Squadron Leader Anil Sehgal
Let me take you back to the last four decades of the last century. Those were the times radio waves dominated the world of knowledge, information and entertainment.
It was considered a privilege and an honour to broadcast from the portals of the state owned radio. It brought to you great fame and recognition, besides a honorable amount of money. This was more noticeable in a small city like Jammu. Broadcasters were local celebrities with definite fan following.
Today, in the current era of television and internet boom, and the instant gratification by social media, it is difficult, or shall I say impossible, to even comprehend the dimensions of name, fame and star status the broadcasting fraternity enjoyed in olden days.
My earliest memories of listening to the All India Radio are from my student days in Meerut where my father was posted. We used to stay in Topkhana Bazar, Kothi No 1. We would wake up with the All India Radio playing its legendary signature tune in the morning broadcast.
I recall the afternoons that were spent listening to the radio as we changed out of the school uniform and enjoyed the afternoon snacks at home.
These hours were followed by early evenings when we returned from the playgrounds, and went around the home attending to various chores and simultaneously listening to the songs coming from the radio broadcasts.
These were the songs that were in current vogue, mainly from the popular Hindi movies running in the theatres. Those days we youngsters were not fond of the classical music or the news, which were enjoyed by the elders in the family. By and large that was the routine in all houses my friends came from.
I vividly recall songs of Mukesh that I used to enjoy during my schooling at Meerut. I recall the songs from films like Chhalia, Kanhaiya, and Asli Naqli.
In our school functions, a senior named Harish Vakil would invariably regale us with popular songs. He had a very melodious voice.
I particularly used to like his rendition of a song from the film Dil Bhi Tera, Hum Bhi Tere that goes like this: Mujhko Is Raat Ki Tanhaai Mein Awaaz Na Do / Jiski Awaz Rula De Mujhe Who Saaz Na Do//
Whenever & wherever I heard this song, I was mesmerised. Even today, it is one of my favorite songs from the Hindi movies. As I hear this song on the Vividh Bharati service of All India Radio, I am transported back to my younger days at Meerut.
As students we were great fans of the game of cricket and listening to the running commentary of the test matches on the radio was a real treat.
Many a time, we would miss the school, on one pretext or the other, and stay back at home so that we could enjoy the live cricket commentary without any distraction or interruption !! We used to be glued to the radio and ball-by-ball commentary coming from the radio was nothing short of the sacred chants in a temple.
All the friends would religiously gather around the radio and with rapt attention we all will try to make out what was being belted out by the commentators.
Those were the days of leisure. In markets too, you will find the radio loudly playing the cricket commentary and many customers will gather at a corner paan shop or a wayside tea stall to catch up with the latest score.
This practice of listening to the radio commentary was later centred around the transistors that could easliy be carried around with you anywhere you roamed about. : on your bicycles, scooters or in the car, bus, train or the cycle rickshaw !
The radios were heavy and big in size, and these could not be carried with you as you travelled. Moreover, it played on electricity.
Therefore, arrival of the transistors was nothing short of a technological revolution. It gave us the great convenience. It could be carried with you wherever you went, and you did not require electricity to play it. It played on battery cells. It is almost impossible to appreciate this great convenience in the modern times where at the click of a button on your smartphone you can have a video call with a friend thousands of kilometres away.
Transistors enjoyed celebrity status because in the world of information and entertainment, radio was the king.
Can you imagine that we needed a ration card to book a transistor for a princely sum of ninety nine rupees in Jammu & Kashmir in the year 1968 !! And mind you, it was a fashion statement to carry a transistor in your hands or hanging it from the handlebars of your bicycle !!
Radio and transistors required a license to own and run them. These licenses were given by the government for an annually payable fee.
I remember back in the sixties going to the post office located in the Leader Press, Allahabad to renew our radio license for a princely fee of seven rupees and fifty paisa for one year !
This license permitted us unhindered use of the radio. We could tune in to any station from anywhere in the world that our radio was capable of catching, twenty-four hours a day and all the three sixty five days in a year !! The cost was simply two paisa per day !! The fee was later revised to fifteen rupees.
I was back in Jammu after completing my High School in Allahabad. I was fourteen and bubbling with energy, enthusiasm and dreams. I wanted to explore the numerous possibilities that lay before me.
I had great passion for the performing arts. I began devoting less time to cricket and started participating in debates and dramas. But the most popular and enticing possibility was provided by the radio.
Those days, radio announcers, speakers and the radio drama artists were the local heroes. They were popular in the city and were recognised with respect as they came across us in the streets. They enjoyed a celebrity status and we were all envious of them !!
Soon, I found my way into the radio and started broadcasting wherever I could fit myself. But the real breakthrough came my way when I got through the drama audition in the very first attempt. That gave me lots of confidence and I started participating in various discussions, debates, and the radio plays.
I was a lover of the books and fond of writing. So, when I got a chance to give a talk on the radio, I grabbed the opportunity and never looked back. In fact, except singing, I have done everything on the radio; even produced features.
In those days, there were no computers, no internet and no concept of googling to gather information. Books and scholars were the only sources.
Giving the radio talks and discussions requires thorough preparations. So, it made me read more and also to interact with persons who had knowledge and intelligence on a particular subject. These habits benefitted me to great extent in other spheres of life.
Radio has been a great teacher to me. Besides books, I have learnt the most from the radio. My exposure to Indian classical music is a gift from the All India Radio. So is my learning of immaculate Urdu language.
I religiously tuned in to the interviews that were broadcast from the Urdu Service of All India Radio. Especially, I enjoyed the interviews conducted by K K Nayyar.
The felicity with which K K Nayyar would conduct the interview was always fascinating to me. I learnt the great art of interviewing by listening to his interviews that ran up to one hour in time. Later, I met him in person, made friends wih him and enjoyed his love and blessings.
Towards his last years in the mortal world, his family had organised an evening of ghazals written by him. The occasion was his birthday. I had the pleasure and honour to put together this special musical programme in Lucknow.I spoke from the stage as an anchor as the great K K Nayyar himself sat in the auditorium !
Similarly, I learnt about the various raagas of the Indian classical music by listening to the late night broadcast of All India Radio.
I used to put on the radio and study late into the nights. Radio never distracted us. In fact, it worked as a stimulant. Even today, I put the music on and keep doing my daily chores at home with great ease. The fact is that I did all my studies listening to my favourite programmes on the All India Radio !!
The television disturbs you, it dsitracts you ; but not the radio. The television makes you a couch potato as you sit glued to the tv screen and stop moving around. But, that is not the case with radio.
You just switch on the radio and you can easily continue doing what pleases you. You can go around the house arranging the flowers or cook delicious food in the kitchen or run on the treadmill or continue reading your favourite author in a cosy place. That is the magic of the radio.
Television restricts your visualization. It restricts your imagination. But, the radio gives you the freedom to imagine and travel all over the universe in your imagination.
For example, if you are watching a cricket match on the television, you see only that what is shown to you. Nothing less and nothing more. But, if you are listening to the commentary of the same cricket match, you start imagining about the game, the players, the atmosphere in the stadium and also recall your personal experiences as you listen to the commentary being relayed on your radio sets. You are free to visualize as you please. And this is a great blessing, if you care to understand.
My wife is a radio artiste. Her association with the radio started when she was just eight years old. Today, she enjoys the coveted status of being the TOP Graded artiste of All India Radio.
Seema Anil Sehgal, my better half, credits her great success to the opportunities that came across her by way of recording for the radio in their studios and also by performing live for the radio concerts before the invited audience, all across the length and breadth of the country.
She is a grateful singer and composer and never refuses an invitation from the All India Radio to perform even if it means losing out on more lucrative singing assignments. That is the respect she holds for the All India Radio.
Let us remember and understand that, after the Independence, it is the All India Radio that has kept the Indian classical music alive and kicking through her various broadcasts and numerous live concerts all around the country during the past about seven decades.
I am a grateful listener of All India Radio. To me, the All India Radio is a great teacher of art, culture and music.
A privately owned company called Indian Broadcasting Company Ltd ( IBC ) started the first radio station of undivided India at Mumbai, on 23 July 1927. The IBC was later acquired by the government of India and rechristened first as All India Radio & later as Akashvani.
As All India Radio celebrates 96 years of its glorious service to the nation, I celebrate the diamond jubilee of my uninterrupted association with the radio. This is an affair that I celebrate with much love. And, with gratitude.
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