I was probably in five or sixth standard when I made an unusual request to my father.
I asked him to gift me a radio, a black portable one, the trendy thing in those days. It was prior to the advent of ‘fm’ channels which popularised the radio for some reason before that popularity died down considerably , probably being defeated by internet and smart phones.
It was one evening of winter, my dad brought home the radio. I was overjoyed to say the least. It became my constant companion for the next few years. Being an avid quizzard and lover of western music, the radio opened avenues of entertainment for me.
I remember listening to ‘musical bandbox’ and the famous ‘ Bournvita Quiz’ in the afternoons.
On Saturdays there would be some mind-boggling radio plays , the detective stories and adventurous ones.
Late in the evening when father would reach home from office and mother would scrape her time out of household chores, the radio would be switched on.
This time radio plays were heard which were suitable for them.
I had to sit in a separate room at that time and was made to do my home assignments given from school. Still my eager ears tried to get the voices heard in the radio, as if it was my way of trespassing into an area forbidden to children.
But the most significant thing which made radio a matter of great possession for us was the live broadcast of sports events. Be it cricket or football, we would be clinging to the radio and would carry it from one room to another.
Another thing which was so special about radio was a morning programme called ‘ pratyohiki’ which my father listened to with almost religious regularity. I also listened to it waking up. It became a ritual for me, following my father’s ways.
There had been (and perhaps still now) the day when radio became the most sought after thing.
‘Mahalaya’ had been the day. The day when pitripakshya would end and Devi pakhshya would begin.
The whole neighbourhood would be tuning in to radio, right at the dawn, listening to ‘ Mahishashur mardini’ as presented by the legendary Birendra Kishore Bhadra, as ‘Mahalaya’ would mark the beginning of Durga Puja festivities.
Later when I went to study at a residential college, I was pleasantly surprised seeing small china made pocket radios very popular among fellow hostel mates. In those days they were our principal source of recreations. We listened to radios in our leisure and even till midnight. In our moments of pre exam blues we would listen to radio. Post exam revelry also involved radio which blared Hindi and Bengali pop songs.
Later with the arrival of ‘ fm’ channels , radio suddenly became the talk of the town with new channels getting into air almost everyday. Every taxi and auto driver started playing ‘fm’. Every roadside tea stall and pan shop played radios. As if radios had suddenly got a new lease of life.
A phoenix was born.
Btw, today is World Radio Day.