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WB Ham Radio club reunites lost father with son - GetBengal story

1 December, 2023 17:05:49
WB Ham Radio club reunites lost father with son - GetBengal story

‘Frequency’ is a 2000 American science fiction thriller film featuring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel. A rare atmospheric phenomenon leads to an accidental cross-time radio link that connects a New York City firefighter to communicate with his son 30 years in the future via HAM radio. The son tries to save his father's life, but then must fix the consequences.

Amateur radio, also known as Ham radio, is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communication together. People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones. It is fun, social, educational, and can be a lifeline during times of need. Recently, ham operators of Barrackpore on the outskirts of Kolkata turned into sleuths and rescued an elderly homeless man. The team probed meticulously and then contacted the family of the man who had no recollection of his past and loitered aimlessly on the streets of Barrackpore. The family members of the old man, who had gone missing for 24 years, had already taken him for dead so when they received the news, they were overjoyed and rushed to Kolkata to meet and take him home. When Ham Radio practitioners located the family of the old man, they contacted the man’s son, and handed over the ex-Army man to him. It was an emotional moment for all, especially for the son who “knew” his father had deceased and hence performed his rites years ago. 

The homeless man, Radhe Chaurasia, now in his mid-70s’, was a mechanical engineer in the Military Engineering Service (MES), posted at Tezpur, Assam. Twenty-four years ago, he took leave and on January 3, 1999, set out to visit his family in Deoria district, close to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. He sent a letter to his family saying he was returning home. Everyone in the family was excited. Although he was supposed to reach home on the 5th, he did not turn up. Rajkumar, his son, was then a 15-year-old lad. He says, they were not overtly anxious and thought Radhe’s leave might have been cancelled at the last moment due to an emergency and he did not get the time to inform. However, Bhaki Singhehi Village, the ancestral village of the Chaurasia family, was shaken to the core when a letter from the Defense Ministry arrived at the family home on February 26, almost two months later where Army authorities demanded to know why Jawan Radhe Chaurasia had not joined for duty even after his leave was over. The letter sent a panic wave and the family rushed to Assam. By then, it was clear that although Radhe Chaurasia had left for home on the scheduled date, he had simply ‘vanished’ midway and there had been no trace of the soldier since then. 

After waiting for seven long years and several efforts to search for him came to a dead end, he was cremated with an effigy as per the rules of the Indian Army. Radhe Chaurasia's wife, Shanti Devi, along with their two daughters and son Rajkumar performed the rites. Even though Shanti Devi did not see her husband's body 17 years ago, she had to accept that he was not alive. She died only a year-and-a-half ago and till the very end, she carried the burden of her loss and mourned his passing away. Their only son, Rajkumar Chaurasia works in the Agriculture Department, Government of Bihar. One of his siblings has expired and the other one is ailing. 

A very interesting story lies behind the intriguing process of solving the complex puzzle and for this; full credit goes to Ambarish Nag Biswas, secretary of West Bengal Ham Radio Club for solving the complex riddle once and for all. Barrackpore is one of the busiest railway stations of North 24 Parganas district. Locals noticed a vagrant in the area adjacent to the Barrackpore station premises for several months. No one knew about his whereabouts. Shabbily dressed with unkempt hair and graying beard, the man rarely communicated with anyone and scavenged for food in the vats. If anyone offered him food, the man never forgot to salute as a typical gesture of respect or polite recognition. One striking aspect was the way the man executed the salute that had a military touch, with an open hand, with fingers and thumb together and the middle finger almost touching the hatband or eyebrow.  When Nag Biswas noticed this, he became curious and made an effort to communicate with the vagabond. His sincerity finally broke the ice and the man, who suffered memory loss, started speaking to him in Hindi. They forged a friendship and Nag Biswas took various initiatives to find the identity of the man. The stranger demanded a cup of tea every time he spotted Ambarish Babu in the station complex. Finally, it was his gesture of saluting that struck Nag Biswas as unique. One day, during his conversation with the tramp, the man mentioned ‘Deoria.’ After much deliberation, Nag Biswas decided to work on the bits of information he could gather from the man. He looked up the map and found the place in Uttar Pradesh. He then contacted Ham members of Uttar Pradesh.

Through the communication of the members of the Ham Radio Club, it finally became known that this vagrant Army soldier, who was currently in the area adjacent to Barrackpore Station, was Radhe Chaurasia, a resident of Bhaki Singhehi Village, Deoria District, Valbani Police Station, Uttar Pradesh, who had gone missing 24 years ago. After Ham radio members established the identity of Radhe, many people in the station area were surprised. However, everyone is happy today as an Army man found his family after long years through Ham Radio Club. 

Amateur radio operators around Kolkata have now gone beyond their passion to communicate freely with others across the globe. They now reunite missing people with their families. A portal launched by the West Bengal Radio Club (WBRC) —, in association with the disaster management department and other agencies, regularly receives requests from across the country to trace missing people. In fact, amateur radio operators aka Ham members have played a vital role during disasters and national emergencies such as earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, floods, and bomb blasts, by providing voluntary emergency communications in the affected areas. In 2005, India became one of few countries to launch an amateur radio satellite, the HAMSAT. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the microsatellite as an auxiliary payload on the PSLV-6.

There are some very interesting facts related to ham operations in India. The first amateur radio operator was licensed in 1921 and he was a Bengali named Amarendra Chandra Gooptu (callsign 2JK), licensed in 1921. Later that year, Mukul Bose (2HQ) became the second ham operator, thereby introducing the first two-way ham radio communication in the country. By the mid-1930s, there were around 20 amateur radio operators in India. Amateur radio operators played an important part in the Indian independence movement with the establishment of illegal pro-independence radio stations in the 1940s.

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