Radio Blues

Over the years cellphones have committed virtual genocide.

A snap list of victims would include (alphabetically) address books, airline tickets, alarm clocks, barcode scanners, board games, books, business cards, cable tv, calculators, calendars, camcorders, cameras, compasses, credit cards, ebook readers, flashlights, GPS devices, landline phones, laptops, measurement devices (light meters, measuring tapes, thermostats, timers), movie theatres, newspapers, notepads, paper money, photo albums, physical maps, portable gaming devices, portable music and video players, radios, remote controllers, scanners, sketchpads, snail mail, usb thumbdrives, voice recorders, walkie talkies, webcams, wired internet and wristwatches.

Most of these may die unsung but I feel a twinge of sadness for radio.

I’d sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights
… Radio, what’s new?
Radio, someone still loves you*

I read somewhere that the first radio available to the public in Kashmir was a Sky Champion set manufactured by the Hallicrafters Company in Chicago, USA and marketed by Lyra & Co in Lal Chowk.

I was unable to confirm that these radios were actually war surplus receivers with the transmitter removed but the original advertisement is quite suggestive.

Apparently in those days a licence was needed to own a radio set with annual stamps required from the post office!

In the seventies I grew up listening to a relentless barrage of Hindi songs on a leather-covered Philips Commander transistor belonging to the retainer/dastango mentioned in an earlier post. Even today I try to impress my kids (as if !) by identifying old Hindi hits just from the song intro.

In the eighties I managed to get my hands on a Trans-Oceanic transistor radio that had belonged to my father. The superbly-crafted Zenith Trans-Oceanic Royal 1000 has been described as the ‘royalty of radios.’ IMHO, the ‘Rolls Royce of radios‘ would be an equally apt description.

Upon turning a knob the whole dial cylinder would cycle between bands with a soul-satisfying thunk – the effect was akin to James Bond revolving the number plates on his Aston-Martin. The superb reception and separation of channels in the Trans-Oceanic opened up the joys of shortwave surfing. I became a DXer tuning into the BBC World Service, Radio Deutsche Welle, Voice of America (Billboard charts!) et al while keeping my connection to Hindi oldies alive with Chaya Geet and Binaca/Cibaca Geet Mala on Radio Ceylon.

Radio almost faded to extinction in the nineties and the naughts till the FM revival. I did attempt sporadic shortwave surfing on the ubiquitous Sony digital radios (de rigueur for any one with a relative in the Middle East) but the experience was never the same. I exchanged mine for an iPod which was swiftly rendered obsolete by the iPhone 🙁

Radio/Transistor sets may be history but fortunately FM (and USB drives) saved one gadget from oblivion – the car FM radio. In Kashmir thousands are tuning into the plethora of new FM Radio channels (and annoying RJ’s) on their morning drives. Future generations are thankfully no longer in danger of missing out on the joy of a favourite song playing unexpectedly on the radio – as opposed to the ho-hum availability of the MP3 on one’s hard drive.

You had your time, you had the power
You’ve yet to have your finest hour

*Queen – Radio Ga Ga