World Radio Day: All my best memories…
When Freddie Mercury sang “…everything I had to know, I heard it on my radio,” he was speaking for all of us in the 1960s and the 70s.
Pankaja Srinivasan 13 Feb 2023 10:30 AM GMT
There was no place in the world I wanted to visit more than the wonderful sounding Jhumri Telaiya. I heard of it every day on a radio programme called Fauji Bhaiyon Ke Liye, there was at least one bhai from Jhumri Telaiya who requested a song.
The radio was woken up first thing in the morning by either my father or my mother. Its happy voice played in the background all day long. At 7.30 am sharp, a cheery voice would sing out, Sangeeeet Saritaa…On Sangit Sarita, one raaga was chosen every day, and a classical rendition and a filmi song based on the same raaga was played. That is where I learnt that the song mann tadpat hari darshan ko aaj, from the movie Baiju Bawra was based on raag Malkaus.
I hesitatingly asked my sitar guruji, if he would teach me how to play that song! Even though it was a filmi song, he could not fault it, and he taught me the notes, albeit disapprovingly.
Weekends were packed with excitement. There was the Bournvita Quiz Contest on radio, and if I could answer a question asked by the host Hamid Sayani, I would strut around with pride. I think for many of us in that generation (the show was broadcast from 1972), it was a fun, fun way to learn about the world.
Then, because I grew up in Kolkata, there was no missing the radio serial called Suchitrar Sansar (the world of Suchitra), where Suchitra faced challenges, crossed hurdles, battled evil and came out victorious even as she juggled her duties as a wife, mother and so on… That was sponsored by Horlicks, and at some point Boroline took over as the sponsor, I think. I still remember the jingle. There were plays and sometimes even entire film soundtracks were played.
When Wednesday evenings came by, Radio Ceylon was where we all headed. All activity at home stopped as Binaca Geetmala, hosted by Ameen Sayani had our undivided attention. It was an hour of unadulterated bliss as the popular movie songs were played and not just that, there was nail biting suspense as we wondered what the sartaaj geet or the top song of the week was going to be. It kept us guessing. That is why I have no love for playlists that churn out the same songs in the same boring sequence.
Even then, Bollywood ruled. Man Chaahe Geet took care of our afternoons between 1 pm and 2 pm, from 2.30 pm to 3 pm there was Manoranjan, and English music played on a programme called Band Box.
Of course, nothing else played on the days there were cricket matches. Loud cheers, angry curses, were interspersed with anecdotes from the cricketing world. I became familiar with names of commentators my father admired — Pearson Surita, Melville De Mello, Anand Setalwad… and learnt about ‘three slips and a gully’, ‘silly point’ (always made me giggle), ‘offside’, ‘onside’...
The commentary was so good that I could actually ‘see’ the bowler as he ‘walked back to the run up’, and I gasped as his bouncer almost took the head off the batsman.
I was just eight years old, and it was late, late, late at night, when a static-filled voice on the radio said, “Eagle has landed”. It was Neil Armstrong, along with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins who had landed on the moon on Apollo 11. Imagination ran riot, and moon-gazing changed forever.
Almost everyone I knew owned the Murphy Radio, and it sat in the drawing room where any number of chairs could be pulled up around it. And, I also remember being despatched to the post office by my Dad to renew the Radio License that all radio owners had to have! Soon there was the smaller version, the transistor that came into being, and then came the pocket transistors.
It was not unusual to see people with the pocket transistor pressed to their ears, in buses, as they walked on the road or stood around roadside tea stalls (much like those of us who move around with the mobile pressed to our ears).
Unforgettable also was Mahalaya day. At the crack of dawn, down the road in every home in our street and everywhere else I am sure, the sonorous voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra would ring out, chanting Mahisasur Mardini. It filled us kids with unbearable excitement as it officially kickstarted the Durga puja celebrations.
And so it was. Of course television came and stole our affection, but the radio-love remains unmatched.
For me personally, I think growing up listening to the radio people conjuring up entire worlds with their fluency and deftness with words, pushed me into writing!