But like all things good, the radio too turned old, and faded from public memory. In an age where even MP3 players and ipods are phasing out, it wasn't surprising that radio sets began to be seen as an archaic piece of equipment. For a generation fed on Spotify and Apple Music, would they care to know that something like a radio existed before? Used to listening to songs on their playlist at the click of a button, they may never know the joy of waiting for unexpected numbers to burst onto the charts. For the older ones not used to modern ways, nostalgia serves as food for the soul. They'd rather be out of the loop at a time when the popularity of songs are not determined by physical sales, but by the number of places they are played at right from discs, bars and restaurants, gyms, clothing stores to supermarkets.
While radio may have been integrated and evolved into community and internet radio today, it still cannot boast of reclaiming its lost glory. Well, hold your breath. For all the cynics out there, here comes the twist in the tale. Much like a Hollywood thriller, a radio fair held in the state capital recently turned all the above-mentioned assumptions on their head. All it took was a walk through the fairground for the much-talked about divide between the old and young to vanish into thin air. The fair, which surprisingly saw the enthusiastic participation of a large number of youth, saw some of the oldest radios in the world on display. The objective was to revive people's interest in the radio by talking of career opportunities that could emerge from it. Spread over three days from February 12, the exhibition was held to mark the World Radio Day on February 13. The centre of attraction was a radio of the General Electric Company make dating back to 1906. Sanjeev Manna, the proud owner of the radio, said he had bought it from a man in Madras (now Chennai). It was touted as the oldest radio at the fair.
A self-proclaimed radio activist, Subrat Kumar Pati, also the organizer, said: "The fair brought ham radio, old and new radio sets and broadcasting equipment under one roof." He added that his romance with the radio started early on in life. His fascination for the equipment saw him working with every aspect of it over the years. A valve radio, the predecessor of transistor, was also a top draw. Its owner Akshay Patnaik said, "I collected it from one of my friends at Manikagada in Khurda." A radio collector, Patnaik is credited with having over 350 radio sets. His set, one of the oldest at the exhibition, dates back to the 1920s, said Pati. "Who says the popularity of the radio is on the decline?" asked Pati with an online radio station making its debut at the fair. People bought as many as 2,000 new sets from the fair, which points to the growing popularity of the radio, added Pati. The 'Outreach International Radio Fair', as the exhibition was called, lived up to its name with the participation of three international broadcasters.
Pati's take on the popularity of FM radio is not without a logic. "The private players, owning most radio channels in the country, cater to the demands of people. The transmission is of very good quality with high entertainment quotient." On the flip side, he said, FM channels do not dish out much utility-based content. Procuring the exhibits was not a headache for Pati as he has dedicated 11 years of his life to the sector. Exhibition bit apart, there were two other parts which ensured that people came in droves. Bollywood star Annu Kapoor, popular radio jockey (Suhaana Safar fame), secretary general of Association for Radio Operators for India, an association of the private commercial radio stations in India, Uday Chawla and legendary broadcaster Akhil Mittal delivered insightful talks on the occasion. The exhibition had a cultural angle also. The stage versions of radio content wowed the buffs as well as common audience.
Radio Namaskar, the first community radio station in Odisha was launched on February 12, 2010. Its founder NA Shah Ansari said, "It marked a watershed in radio listening. The radio station is the source of knowledge and entertainment for thousands of rural folks." Ansari, who is a human rights activist, said serving the rural masses is the sole aim of community radio. Souvagya Kar, news editor with All India Radio (AIR), explained, "Radio caters to the needs of millions of villagers in the country's hinterland." Having covered a number of elections for AIR, Kar added, "During emergency and natural disasters, radio is the only mode of communication. When the Super Cyclone struck Odisha in 1999, Ham radio saved many lives."
When cell phones, regular phones, the internet and other systems are down or overloaded, amateur radio or just Hams, still get the message through. 'Mann Ki Baat', a radio programme through which Prime Minister Narendra Modi connects with the people of the nation, takes up matters which are very close to his heart. "The programme has upped the popularity of radio by several notches," added Kar. The underlying message of the fair was to make people understand the importance of radio and Pati seemed to have struck the right note.