Radio taught about peace and freed me from parochialism

Different types of radioFile photo

The image is perpetual to my consciousness. Whenever I think of the radio, I find myself lying on a reed mat, a pillow under my head, in the shade of jackfruit, guava, boroi (jujube) and a few other fruit trees. There were lines of ants and worms, all non-violent, many unknown species of weeds all around, the gentle breeze, the rustling sound of dried leaves, one or two falling on my mat and around me, and the scent of dust on a scorching summer day. Such was the ambience I did not even realise when I passed into slumber.

The radio played on and the voices of Runa Laila, Sabina Yasmin, Subir Nandi, Abdul Jabbar, and many other singers, announcers, and hundreds of jingles blended seamlessly with the environment. There was no hurry anywhere, not in nature, not in the human activities nor in music.

When someone requested the Bangladesh Betar to play ‘Ek buk jala niye bandhu tumi’ in the ‘Anurodher Asar’, the evocative brilliance of Abdul Jabbar’s voice and the lyrics made me feel, this heart-wrenching pain is of the whole nature; or ‘haire manush rongin manush, rong furailei fush’ was like – even the ants are philosophising about the temporal nature of human lives. My age was not for highbrow Rabindra Sangeet, though Nazrul Geeti sometimes had a wavy effect.

Awaking from the sleep I would find myself sometimes alone, sometimes one or two neighbours taking rest on a corner of the mat, and chitchatting or just listening to songs or the 10-minute (actually 7-8 minute) adverts of films that used to be played after 1:30 pm. There were the programmes of ‘Biggapan Taranga’. Everything was so luminous and full of newness.

Television was a rarity in our village in the 90’s. Radio was relatively more available. The high-pitched fruity voice of Abdul Alim or the modulated brilliance of Abbas Uddin was often heard from radios that were being played at neighbouring houses. Folk songs were more often played at different regional centres of Bangladesh Betar, the only channel, those days as people liked these the most. But it does not mean the audience for of “adhunik gaan” was any less. I learned a lot about patriotism through “desher gaan”. That was not the age of news but there was another programme, drama – both single episode and series. I enjoyed those, mostly played after 10:00 at night, while going to sleep listening to the dramatised sound effects. Many a day later I came across the expression “foley sounds”.

I learned from a “kathika”, a segment of everyday magazine “Mahanagar”, used to be played in the morning, the information that Guglielmo Marconi “snatched” the radio’s inventor status from Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose only because this Italian gentleman patented first. I learned that the name of a person must be patented for any inventions otherwise despite having talent you’ll lose the race in life. But the time was not to ponder about about such "petty" things.

My father said one of his uncles from the 60’s derogatively called radio a “napiter bakso (a barber’s box where he keeps his tools)”, maybe because of the similarities back then or only to mean that a radio, like a barber, “knows everything” or to mean people squander their time by listening to radio. After all he was a man from a time when people used to brag about “memorising a whole dictionary!”

Radio was the window that made me aware of the greater world beyond my locality, the state, the government, and law enforcement agencies, and things artistic and exotic. Besides the textbooks and teachers at school, radio was the first thing that helped me to attempt to be free from parochialism. Radio was the thing that evocated wild imaginations when I used to hear that “everything will be accomplished as per the constitution”. I imagined “this constitution” fellow as some kind of “gigantic horse rider” armed to its teeth and can appear at any moment at will with huge swords that have magical qualities. A social psychologist could explain the reasons of such imagination.

At my younger days people used to make radio covers which is nowhere to be found now when radio has been replaced by a smartphone app. With time, my habit of radio listening also has changed a lot. These days I listen to FM radio channels sometimes just to shut the noise of traffic or just to pass the time while waiting in endless traffic congestion on my way to office or from office. The intimate relation between me and the radio has evaporated. But maybe nothing gets lost into the thin air forever. In all my hustle and bustle for peace in this “scorching summer-like” city life, sometimes the noon peeps through the windows of my bus on the way to office or from office to home.