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City's Only Nepali Podcast Brings Sound of Himalayas to New York

By Smriti Rao | May 18, 2012 7:27am
Sahadev Poudel is the creator of 'Himali Sworharu,'  NY's only Nepali arts podcast curating audio histories of the tiny community.
Sahadev Poudel is the creator of 'Himali Sworharu,' NY's only Nepali arts podcast curating audio histories of the tiny community.
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JACKSON HEIGHTS — When Sahadev Poudel moved to Queens from his native Nepal in 2004, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare hadn’t yet taken over the lives, phones and computer screens of New York's tiny Nepali community.

The theater artist and public radio fan felt disconnected.

Eager to reach out to Nepalis in the city and help other newcomers like him find their feet, Poudel created 'Himali Sworharu' [The Voice of the Himalayas] in 2007 — the city’s only podcast in Nepali featuring community news, events in Queens, audio biographies and interviews with visiting authors and poets.

The weekly broadcast, which Poudel estimates reaches 5,000 Nepalis in America every week, is rounded off with songs from his Himalayan homeland.

Poudel produces his bare-bones podcast from his Ridgewood, Queens home
Poudel produces his bare-bones podcast from his Ridgewood, Queens home
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Sahadev Poudel

Five years later, Poudel, who works at the front desk of the New York Athletic Club, is hoping to beef up his show by lengthening it to an hour.

The Nepali community in America is one of the smaller South Asian communities, with just under 60,000 counted in the 2010 census.

Most live in major cities, with 6,000 in New York, according to the census. A sizable population in centered in Jackson Heights and Glendale.

After moving to Queens as a student, Poudel did his first stint in American radio as a guest host for a Nepali arts program on Columbia University’s student radio WKCR 89.9 FM NY.

But he realized that producing radio on his own was expensive because of the pricey editing and recording equipment.

In 2007, the avid NPR fan explored his online options. “It was easy,” he said. “I just went home, made a recording and uploaded it. It was cheap.”

These days, Poudel, who also teaches Nepali theater in New Jersey, continues to make his podcasts in a small makeshift studio in his Ridgewood home.

He records using the iPhone’s voice memos, edits them on his MacBook Pro and then uploads them to the Internet on nepaliradio.org.

For regular listeners like Anjan Shreshta, the podcasts offers a window into ordinary Nepali community life in New York and tell the tales of countrymen whose lives have taken an extraordinary turn.

One such case was Indra Tamang, who came to America in the '70s to work as a butler for writer Charles Henry Ford and ended up with two multi-million dollar apartments at The Dakota on the Upper West Side and a Russian Surrealist Art collection four decades on, thanks to being named in his employer's will.

The podcast also provides the community with a virtual tie to a home thousands of miles away.

“A lot of [Nepali] students come to America," Shreshta said. “They like listening to this podcast.”

Community organizer Luna Ranjit, 30, lauded Poudel’s effort in producing the podcast, saying it “provides a platform for other ideas.”

Appreciating the mix of news and entertainment, she added, "You can listen to it anywhere, while you are doing aything."

Poudel, who studies arts, literature and media part-time at CUNY, hopes to spread the word about his podcast.

While it may be easier to reel in younger net savvy Nepalis, connecting with the older folk is a constant challenge. He also sustains his operation on donations — a financial option, he said, that may not be viable in the long term.

Money or no money, Poudel’s efforts are fueled by the hope that some day he would have his own syndicated Nepali arts show on public radio.

In the meantime, he hopes to continue producing his one-of-a-kind podcasts and make his show “just like NPR.”