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Dakshina Kannada has around 150 amateur radio operators A van parked outside Mount Carmel School in Bondel sported an unusual message on its rear windshield. The blink-and-you-will-miss-it sticker simply said, “VU2HJA”. Cryptic to the uninitiated, the number is the identity and the link of Arun Kumar, the van owner, to ham radio, a frequency set apart by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for amateur radio operators. Mr. Kumar, who drives a van everyday to pick and drop schoolchildren for a living now, was a ham radio operator for more than 20 years. He used to train batches of 40 to 45 young people in communicating over ham radio, learning Morse Code, passing the exam conducted by the Government of India and getting the license to use ham. He said he had put the sticker on the vehicle as he had “not forgotten ham radio”. But he is not very active on it. He said, “If I spend hours with ham, who will look after my children’s studies?” He still has the ham equipment and antenna and fondly recalled his Science teacher in Cascia School, who introduced him to ham radio. According to Vishnu Murthy, who has been a ham radio operator for more than 25 years and still goes “online” every morning and evening, there were 150 ham operators in Dakshina Kannada. It includes 10 to 15 seniors with at least 20 years’ experience, and of them, seven are active. Lack of time, earning livelihoods and meeting the demands of a family has taken their toll on the senior operators. But Mr. Murthy himself is upbeat about ham, which he said can get the young returning to it as they get bored with the internet. He said, “All it needs is raising awareness of ham.” What sets apart ham radio in an age of instant communication through mobile phones is that it is one communication channel that works when all other communications, including mobile phones, crash. That makes it useful during natural disasters such as cyclones or tsunamis when mobile networks stop working. Discussions on politics, sex and religion are prohibited on ham radio.