Yesterday Once More
On World Radio Day, I travel back forty years, to cricket commentaries, news bulletins and of course, the early crushes when the heart skipped a beat and butterflies partied in the tummy when romantic songs played on the radio.
Nidhi Jamwal 13 Feb 2023 11:53 AM GMT
When I was young
I'd listen to the radio
Waitin' for my favorite songs
When they played I'd sing along
It made me smile…
— Carpenters (Album: Now & Then)
Those Sunday mornings were very special. It may be forty years ago, but they seem like just yesterday.
I must have been five. Waking up to the signature tune of Akashvani, playing on my father’s light brown ‘transistor’, announced that it was Sunday morning which meant it was the day my father was home to play with us, make paper toys and convert used Cherry Blossom shoe polish boxes into taraazuu (pair of scales), which then my elder sister and I would flaunt in front of our colony friends.
On those mornings, I dragged myself out of bed to the signature AIR (All India Radio) tune, and still half asleep go looking for ‘Papa’. I usually found him filling buckets of water in the company of news bulletin playing on the radio.
He never missed a single news bulletin. We lived in a small hill township called Jyotipuram in Reasi district of Jammu & Kashmir and the radio was our only link with the outside world that we, the pahaadi kids, were yet to explore.
My father’s transistor was his most favoured companion, more so during the cricket matches when our two-bedroom quarter echoed with graphic cricket commentary. The celebrations were loud when India won the match.
Most summer vacations were spent at my grandfather’s, in Jammu, 100 kilometres away. My cousins and I cooked food on the chullah, took dips in the canal, danced and sang, and spent the hot summer nights on charpoys that were spread on the roof under the starry night.
My Nana ji (maternal grandfather), whom we lovingly called Baji, had a transistor too which was always placed on the window sill right behind his bed. Unlike my father’s light brown radio, I never really knew what colour it was as Baji’s radio came covered in thick chocolate brown leather.
Baji’s evenings were spent in his transistor’s company, and if we made too much noise playing outside his room while he had the news bulletin on, we were sharply reprimanded. This was followed by complete silence for a couple of minutes, only to give way to more screams and laughter.
Then came the hormone-driven teenage years — of the first crushes, when the heart beat faster, butterflies fluttered in the tummy and songs on the radio tugged at the heartstrings. And, if the crush happened to walk past your home, while a romantic song played on the radio, it was a special day!
Many teenage evenings were spent sitting on the steps outside my best friend’s home with her father’s transistor nestled in our lap. Bianca Geetmala with Ameen Sayani and his immortal voice was our favourite. The radio waves often proved truant in the hill town and I would tell myself the day I went out into the big world, I would listen to songs on the radio to my heart’s content.
Then, in the early 1990s, we moved to Delhi and I broke up with the radio. Coloured television had become popular and ‘cable’ TV ruled my days and nights. For songs, there was a tape recorder. I only went back to the radio in the long commute from home to the office, which made the traffic snarls bearable.
I now live in Mumbai and often weekend nights are spent driving around the city listening to songs on the radio. I wait for my favourite song to play and when it does, I think nothing of driving the extra kilometre or two to listen to the entire song. It is an experience hard to put into words.
All these memories of the radio flashed before my eyes last August when on India’s 76th Independence Day, Gaon Connection launched its own internet-based radio — Gaon Radio — a national audio streaming platform from rural India.
For the past ten years, Gaon Connection has been strengthening the voice of rural India through video and text stories, and ground activation. But there are people in India’s villages who are unlettered and the radio, we felt, can be a powerful medium to keep them informed. It also recorded their voices and made them heard in the corridors of power where policies for rural India are framed.
Gaon Radio can be heard 24*7 on Gaon Connection’s website. We have a variety of shows and programmes for our listeners, ranging from advice on farming and discussions on health to stories and folk songs from the different corners of the country. Songs in Dogri, my mother tongue, are also often played on Gaon Radio.
Recently, Gaon Connection launched its longterm project, Teacher Connection, to document stories of teachers and educators from across the country with a focus on rural and tribal India. We are using Gaon Radio to disseminate these stories and voices of teachers.
Despite all technological advances, radio, one of the oldest means of mass communication, continues to remain relevant. In today’s world, which is affected by climate change and rising freak weather events, the radio remains the most reliable tool for information dissemination and it has even saved lives in times of disasters.
Happy World Radio Day!