Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Good Old Radio

A new study has found that tuning in to the good old radio makes people happier and gives them higher energy levels than watching TV or browsing the internet. In the British study, based on a survey, radio came out top, beating both TV and online, with respondents recording a 100 percent lift in happiness and 300 percent boost to their energy levels when listening to a radio show. Radio indeed has no substitute. There's alwys a kind of nostalgia attached to a radio. 

TV and internet could be the new-age gadgets, but they cannot usurp the popularity of radio. There's a down-to earth simplicity about a radio. You can carry it anywhere, unless it's a big valve radio made by now defunct Bush and Murphy companies. In the fifties and sixties, having a big valve-radio was a luxury and a status symbol like a Lambretta scooter, that looked a dashari aam with wheels, or a Premier Padmini by Fiat. Medium and short waves were two options unlike today's FM channels.

 I remember, people used to buy 2-3 band Philips transistors and very good ones had even 5-6 bands. Transistors used to be very handy and it could be carried anywhere. English travel-writer Trevor Fishlock wrote in The Guardian in 1975 that, " Despite TV making its slow progress in Indian cities like Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay and Madras, radio still rules the rest and will continue to be preferred over TV, at least in the small towns and villages." He was right. If you tune in Vividh Bharati, you get to hear a barrage of listeners' names from cities like Chaibasa, Bhatapara, Amravati and perhaps the non-existant Jhoomritalayya, making listeners wonder whether the people of Jhoomritalayya had no other work than listen to radio programmes.

 These listeners had all the time in the world to send hand-written letters to Radio stations requesting to play the songs of their choice. Those were really fascinating days. But there're still radio listeners' clubs in small towns like Akola, Vidisha and Bhilai where radio-lovers gather and listen to their favourite songs. Cricket lovers, who get to hear (sorry, see) the glamourised cricket-commentators on TV will never know the thrill of listening to the legendary radio commentators like Bill Johnston, John Arlott, Pakistan's Umar Qureishi, Tony Cozier, among others. Their description was so vivid and electrifying that listeners felt as if they were witnessing Sir Gary Sobers execute a sublime cover drive or Sunil Gavaskar hit a neat, straight drive. 

So mesmerising was their way of describing the game. Listeners used to be glued to their radio and transistor sets. A couple of years back, I was in western Rajasthan's Sirohi district. My friend, a great radio-lover, would tune in All India Radio, Urdu Service or Radio Ceylon on 25 and 41 meter bands sleeping under the star-studded night on the roof of his huge house. He'd no interest in TV and internet in spite of having access to them. And how can one forget the charm of BBC, London and Voice of America despite CNN and a host of news channels on the idiot-box? Radio soon strikes a rapport and though you can't see the announcers and performers, you start to relate to them. This is not there on net and TV. Because nothing is left to imagination on TV and internet. So there's no mystery and mystique. A few old things can never go out of our collective consciousness. Radio is one such object, so well-entrenched in our lives.

                                         -----Sumit Paul
      
 


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