Maram Ismail: One of the most prominent goals of the Malayalam program is to assist new arrivals. It guides them through life in Australia, from buying property to securing jobs while keeping them connected and informed.

Resmi Somasekeran: We have almost about 80,000 people talking our language, you know, um, Australia, that’s my understanding. We actually talk to different people and we try to understand like one of the. Thing is, like I mentioned earlier, like migration to Australia is a big thing, like a lot of students and a lot of people want to migrate to Australia. And that’s why I brought that. We brought that show just for our audience to understand different ways of migration. And the roles are changing year by year. So by bringing in an expert and talking to them and also offering our audience like, if you have any questions, please write to us so we can, you know, connect to this person. That’s the way we think, you know, that is helpful for our audience. Also like coming here and buying a property or whatever and also finding a job. You know how hard it is for the, uh, students after coming here studying in certain areas. You know, there was a program about that. How can you find a job, you know, and different life experiences like from different people. So they came in and, uh, students after their studies, they came in and they talked to us about how hard it was for them to find a job and, and how did they find the job. And also, I think we had a doctor who came in and talked about domestic violence areas and what is a domestic violence, the definition of that. So you can, uh, you need to really understand, uh, the difference between just having a real a small fight at home or to a domestic violence. So the difference between that and also if you experience that, what to do. Yeah, we we brought in a politician, actually an MP, which was that interview was in English, but that was to talk about if someone wants to actually change their career into politics, what can you do about it, like in that kind of information? Since this was in English, we couldn’t broadcast it, but we did upload that into our YouTube channels.

Maram Ismail: Feedback from listeners is a treasured gift for most broadcasters. It can help shape the show’s direction and content. Resmi reflects on the community’s response to her program, expressing a shared desire for more air time and the challenge of delivering current affairs.

Resmi Somasekeran: We got very good feedbacks, like saying it’s really appreciable that you guys are running it. It is an All India show. We all are working, we are really busy, but you are consistently doing good shows every week and you’re bringing in all these different kinds of talents or different informative sessions into the show, which is we are really happy about. But um, we want to get more hours for our show, which has to happen in that way. Like, you know, we can bring in a more and more like sometimes when we take an interview because it’s only a one hour show, we need to actually cut it off. Sometimes we have to take out some really interesting parts, which we can’t include in a show. So in that way it is good if we have more hours. Another thing is, um, one other feedback, because it’s only a once a week show, like the news we bring in can be a little old because we are collecting news from the past week. Sometimes people say, ah, we already heard that news. You know, you are a bit late. We can’t help it. What can we do? Still thinking about it? You know what we can do about it. The events are helpful because we are talking about events that’s going to happen in the future, in the next month or something, which is helpful. But in terms of news, there is a limitation like that.

Maram Ismail: Looking to the future, Resmi envisions a platform where the youth can showcase their talents and share their stories, continuing the Malayalam program’s legacy as a cultural identity hub for years to come.

Resmi Somasekeran: One of the programs that was we were talking about is to bring in all the little, maybe teenage below stars from our community, like who are really into music or whichever area they are talented. We want to bring them into the studio and, you know, talk to them. So which is inspiring. That’s one in the agenda. Also, we want to actually conduct another competition kind of thing with the storytelling or whatever that’s in the agenda as well. Like it’s actually good, like just to get involved with the people who are talented in in those areas. So bring them in. It’s not really a competition, but we just want to hear, you know, like the talents.

Maram Ismail: As we conclude, Resmi extends a heartfelt message to her listeners.

Resmi Somasekeran: Please continue listening to us. Please support us. And your support is really valuable. Without you guys, we can’t proceed with this. So thank you. Thank you for all the support you have extended in the past years, and we do expect that in the coming years as well.

Maram Ismail: Thank you. Thank you for listening to this episode of radio for the Community Spoken Histories from 3ZZZ.

Radio for the Community! Spoken Histories From 3ZZZ is proudly supported by the Community Broadcasting Foundation.