Voice of India, in Tehran
- Voice of India, in Tehran
Meet Zehra Zaidi, the Lucknowite who now heads the Hindi service on
Radio Tehran and finds an answer to homesickness by establishing
contact with fellow Indians in the region
Lucknow, March 31: Did you know about Radio Tehran's Hindi service?
And the fact that it is run by a woman who was born in Jaunpur and who
has done her education from the city's Navyuga Radiance College, her
Bachelor's in Science from IT College and her Masters in Public
Administration from the Lucknow University? Meet Zehra Zaidi, once a
familiar face on the Lucknow Doordarshan and an artiste with the All
India Radio Lucknow, presently the Director of the Radio Tehran Hindi
For Zehra Zaidi, it's been 28 years away from her native land of
birth, spent with her husband and family in the Islamic Republic of
Iran. But for her the last nine years, since she has been heading the
Hindi Service for Radio Tehran have been most eventful and fulfilling.
"It all started by chance," she reminisces. "I was working with the
Sada O Seema (Iran's Radio & TV station) for the Urdu service on the
radio when we got a few letters in Hindi responding to some of our
programmes. Had I not been there, they would have probably been
ignored but as I was familiar with the language, I read them out in
the Letters section. My boss at that time had also been to India and
done a part of his education here. That one instance gave us the idea
to start a trial run of a 22-day programme meant specifically for the
Indians in the region. The response to that was unbelievable. We got
tremendous support from the Indian community and with encouragement
from the radio station, that effort led to the Hindi service of Radio
"Today 95 per cent of our listeners are Hindu families based in the
region who are very appreciative of our family and rights' oriented
programming. We also bring out a Hindi magazine from our station which
too is very popular."
Is the response largely focussed to the Gulf region or do you have a
large audience outside of the region as well?
"A lot of our responses come from India. We received a letter from a
Delhi University professor who said he was surfing stations on the
radio when he came across a station where chaste Hindi was being
spoken and was surprised that it was the Hindi service of Radio
Tehran. One response was from a music scholar who complimented us on
the lyrical recitation of Quranic aayats which inspired him to compose
his music. And of course, most of our audience is very appreciative of
the lack of religious bias in our programmes. We always refer to
"Ishwar" and not `Allah" if the context arises which is a term more
acceptable to an international, multi-religious audience. That has
been the big plus in our favour."
In a lighter vein, are Indian films and actors popular in Iran?
"We get to see a lot of Indian films in Iran. Most are dubbed in Farsi
and people really enjoy the melodramatic, clean family movies sans the
songs and dance routine. Yes, if the heroine is skimpily clad, you'll
either not see her at all, or see her make a brief appearance. Iran is
a very popular dubbing centre and you should hear the whistles and
catcalls when Amitabh Bachchan mouths dialogues. He is very popular
there but most know him as `Vijay' since that is his name in most of
the films. The older generation used to love Raj Kapoor and Nargis.
Nowadays the Khan trio Aamir, Shahrukh and Salman are very popular as
is Hrithik. Abhishek Bachchan is known as Vijay's son and a lot of
people have enquired about gossip on Vijay's family and films.
You have returned after a long time to Lucknow, what are the memories
you associate with the city?
"My house in Aminabad, my school and college...what is it about
Lucknow which is not dear to me. For me coming back to India means
coming home, to friends and family. Even though I have been away for
nearly three decades now, not just I, my children too are in touch
with the children of my friends on phone and e-mail. It's a pleasure
coming back and meeting all of them. In fact I am here especially to
pick up some Lakhnavi chikan and Indian textiles and jewellery for my
daughter's wedding which takes place in July. I wanted her to carry a
piece of her home in her trousseau when she gets married."