Celebrating the Voice of a Generation: Happy 80th Birthday, AIR!
Paying tribute to All India Radio, and the announcements that changed the course of history.
All India Radio has a special place in my parents’ hearts, especially my mother’s. She is a connoisseur of old hindi music and her preferences matched AIR’s playlist perfectly.
Reminiscing the days when radio and books were her primary sources of entertainment, she’s told me how she waited longingly for Ameen Sayani’s ‘Binaca Geet Mala’ every Wednesday, despite my grandfather’s protests. It was unsavoury for children to pollute their minds with filmi music, he would say.
Paying little heed to his admonishments, my mother would hide her pocket-sized transistor in her warm blanket and hum to the tunes of Shankar Jaykishan, RD Burman, Kishore Kumar, and Lakshmikant-Pyarelal.
With the advent of television, she graduated to watching the songs on screen but harboured a desire to listen to each first before watching it.
“My visualisation of a song was almost always better than what the directors portrayed. The excessive glitter and dance would rob the sanctity of the song,” she says.
For my father on the other hand, cricket was best understood when heard on radio.
“Listening to Kapil Dev lift the World Cup on the radio was more evocative than watching it on television,” he opines.
My father remembers that after years of hearing it described on the radio, in his mind’s eye, the legendary Lords Stadium was grander than it actually was.
It was a game that we played among friends too – whose imagination was the closest to reality – it was a wonderful exercise.
The evening bulletin was a daily family ritual. After dinner, both my parents’ families would sit down around the TV-like transistor to listen to the headlines. It was a little family reunion, which was almost always followed by a power failure.
Radio broadcasts out of the blue were cause for anxiety, recounts my father. If there was an early broadcast on a given day, more often than not, it meant trouble.
He vividly remembers Indira Gandhi’s assassination announcement.
“AIR withheld the announcement for the longest time. BBC announced it, but we were yet to confirm,” he recalls.
AIR was reflective of the collective consciousness of a generation. As a birthday present to our broadcaster, here’s a collection of some of its announcements that changed the course of history.
Nehru’s speech after Mahatma Gandhi’s demise
Mohammad Ali Jinnah announcing the partition of India and Pakistan
Subhash Chandra Bose’s inspirational speech before India gained independence
India’s last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten’s address on August 15, 1947
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