A VOA Snapshot - Part of VOA's 60th Anniversary Year Coverage
VOA Hindi language broadcaster Meena Nayak is a best-selling author in her native India. But she says she'll never quit her job at VOA.
"More than what I was doing for the audience, the audience was doing for me," she said.
Meena Nayak answers letters for the Hindi Service, and she has been doing that job since 1984. "I remember one time last year I had a backlog of 23,000 letters," she said.
That backlog followed the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. For security reasons mail delivery to VOA was stopped. "Once that ban broke … my goodness … I was inundated with letters. I couldn't even sort through them there were so many. Most of them were condolences. A lot of them [were filled with] anger, rage, sadness [and] sorrow. I remember crying through some of the letters because there was a feeling of humanness in those letters," she said.
Ms. Nayak is from Chandigarh, in northern India, and she had had little contact with rural people from her country until she started reading their letters to VOA.
"Their expressions, their idioms, their vernacular was foreign to me. This was an India I didn't know. I was amazed about what these letters were revealing to me," Ms. Nayak said.
She remembers in particular a letter from a young boy who told her he had saved for six months to replace a stolen radio so he could listen to VOA. Ms. Nayak keeps that letter and many thousands more in large boxes in her garage.
"People collect stamps. People collect seashells. I collect old letters from the Hindi Service audience," she laughed.
Meena Nayak feels she has gotten to know the people who wrote those letters, and she just can't bare to throw them away.
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