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Monday, April 23, 2018

Room for Radio at the Napier Museum, Thiruvanthapuram

A view of the evening crowd near the Band Stand at Napier Museum | Photo Credit: Aswin V. N.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM
Radio is still a favourite with many denizens who turn up at the Napier Museum to listen to the evening broadcast

Under a slightly overcast sky there is a kind of calm all around as I watch the world go by, sitting on one of the benches around the Band Stand at Napier Museum. People of all ages are occupying the benches, a group of youngsters are busy clicking selfies, evening walkers are in action while pigeons are flying around noisily... a day is getting over quietly inside the park while life is eddying around it in frenetic ripples.
Suddenly my reverie is broken by the beats of the panchavadyam. While many are taken aback by the sound, I know it’s 5 pm and time to tune in to Akashavani Thiruvananthapuram. Every day, till 9.30 pm, one can listen to the broadcast through the eight concealed speakers installed at the Band Stand inside the Museum grounds. In an hour or so, I see small groups move in and out of the sprawling campus, some of them oblivious to the radio. However there are many who have taken their places on the benches, all ears for the broadcast. My attention falls on a group of boisterous senior citizens. “They are the regular listeners,” says Pradeep M.U., electrician in charge of the campus. It is he who switches on and switches off the radio at the specified timings.
Change in frequency
“The radio might be losing its relevance elsewhere, but it is heartening to see the few people who turn up every day to listen to the broadcast. They take their place after finishing their evening walk,” says Pradeep, who has been working here for over two years. Most of the regulars are senior citizens who have retired from government service or public sector undertakings. “Usually 25 of us regularly meet here every evening. We don’t miss the Malayalam news broadcast,” says a sprightly P. Jayakumar, a former employee with the University of Kerala. Most of them are avid listeners of agriculture-related programmes such as Vayalum Veedum or Krishi Deepam. Also in their schedule are programmes such as Yuvavani, the Sanskrit and English news bulletins, radio plays, news analysis, Assembly round-up when the house is in session, live broadcast of sporting events... on different days.
“After the news, the station airs good old Malayalam songs, usually devotional numbers pertaining to all religious faiths. It is refreshing to hear these songs. None of us want to miss this daily get-together,” points out S. Kesavan Pillai, who worked as a Physical Education teacher in a government school. C. Rajappan Nair, another former government employee, a regular here for the last three decades, adds, “The ambience lifts your spirit and makes you feel young... I feel lost if I don’t come here daily.” This group usually stays back till 7.30 pm. By then they would have had discussions about several current issues. C.J. George, a former staff with the Government Press, chips in, “We gossip, talk about everything under the sun and even have heated arguments! But everything is sorted out before we cross the gates of the Museum.” K. Gopinathan Nair, who worked in the court and Sasirajan C, who was in the Merchant Navy, agree with him.
Clear signal
Pramod tells us that now instead of the terrestrial service, satellite service is in place, pointing to a dish kept near the concealed electronic equipment, switches and control panel on the premises. “There were problems with the frequency of the terrestrial broadcast as the signals were getting disrupted. So people couldn’t hear the broadcast properly. The regular listeners took up the issue with the authorities and that’s how it was decided to switch over to satellite service. Although we usually have the AM transmission, on some days there is FM broadcasts as well,” Pradeep says. Earlier, speakers were installed at different parts of the Museum so that everybody who entered the Museum could listen to the broadcast. But apparently some of the regular visitors didn’t warm up to the idea and so they were removed.Although there aren’t any records to show when the facility was set up here, according to K. Raveendran, former director, Directorate of Museum and Zoos, it was already there when he joined in 1963 as curator of the botanical garden. “You should see the crowd that turned up to listen to the broadcast. Those days there weren’t any television or social media and radio was their favourite means of entertainment. I remember listening to several radio plays,” he says.
On AIR
The erstwhile state of Travancore was given permission to start a broadcasting station in 1937 and Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma inaugurated the Travancore Broadcasting Station in 1943. Initially there was a two-hour broadcast on Friday evenings, which was increased to four days. The station was merged with All India Radio in 1950. It was during the reign of Ayilyam Thirunal Rama Varma that the Napier Museum was built in the present form. Robert Chisholm was the architect. The Band Stand, which was designed as a special feature, was where the band of the Travancore Nair Brigade performed on all Fridays. Many years later the police band used to perform here on all Saturdays. The Band Stand has concealed speakers and special acoustics. 

Source and Credit :- http://www.thehindu.com/society/room-for-radio-at-napier-museum/article23616497.ece
Forwarded by :- Shri. Alokesh Gupta
alokeshgupta@gmail.com

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