istening to Radio Kashmir Srinagar (Now AIR) “ was one of my favorite activities when I was a child. Some of the programs aired from this station were quite unique and fantastic. In the mornings before leaving for school I loved listening to the feature program “Zoona Dab1 “at 7.45 am. Even though it only lasted for 15 -20 minutes, this program was truly admirable for the way it would highlight most of the local issues. “Mama”, the writer and director of this program played the role of a servant in this feature, and in his guise of servant, he would provide excellent information in a wonderfully humorous way. Agaa sahib, Mr. Nazir and other characters in this program were equally great artists.
Radios of that era even were unique machines. One of our uncles, Mr. Rafi Ahmad, owned the best quality radio from the Zeenat company, which was, at that time, a highly reputed company. The Radio was gracefully big and was truly unique. (I write “Radio” with a capital letter to denote its importance in our lives!) It had a beautiful teak-colored outer wooden box. I guess it would have been 2 .5 feet long, 1 ft. in height and 1 .5 ft. in breadth and it must have weighed approximately 12-14 kg. The Radio was kept on a high shelf to keep it safe from children and any untoward accidents, and from this position the news would be transmitted uniformly around the room, where at least 6-8 uncles would assemble to listen to it. The radio had a built-in antenna, so there was no need to position it in a specific direction in order to catch the voice better, unlike other radios of that time. Listening to the BBC (British Broadcasting Service) Urdu service at 8.30 pm was always an important evening activity for our uncles. All of them would assemble in the great old house after dinner for this purpose. The old house was unique, and even though most of its walls were slightly wonky, peace of mind could be found there. In fact, one could say the atmosphere was one of unparalleled serenity which none of our modern houses can ever replicate. Unless something urgent had happened, nobody present would miss the BBC news, and the discussion following it.
Everyone would analyze world politics, joke, laugh, etc. Indeed, these were times of wonderful socialization; scientists now say that activities like these are an important way to prevent early dementia. The said Radio needed proper voltage for smooth functioning and any little voltage fluctuation during the BBC news would affect the quality of the sound and thus the voice of the newsreader, much to the annoyance of all the listeners in the room. Once switched on, yellow lights would light up immediately and just 4-5 minutes later a green light indicator would start blinking and finally stabilize – marking the start of the radio transmission. The evening routine was: have your dinner, finish all your work, settle down and be comfy, cozy but patient; put on the Radio, wait, and then enjoy the news and any other programs aired from it. “Pra Gaash” was another informative program. It would focus on world history. Late every Saturday evening at 9.30 pm a Kashmiri play – The Drama – would be broadcast. Of these, I remember “Sind Baad Machama”, which is one of the most famous award-winning dramas any great artist could ever produce, being aired by Radio Kashmir Srinagar.
Besides these, there used to be wonderful programs on education, health, art and literature. Indeed, Kashmir has been blessed with producing and nurturing great poets, literary figures and other visionary minds. has always nurtured the poetry of Lala Ded the mystic poet of ancient Kashmir. The central theme of her poetry has been the love of God and of humanity. In a spirit of ecstatic love of God, she is known to have said “Whatever work I did was an act of worship of God, whatever words I uttered became a prayer, and that illuminated my path to God”. There used to be regular programs about the poetry of Sheikh Noor ud Din walli another sofi saint of great imminence in Kashmir. One of his most famous and often quoted couplets is “Ann poshi teli yeli wann poshi” meaning Food will last as long as forests last, how concise and scientific saying centuries ago. The great inspirational teachings of these saints illuminate the heart. These saints believed that we are all precious creations of the Almighty and that service to humanity, irrespective of cast, color or creed is the way to the understanding of God and ultimate salvation.
It was the month of October and we were all completely absorbed in the great folk tale Akanandun which was in the process of being broadcast from radio Kashmir. Its climax had arrived, when the saint returned after 12 years, demanding the return of their son. The distraught parents of the child had kneeled down in front of the saint and imploring him to save their son. Mr. Ghulam Mohammad dar was singing “Fulfill your promise! The saint was commanding the couple” in his melodious voice. Suddenly, the weather outside became windy, thunder rumbled and the quality of his voice deteriorated. The Radio was very sensitive to climatic changes. The windy weather disturbed the quality of a broadcast, and it was certainly advisable to switch The Radio off should there be lightning and thunder. Thus the broadcast of the great folk tale, Akanandun (The Only Son), the outstanding blend of art and mysticism of Samad Mir (1894-1959) was summarily ended and reluctantly we switched off The Radio. I remember everyone in the room was very sorry about this state of affairs. The weather settled finally but, for us listeners, the tale had ended. The love of a mother for her child was the central universal theme of this folk tale, and it was a very emotive story. I often saw my mother getting quite emotional when it was broadcast. What a unique way of bringing truth to societies the radio was; this tale was seen as a symbol of communal harmony Kashmiriyat (centuries-old indigenous secularism of Kashmir, characterized by religious and cultural harmony, patriotism and pride for their mountainous homeland of Kashmir) in the region.
Way back in the 18th century when John Keats was composing melancholy poems in memory of his goddess of love Fenny Browne, “Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, or new Love pine at them beyond tomorrow”, the Kashmiri poet Rasoul Mir was shedding tears in memory of his beloved Poosh Maal and composed “faces that are lovely don’t keep their faiths, how long will Rasoul Mir bear amorous tranny”. The melodious voices of Kashmiri singers aired from Radio Kashmir unraveled the similarities between the two iconic poets, and Rasoul Mir from Duru Shahabad of Anantnag became known as the John Keats of Kashmir. His popular songs echo in the lush green fields of Kashmir during paddy harvesting, marriages, etc. Love of humanity has been the hallmark of these great people. “In darkness, the pearl seller told me the straight truth, the real pearls lie hidden in a stone (Kashmiri Anigatte Vaninam Nanne Kathai aem Laal faroshan, Kani Manz Neraan Jawharai Baal Maraayo), another great lyric sung by Shameema Dev, was often aired by Radio Kashmir. Of the modern poets, the poet par excellence has been Rasa Javedani from district Baderwah5 who through his poetry has spread a message of love and communal harmony. He has been described as poet of humanity. His verses compiled in “Kulyati-Rasa”. are in Urdu as well as in Kashmiri. His Kashmiri verses became popular in the valley when they were sung by Ghulam Nabi Doolwal, from Kistawar6, Raj Begum and Sufi Ghulam Hassan. One would greatly enjoy listening to The Radio from morning to night as a variety of very informative programs were aired from this station, in particular the poetry of these great saints – it used to be literally living with The Radio.
Years back, one day, the Football World Cup final match was on, and all of us had assembled to listen to the commentary from The Radio. As the commentator was saying, “Ball goes to A, he made a short pass to B and the ball has reached D and …. While listening, one of my cousins suddenly kicked involuntarily, as he was so absorbed in the match that he felt himself there, and he had to avail himself of the opportunity to score the goal, as if he was one of the players actually competing in the game. For days afterwards, we were all amused at this big joke. One day The Radio suddenly stopped and smoke started to come out through its side holes. We immediately summoned a local radio mechanic to examine it. “Give me your hand,” he said, and he guided my hand over the wooden top of the radio. It felt hot to me. He then opened the back of The Radio and a lot of smoke smelling of burning plastic came pouring out of it. The Radio had overheated, and had consequently stopped functioning. “Why don’t you take care of this precious machine?” he asked us with knitted eye brows, lowering his glasses and startling all of us present in the room. He then explained “The Radio heats up after a few hours’ continuous use and then needs to be switched off. The sides should be kept free to allow for an adequate flow of air so that the heat produced during a broadcast would not affect its inside wires, etc. etc. …” He advised many precautionary measures to all persons present in the room. “Well, get it to my showroom tomorrow and if there is no electric shut down, it will be ready four days after, since there is a lot of work still pending in the shop,” the radio mechanic said. Next day, I remember seeing two people carrying it very carefully from the shelf to his shop. After four days The Radio was brought back from his shop, and finally placed back on its own shelf. The whole operation was carried out in a very meticulous manner.
Listening to broadcasts was later timed carefully in order to avoid any further damage to the precious machine. As I recall, there were many instructions for its use, which had to be followed meticulously before one could safely use it. In nutshell, I feel the designer should have thought of a refresher course for listeners, followed by a brief multiple choice examination (MCQs) and then provided the license “Fit to use this Radio”. That would have safeguarded it from anything untoward during its use! Oh! I forgot to mention that The Radio had an inter-calm as an additional facility, which was too amazing. Friends: The Radio era was great and in those days in most homes the radio was not just any old machine, but an esteemed family member!
“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living,
and your belief will help create the fact.”
– William James
Author is a MD. DM (Gastroenterology) FACP, FACG Consultant Gastroenterologist & Associate Professor at Yenepoya University, Mangalore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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