Spice of Life: Riding radio waves on trip down memory lane
The radio lived in our living room. Father would come in five minutes before 8am to listen to the news. There was a war raging in Europe and dad wanted to get the latest news.
One can’t understand the hullabaloo about India becoming Bharat. Worse happened last month. All India Radio, which I have been listening to since childhood, became Akash Vani and no one stirred a whisker! Maybe no one listens to the radio anymore.
But I do, religiously. The radio is one of my more delightful addictions. So it has been with me since I was a youngster. In fact, it was at a tender age that I came in contact with a radio. It lived in our living room. Father would come in five minutes before 8am to listen to the news. There was a war raging in Europe and dad wanted to get the latest news.
The radio was a large, polished wooden box. The left half housed the speaker behind a fabric. The right side had a circular glass dial with numbers written on it. Below there were half a dozen knobs that worked the radio. An electric eye in the top right hand corner blinked when the radio was switched on and turned green when the radio had warmed up.
The left hand top corner had the picture of a dog sitting in front of a hand-cranked record player facing a large megaphone. This was the logo of His Master’s Voice – HMV. As the light turned green, the radio squeaked, shrieked and squelched, fuelling my excitement. Then came the news. The news was in English. Staring at this magical contraption, I learnt English.
After Independence, I learnt English from Melville D’Mello and Roshan Menon, and Hindi from Devki Nandan Pandey. In my formative years, the radio entered my subconscious. It has been a permanent residence ever since.
Premila Premchand’s programme, A Date with You, full of Western songs, introduced me to Elvis Presley, Pat Boon, Bill Haley, The Platters and lots more. Her signature tune, Glen Miller’s In the Mood, was my introduction to Swing. Call that an addiction, or a love affair, it is still very much with me.
All this input to music was only to grow and get better. Thanks to a toothpaste. Ameen Sayani’s Binaca Geetmala still resonates in my head, as does the Binaca Hit Parade from Radio Ceylon.
Then came the great leap forward: The transistor radio. My first transistor radio was my prized possession. I loved it. On my first posting overseas, I took it with me to Bangkok only to be terribly disappointed. It had no FM station! The second Japanese invasion was by Sony, Akai, Panasonic and many more.
So I bought a Sony with FM. Bangkok was the first city on the Asian mainland to have TV. American movies, very popular, had Thai soundtracks which expats could not understand. No problem! The TV channels had a deal with FM stations. The original soundtrack was on a FM radio station.
Years later in Montreal, I enrolled for a mass communication course in a local college. They had a course in radio communication. The college had a community radio broadcasting station and students were allowed to set up radio stations with their own call signs.
I set up a radio station and called it A.I R. “This is A.I.R,” I would announce. “All India Railway Station. Ab aap samachar may Angrezi sunoge, Hindi, Punjabi, Francici, Arbi aur Bangla sunoge.” And the music in the background, Glen Miller’s In The Mood!
The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org