Oct 4, 2013

Tuning in to Nostalgia

We whitewashed our house last week and had to take down the TV cable for a while. What followed was four days of complete bliss and silence. For a change, the evenings did not find us hooked to the mindless trash on TV and the three of us actually had a few civil conversations with each other. By the third day however, the TV withdrawal symptoms were at their worst. Being forced to spend more time than was necessary in each other’s company without TV to distract us was straining our patience to the maximum. 

In self-defense I decided to switch on the radio. For the sake of nostalgia, I decided to forego the usual FM channels with their shrill voiced RJ’s and tuned into All India Radio.

The first thing I heard was the very dignified voice of an AIR Newsreader saying “Yeh Aaakashwani hai, ab aap suniye Hindi mein samachar” and that brought back an avalanche of memories.

In the 80s and 90s when I was a school going kid, TV had gained entry into almost all homes. Those were the days when the highlight of our TV viewing was the weekly film on Sundays and the Spiderman cartoon series preceding it. Not to forget the mother of all soaps – Buniyaad and Hum Log. But back then Television broadcasts were only for a few hours every day. So the Radio still reigned supreme.

The mornings in most households including mine started with the radio cackling to life. We measured our time according to the programs on the Radio. First came Vande mataram, followed by the morning bhajans. This meant it was time to get up and get ready for school. And if I was still gulping down my milk by the time the English news started, I was sure to miss my school bus!

I have dim memories of my parents and brother listening to a program called Hawa mahal at night. Hawa Mahal was immensely popular and used to show case plays by famous writers. Because Radio is not a visual medium, the success of the play depended entirely on how the actors read out their parts. The speakers modulated their voice and tone to suit every emotion. So you heard throaty laughter, hushed tones trembling with passion or high pitched angry voices. There was background music as well. If it was an outdoor scene you would hear the chirping of birds or traffic. In indoor scenes you could hear the rattling of tea cups, chairs scraping as someone got up. They gave attention to the minutest of details.
Such programs really gave wings to one’s imagination. You listened to the various sounds and then visualized and created the whole scene in your mind.

My parents always listened to the political discussions or various interviews with the political leaders that came later in the night after Hawa Mahal. I was too young to understand these discussions, but as I lay snuggled up in bed, the droning voices on the radio provided some sort of comfort and familiarity.

And for a very long time Cricket for me was synonymous with the commentary on AIR. The sports commentators used to describe the action so well and in such detail that you felt you were almost there. You could almost hear the crack of the bat as it hit the ball, you could hear the ball whistling through the wind and the cheers as the crowd erupted. For a long time, before close circuit cameras came in, people used to switch on the TV to see the match but kept the voice on mute, preferring to listen to the detailed commentary on AIR.

Late night studying for my 10th boards was made bearable by English songs that played well into the night. The English used by the RJ’s (if they could be called RJ’s at that time) was impeccable and they spoke in a perfect clipped accent. There was no Hinglish then, either pure Hindi or English.

Another favorite was the BBC world service – recommended to everyone who wanted to be up to date with news and also learn proper English.

All India radio had many popular programs but there were a few that had an almost cult following. There is an entire generation of women out there who used to swoon in ecstasy whenever the very baritone voice of Ameen Sayani welcomed you to Binaca Geet mala. There were many programs on Film songs but I particularly remember one called Aapki Farmaish that played songs on requests. Requests for songs would pour in from places like Jhumri Talaiya prompting us kids to open the Atlas to see if the place actually existed! 

And not only Bengal but most of North India religiously woke up at 4 am on Mahalaya every year to tune into Mahishasurmardani. That if not anything heralded the beginning of Navratras for us.

The commentators at that time were very dignified and proper. The listeners or “shrotagan” were treated with utmost respect and reverence. The programs were more riveting and captured your interest totally. 

Radio then was something gentle and soothing, without the crassness and cacophony today’s Radio programs sometime seem to reflect.

44 comments:

  1. I miss watching Buniyaad and Hum Log and wow!I've never listened to such English programme, though at one time got BBC Cassettes to listen:)

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    1. Buniyad and Humlog had a cult following ! Everybody listened to BBC to learn proper English :)

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  2. Oh I miss Amir Sayani and Binaca Geet Mala, and remember the old DD signature tune. You made me get all nostalgic!

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  3. I loved radio in the good old days. Less talk, more music. And the talk was so gentle, so genteel. Today, I don't have the patience to listen to radio. I feel there is too much 'clever' talk going around. Your post took me back in time. Always a good thing.

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    1. Less talk, more music. You said it Cynthia !

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  4. How nostalgic! I wonder if Vividh Bharti ki vigyapan prasaran seva still exists! My limited exposure to radio was that channel that Bahadur used to listen to in the kitchen.
    One of my elderly tayajis used to Radio Pakistan all the time. I guess his way to relive his fonder bachpan ki memories.
    And our downstairs wale bhaiya and didi used to listen to Yuv Vani...and Forces Request shows!
    Simple times those!

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    1. It does :-) I listen online to it on a site voicevibes.net, the popular programmes have stayed the same.

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    2. Simple times indeed ! I never knew we cld get Radio Pakistan too ! I vaguely remember the Armed forced requests - Al the did found it vaguely romantic I guess - listening to requests from the Armed forces :)

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  5. I was nodding in agreement to so many points mentioned here...Radio is obviously not the same these days...and AIR still stays the same :)

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

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    1. AIR still rocks Kajal ! I am glad you enjoyed the post !

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  6. I think that 'dignified voice' with a touch of seriousness is an eternal feature of AIR. I love the - "We measured our time according to the programs on the Radio." :D I won't say I recollect all programs you speak about, but you did take me jogging back to those days. The radio really kept the family "together" in it's own sweet way! :)

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    1. AIR was all dignity me thinks ! Unlike the current FM that tends to be trashy at times !

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  7. Remember all those and Radio Ceylon too. I was particularly fond of the bollywood songs that would be played at 10 pm on Fridays...I think. Amin Sayani is the mascot of AIR. As you said there was so many visuals attached to the sounds. :)

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    1. Amin Sayani is really the mascot of AIR ! So true !

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  8. I still prefer radio to television. Especially 92.7 BIG FM. The Yaad Sehar with Neelesh Mishra still takes you back to the 80s and 90s when life wasn't as superficial as it is nowadays.

    Aur isi ke saath hi gendh balle se lagkar....blah blah blah...:-D

    Ameen Sayani was the best. And there used to be some quiz contests too, I remember having sent in my entries thru postcards. :-)

    BBC world service was our only mode of knowing about the situation in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, when Dad was stationed there.

    Nostalgic post! Kaash woh din waapis laut aate...

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    1. I have heard a lot about yaad Sehar, Must listen to it one of these days !

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  9. I do not have much association with Radio, except for Aaskashavaani- kannada which my father was tuning in once in a while for carnatic classical songs where he had this irritating habit of listening to the songs and then asking me for the name of the raagas of those classical songs (because I was learning classical carnatic), He wasn't a singing type but was a genius in finding our names of raagas of any kritis. On the other hand I was his exact opposite. Anyway I was brought up during television times :-D
    Loved your post..

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    1. We were brought up during the TV times as well .. but the radio still reigned supreme along with it :P

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  10. Oh yes, I remember Binaca Geet Mala. I also remember my PT Sir glued to his pocket radio listening to cricket commentary. It's not the same anymore.

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    1. True, Alka. Its not the same anymore !

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  11. Your post took me to another world...ameen sayani, hawa mahal...and even I used to listen to english songs throughout the night while studing for my board exams...i also remember mom tuning in to ramcharitmanas on radio every morning as i got ready for school!

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    1. It was altogether another world - A simpler, uncomplicated one !

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  12. What a fab journey down the memory lane. Some months ago, we were traveling by car and were in an area where none of the FM radio stations functioned, so we tuned into AIR. It was so heartwarming to listen to the calm and composed voice of the 'RJs' and that people still write (now SMS are functional too), to listen to their pasand ka geet!

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    1. I remember the pasand ke geet .. and requests from Jhumri talaiya :P

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  13. Yes the Sunday film and the Spiderman cartoon was a real fixation.
    As for Radio there was the one hr program on Saturday (10 to 11 pm) from AIR - one hr of pure entertainment with songs by Jim Reeves, Englebert Humperdick . . . . .

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    1. Oh yes I remember the English songs prg ! I loved it !

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  14. You took me back in time. My grandmother would listen to Vande Mataram and the bhajans and Ameen Sayani's voice still rings in my ears. Enjoyed your post.

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    1. Thank you Suzy ! Amen sayani is a mascot !

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  15. Binaca geet mala and I loved the late evening songs -- the soothing melodies that we sometimes went to sleep to. Even now, I hardly watch TV. I have stopped watching any prime time news in the evening. I prefer to watch American crime serials or recorded Crime Patrol episodes or Nat Geo's Air crash investigation. Since no elders stay with us, I've no clue about what crap comes on TV. Of course, the kids watch their cartoons and movies but their time is strictly regulated. I too hate the cacophony of noisy RJs on radio. Here in Bangalore, we get a non-stop playlist of old Hindi melodies on Sunday without bak bak and that is my favorite time to switch on FM. A lovely nostalgic post this!

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    1. Cacphony is the correct word Rachna ! I hate it too. AIR RJ's are so dignified in comparison. Glad you liked the post !

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  16. Nostalgia time for me as well. The daily routine timed to radio programs, those commentaries, plays everything - took me back in time.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Suresh !

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  17. Binaca Geet Mala,Hawa Mahal, and of course Aap ki Farmaish and the Jhumri Talaiya requests. It all brings to mind a different time altogether :)

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    1. A Different, simpler and happier time !

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  18. Those were the days.
    I still remmember YEH AKASWANI HAI,AAP DEVAKINADAN PANDE SE KHABREN SUNIYE

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    1. I loved the dignified voice of all the newsreaders !

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  19. yes i remember those days and still sometimes tune in..my fav were those english song programs that used to air at night...

    http://www.myunfinishedlife.com

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  20. I was not much of a radio person but could connect with this post as my mom is . I still remember how she used to humm songs playing contly from vivid bharati and other channels while cooking
    The ghetto blaster iss still my fav, My grandpa had a transistor always by his side. He used to rise with it and sleep with it so I know what this post means :)
    even to day we get aap ki farmaish na ?

    grt post Ruch

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  21. I remember Hum Log, Buniyaad, Tamas, Wagle Ki duniya and so many other programmes. And remember Salma Sultana?

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  22. I never got onto radio, but I remember well all the wonderful serials we watched as kids!

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  23. When I was a kid, I was never still enough for radio or TV :) It looks like you have a memory like an elephant to remember such details :)

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