In March last year when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt, for those of us in our third semester at the University of Hyderabad (UoH), it meant a big blow as the campus closed and classes were to be held online. Above all, it was the campus life that we'd turn out to miss big time and the only relief we could get was checking out some top-notch photographs of the lush green environs of UoH that were clicked by some excellent photographers.

In this backdrop, a lot of ideas came to my head and since I had been writing blogs since 2016, I first decided to document my trip to Punjab in January 2020 and published a two-part article about my experiences. I then moved on to write about my thoughts on COVID's early impact, in a general sense. I chanced upon a few videos later on YouTube and at the same time Zoom was catching up and my feed was exploding with videos recorded from the comfort of homes. That was when an idea hit me – Why not start a podcast? The irony was I had never listened to a podcast prior to that. I mentioned my idea to a dear friend, Ms. Lavpreet Kaur, who instantly supported me along with two others who were keen on seeing the idea become a reality. Lavpreet soon joined me as the official co-host and is currently pursuing Masters in Journalism from Punjabi University in Patiala.

Having decided on a title for the podcast – Seedhi Baat: Youth Podcast 2 - we started off with the first episode on what was then a raging debate: locker rooms, privacy, etc. Then came a plan to involve a dear friend of ours who was pursuing her post-graduation in Economics from Arts College, OU. She presented a very well-put picture about the economy with a few inputs from my end. From then on, there was no looking back. With folks connecting from places we never expected, like Nigeria, Canada, and Singapore, the podcast journey was off to a big start.

Our target audience was school-going students in their teens and college students. We slowly began looking for the right topics and the right people to join us. Things soon eventually fell into place. The first month was all about recording the podcast on WhatsApp as voice notes and compiling them in the right sequence. It was quite a tedious job but it was interesting and a learning experience for both of us as hosts, given it was just two of us running it (even today). We managed to release the podcast on Spotify as well as YouTube. We would plan the recordings to suit our guests' time and adjust accordingly. That gave us an idea about how we could improve the interface in the future, which we eventually did by shifting to a video format of the podcast which would also be available as audio on other platforms.

As the number of subscribers went up, we managed to find some amazing guests like Ridhima Pandey, Jagwinder Singh, Vivek Gurav, Priyal Keni, and Yunus Lasania who have been doing some really good work in their own fields. The experience of running a podcast helped us grow as people and become confident about ourselves to take up challenges. The feedback we constantly received from our viewers who were primarily college-going students was encouraging and this prompted us to launch a five-day youth series in January this year covering topics from food to health to education. This boosted our morale to take up new initiatives in the future.

A year into podcasting, from hostel life to UPSC preparation, from economy to environment, from law to loving thyself, from the experience of studying abroad to geography, we have been able to cover a wide range of topics. It also involved hearing about the experiences of youth in countries like Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Uganda which were eye-opening. Creating such a platform on our own has taught us that nothing is impossible and we continue to work on the podcast part-time. It has shown us that while I reside in Hyderabad and my co-host in Patiala, the world has become smaller and more connected all thanks to the Internet and as unpleasant as it may seem, COVID!

My co-host Lavpreet and I look forward to continuing the platform for many more years in the future.

Pavan Kumar T. recently completed his MA in Economics from the University of Hyderabad and is presently a part-time researcher and a PhD aspirant in Economics. You can watch his podcast on YouTube.

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