Remember the radio? The faithful companion of the 80s long before TV and satellite television entered our homes, invading our privacy, reneging on ‘quality playing time’ and making us couch potatoes?
In the early 80s when I grew up, I clearly remember waking up to the strains of All India Radio belting out the first verses of the suprabhatham followed by Vande Mataram. After the first news of the day was heard, a cup of hot, piping filter coffee consumed and long after the motor began its soft humming sound to pump water up to the tank above, the radio still blared out its usual cornucopia of sound nuggets. I remember the Sanskrit news, followed by the Malayalam news and then a Carnatic music lesson, which an enterprising neighbour took rather too seriously, crowing sarli varishai on top of his voice early in the morning.
We waited patiently for the devotional fervour and the mundane daily programmes to finish. And turn the knob towards Vividh Bharati and Bhule Bhisre Geet. Faraway from Bollywood and Hindi cinema, I fell in love with Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey, Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar thanks to my old-Hindi-songs loving Dad. After an hour it was off to school…
Late in the evening, after the customary play-time of an hour, an enforced prayer routine of half-an-hour and homework we were back to the radio, this time glued to Fauji Bhaiyon Ke Liye. As families of soldiers phoned in their requests, we sang along, learning both new and old songs, singing on top of our voices with gusto! What we waited impatiently for was also the ‘Binaca Geetmala’ and Ameen Sayani’s voice that made us go va-va-voom! Most often, the reception would be bad enough to transfer the radio to an open window or the terrace with a few thwacks to get it going soon! This would invariably happen when Sayani would be all set to announce the ‘song of the week’. And then the radio would emit a ‘grrrrrr’ sound and cross-connect with some other station! Ah! The heartbreak that happened then!!!
The 9’0’ clock English news was sacred… We would time our watches to it everyday… yup, those winding ones! As soon as the pip-pip-pip-pip sound was heard, Appa would shush us all into silence. If you as much as sneezed or made a pin drop, you’d have it! We walked on tiptoe as Rini Simon or Usha Albuquerque read out the news of the day in their sharp, staccato voices!
And then in 1984 came TV. And drawing rooms, meal-times, sleeping times and families were never the same again. In 1992, came satellite television that beamed into our homes the Bold and the Beautiful, Santa Barbara and the ridiculously ridiculous Saanp Seedi… followed by Kargil… and Kandahar and everything else in real-time.
I thought radio had finally made its way back into our hearts with WorldSpace. On a visit to India a few years back, I was charmed by Shruti and Jhankaar and Farishta… and thought, ‘finally, radio’s back with a digital twang’.
But it was not to be. I hear that World Space has closed down in India taking away thousands of big-time suckers for nostalgia… and radio like me!
Till then, all I can endure is online radio… with more of sound bytes than songs!
Que Sera Sera!