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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

World Radio Day: From Short Wave to Streaming, Radio's Still Ga Ga

The language was Bangla, but the accent and the stories, distinctly Chinese. An avid radio listener, my father tried to inculcate this dying habit into his sons.Radio Beijing with its waves traversing the Himalayas captivated me. Stories from China, read out in textbook Bangla with a Chinese accent that sounded so sweet. I didn’t know of the concepts of propaganda and censorship and I enjoyed every bit of it. Radio Moscow (now Voice of Russia), Voice of America and the good ol’ Beeb.

Radio Ceylon, for some inexplicable reason, didn't reach me, but I did have some dose of Ameen Sayani and his Geetmala much later on Vividh Bharati.The first radio in our home was a massive Murphy valve, it came along with a net-like antenna. The body was of wood and had the very distinguishable Murphy baby logo. After years of service, it was retired and in came a more portable Philips, a radio that my father still listens to.When I grew up a bit, the Murphy served as an amplifier for my portable cassette player (or walkman as we called them all). The big valves inside were fascinating and it became the subject of many of my electronic experiments, until the time I had damaged its vital organs beyond repair. After spending a few years in a box under the bed, it was sold off to araddiwallah.

"FM is not real radio. Short wave is," was the idea of radio I grew up with.

However, medium wave with much clearer audio and covering topics of immediacy and the ones we could relate with also found resonance in our household."This is All India Radio. The news, read by Barun Haldar," was the background score while I readied myself for school every morning. A daily ritual, that still continues in our Shillong home.

And then there was the big Bengali tradition of listening to Birendra Krishna Bhadra's oratorio (set to Pankaj Mallick’s music) on All India Radio every Mahalaya morning. The baritone of Bhadra reverberating the autumn dawn – Ya devi sarvabhuteshu – still signals the arrival of autumn and 10 days of Durga Pujo festivities for millions of Bengalis around the world.Later as I learnt to read, comic books took over followed by Doordarshan, then cable TV and now the Internet. But radio, albeit in changing forms, remained a constant companion.

Moving away from my hometown, in the loneliness of the metropolis I found company in FM radio. Purani Jeans with RJ Sayema on Radio Mirchi kept me distracted in the dark Delhi nights. One feature, I looked for in my early mobile phones was not a camera, or storage, but FM support.Years later, having advanced a little in both life and career, weekends also meant picking up the wife from her workplace in the small car that I could now afford. Another radio ritual emerged. Listening to Neelesh Misra narrating tales on BIG FM's Yaadon Ka Idiot Box.

Now technology and a desire to control more of what and when I listen to has altered my listening habits.I no longer hear the crackle of short wave, not even the RJ yapping away on the FM while I drive to and back from work. Now, I am a podcast addict.

"FM is not real radio. Short wave is."

The diverse range of my listening far exceeds that in those leisurely short wave days.Technology, history, philosophy, mythology, food, humour... I am clocking more listening hours than ever before.Radio is the multitasker's choice. It only seeks your ears while your eyes and hands can be actively engaged elsewhere.Radio lives. Video couldn't kill the radio star.

Happy listening.


Forwarded By:Alokesh Gupta,alokeshgupta@gmail.com

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