Romancing the Past

I did not belong to the generation of my country that had Murphy radio glued to their ears. For news and more than that, as their sole source of entertainment. But, even though I belonged to the TV generation, I liked the radio better. Well, for beginners, nobody called it an Idiot Box and I loved getting clicked in the Murphy Baby pose.

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I distinctly remember the cold winter evenings when people gathered outside tea shops, made a fire and huddled around it with a radio at the center. They drank tea, enjoyed the songs and discussed news. The “chai & charcha” (tea & discourse) was such an integral part of Indian way of life.

For me, I can recall so many nights when I went to sleep clutching the small black radio with the volume turned lowest.

In my house, the radio was switched on at 7:00 in the morning so that we could listen to the BBC English news as we got ready for school. It taught me correct usage, pronunciation, enunciation of the language and also enriched my vocabulary. Radio was not just for entertainment, not for me. With regional and international news, presenters who were well informed and experts on the subjects of discussions with clear diction and impeccable language skills, radio was a wealth of information . Anyone listening to All India Radio or AIR would be abreast of the current events from all across the world from New Zealand to Nagaland. Well, for me, it also meant great scores in General Knowledge tests and and a repertoire of excellent points to put forth during class debates.

I loved the radio, I still do. And even in this age of thousands of FM channel, my favorite remains Vividh Bharti – Desh ki surili dhadhkan (Nation’s melodious heart-beat). Which it has remained for as long as generations can remember.

In all probability the most popular programs were the ones which played songs from the Hindi movies. Ameen Sayani’s ,”Bhayio and Behnon” (Brothers & Sisters) would bring a smile on the most tired faces. And one cannot forget “Jaimala” dedicated to the soldiers of the Indian Army and BSF, playing song requests sent in by them. My personal favorite was “Hawa Mahal”, a program that aired audio plays. I owe my oral storytelling capabilities to programs like these.

The summer afternoons and winter evenings would have been dreadful without the solace of the radio. What bliss it was to curl up in the blanket with tea and your favorite songs playing on the radio.

Radio enjoyed much popularity for decades and in turn ensured the establishment and popularity of the Indian Cinema by taking it to the masses. So entrenched was Radio’s presence in the collective Indian mindset that when TV did make an appearance in Indian households, the most popular programs were “Rangoli” and “Chitrahaar”. Both were programs based on playlist of old and new songs from the Hindi films. I am sure no other country in the world plays “Antakshari” (the last alphabet) where as the name suggests one had to sing songs starting with the last alphabet used by the previous player in his/her song.

Radio introduced me to music and so many things wonderful. In my future blog posts I will discuss songs from the Hindi cinema that had lasting impact on me as a writer. Till then you can check out my YouTube channel where I have reacted to a few songs from the Golden Era of Indian Cinema.

Leave me a comment if you would like me to write about any of your favorite songs.

Love Vintage and want to Romance the Past? Check out my book “A Vintage Tale-What’s Past is Prologue” and take a trip to Victorian India.

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