Spice of Life : Beethoven’s symphony of life is music to the ears
Realising that it was an old radio, I did not expect it to be functional. But, I was pleasantly surprised when it played the most beautifully rendered ‘Welcome to my world’ as I toyed with its controls.
‘Turn your lights down low, and listen to the Master’s radio, get in touch with God, turn your radio on…’, blared the song on my laptop, making me glance at Beethoven, the antique radio that has been in possession of my family for four generations, and which stands silently in a corner of the room. The song took me on a fond musical trip down memory lane.
The year was 1989: the time, a long and sultry afternoon in June. Having decided against an afternoon siesta, I, a lanky teenager, wandered around the house looking for something to amuse myself with, when I first saw Beethoven. It stood forlorn in a corner of one of the rarely accessed rooms of our house, draped in an old newspaper.
Realising that it was an old radio, I did not expect it to be functional. But, I was pleasantly surprised when it played the most beautifully rendered ‘Welcome to my world’ as I toyed with its controls. The rich, baritone voice of Jim Reeves wafted through each room rousing the members of my family, who were napping at the time. They did not waste any time in gathering in the room where Beethoven was.
I accidentally turned the volume button up. “Oh, no! I am in for a sound dressing down,” I shuddered. On the contrary, they smiled and thanked me for reminding them of Beethoven’s existence, and its significance in their lives. The once-discarded radio became the centre of attraction again. My family used to have its evening tea around Beethoven, while I discovered radio stations that played songs by Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, and other musical greats. An embroidered drape replaced the old newsprint as its covering.
I remember my mother telling me how this radio used to be the sole source of entertainment for the family before the advent of the television in our house, especially during the two wars with Pakistan. “There was only one radio and many listeners. Everyone had his own choice. The discipline in our house restricted us to playing it only once a day, that too with mutual consent, and at a low volume. It was only during the two wars with Pakistan that we could tune in as often as possible to listen to the newscasts,” my mother told me.
The advent of the television in our house relegated Beethoven to the sidelines despite the fact that it still ran smoothly. It continued to be functional for several years thanks to the technical genius of one of my uncles. My escapade bears testimony to this fact. That experience proved to be one of the most memorable adventures of my life. My family and I had forged another beautiful memory by undertaking the most memorable trip down memory lane into the youthful years of my elders, thanks to this radio. The rendition of Summer Holiday by Cliff Richard in the background, thoroughly complemented this adventure.
A few years later, our joint family disintegrated. With no one around to service it, Beethoven too fell silent. My mother and I purchased a modern music system spending a fortune on our favourite cassettes and CDs, a pleasure that Beethoven had once provided for free.
Back to the present, I find myself standing right in front of this antique radio again as my college-going teenage son holds me in his customary half-hug. “What are you looking at, Mummy?” he asks. “I wonder where we can get it serviced,” I say as I share my wonderful experiences with him. “Beethoven is very special to our family, Mummy. We cannot trust a stranger with its servicing. Just buy me the toolkit that I requested of you and I’ll service it for you. It’ll never fall silent again, I promise,” he says.
The writer is an Amritsar-based freelance contributor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Elvis Presley