Vividh Bharati – An indispensable part of my life

I was introduced to radio in Bhutan. I spent the first few years of my life there. Television broadcasting was banned in Bhutan in the 80′s and 90′s. And my parents used to often tune in to radio to listen to news. But that’s all I knew – news and few Nepali songs that used to be played on AIR.

Then we moved to Nepal and there was a time when I used to listen to Nepal’s national radio a little, in the early 90′s. I started tuning in to Vividh Bharati in 1995 but there was only one program that I would listen to then – Chitralok. Though I didn’t know Hindi, I still used to listen to it. Hindi songs and movies were very popular in the region I grew up in. But I wasn’t into movies/music myself then, I would hardly watch TV and till I was 12, I must have seen around 10 movies (both Nepali and Hindi put together). And then I got hooked to Chandrakanta and slowly started understanding Hindi a little.
 
I changed my school when I was in 8th standard. And our Maths teacher was a big Kishore Kumar fan. He used to keep singing Kishore Da’s songs every now and then. Most of my classmates used to sing along but I didn’t know the lyrics so used to stay queit and used to feel left out. I was ashamed of myself because I had grown up listening to those songs, and yet I didn’t know them. It was then that I started listening to my Dad’s collection and writing down the lyrics of all those songs. Though I didn’t understand what most of them meant, I at least knew the words and I could sing along with the rest in class.

Then one Friday night, my Dad made me watch AmarPrem on Doordarshan and my life’s never been the same again. I got addicted to the world of Hindi Cinema and music. I started watching Rangoli and Chitrahaar with Dad. And because I had started watching movies and musci programs, when I would hear a song, it started sounding familiar. I could relate more to it. I slowly started understanding them better and eventually fell in love with them.

A year later, one of our cousins came to live with us. He had a small transistor and he would carry it with him whereever he went and he used to listen to Vividh Bharati a lot.
It was then that I started listening to other programs on radio. We had a cow at home then and we (my cousin and me) used go to the feilds to cut grass in the afternoons (1:15-1:30 PM), during my school vacations, on his bi-cycle. He would hang the transistor on the cycle’s handle, tune in to Vividh Bharati and then sing along all way. Once we reached the fields, he would first find a place to put the radio and then get to work.
And sometimes, in the night we would listen to chhaya geet. But I would still be seen with a casette player more.  The cassette player would be in kitchen, lawn, backyard. No matter which part of the house I am in, it would be around me (we had extension cords of all lengths).

Then in June 1999, I left home. I went to Vijayawada and was in hostel – a new place, new language. Everything was so different. My roommate had a small transistor (the same model that my cousin had back home) but she was not into Hindi songs. She tried searching for stations that would play something in Nepali but when she couldn’t find any, she kind of discarded it and that’s how it came to me.

And then when I tuned in to Vividh Bharati and heard the RJs talk, listened to the songs it never felt like I had left home and I was in a new land. Music and Vividh Bharati instantly became a connecting factor – when I would listen to Rafi, Kishore, Lata, Asha, Talat, Mukesh (and many more, in fact everybody else), it felt like I was back home. And before I realized, radio became an indispensible part of my life. It won’t be an exaggeration if I say I’ve never ever felt alone after that.

I  usually used to listen to the programs on radio in the morning – Bhoole Bisre Geet, Sangeet Sarita, Triveni and then leave for college. Tune into Manchahe Geet sometimes during lunch break or during free hours in college. Listen to Pitara at 4:00 clock when our special classes would get cancelled. Then a part of Jaimala in the evening and then the programs in the night – from 9 to 11.
I used to have the radio on during study hours. We were not allowed to sit on our beds during study hours, had to use chair and table. I used to have the volume so low and would have my head (ears) literally on the radio and would do my homework with my head bent on the table (over the radio) or used to have ear-phones. I had to leave my hair open to cover both my ears so that the warden wouldn’t notice it when she would come on rounds.

I studied in a missionary college. And our hostel had so many rules and one of them was putting the lights off at 10:00 PM. Listening to programs (esp Chhaya Geet) after the lights were out – staring at the sky from the window (through the mosquito net) felt heavenly. I still remember listening ‘Yeh dil aur unki nigahon ke saaye’, ‘Taaron ki zubaan par hai mohabbat ki kahani’, ‘Aap ki haseen rukh par aaj naya noor hai’, ‘Chup hai dharti chup hai chaand sitaare’, ‘O chaand jahan woh jaaye’, ‘Mujhe dard-e-dil ka pata na tha’, ‘Dil unko uthake de diya’, ‘Palkon ke peeche se jo tumne keh daala’  etc. for the first time. ‘Kali palak teri gori’ reminds me of Sanjay Manjrekar even today, because it was during his interview that I had heard it for the first time.

In 1999, there used to be a special program for Fauji Bhai at 10:30 (if I’m not mistaken) in the night, that was during the Kargil war. And listening to their messages, I would miss home so much I would silently weep. And then they would play such lovely songs and I would end up smiling the very next moment.
I still remember listening to Bheegi Raat’s story on Bioscope ki Baatein one Friday evening. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I know the movie, remember the story even today.

Then I ended up in Secunderabad for my graduation. And this time I took a transistor of my own when I went to hostel. It was a missionary college again and we still had similar rules.
By then I knew all the programs on Vividh Bharati and the RJs had become like a family to me. In addition to just the songs, listening to Kamal Sharma, Renu Bansal, Yunus Khan, Nimmi Mishra, Mamta Singh, Amarkanth, Rajendra etc would make me feel happy.

I used to religiously listen to programs in the morning (06:30 to 08:00) and after 9:00 in the night (09:00 to 11:00), and the whole day on weekends and holidays. I didn’t know anybody there, didn’t have local guardians. So I would stay back in hostel on long weekends and holidays when everybody else would go home.
We had huge stone slabs and water taps in the backyard in hostel and we could use them to wash clothes. I usually used to do my laundry there on Sunday afternoons, with the radio on, of course. Slowly my friends started joining me and we used to have a musical session washing clothes. Good old days!

I used to have the radio on during study hours even here, it kind of became a habit. And our warden was so used to seeing the radio on my study table with it’s antenna up that she woudn’t even bother to come to the room and check if it was on. And I had a song book by then. Close to 6 hours of study time everyday (apart from college hours) was a little too much. So, I would sit and write down the lyrics of the songs playing on radio instead. But I would miss out so many words in between, used to leave blank spaces and continue. And next time that song would come on radio (after a week, a month or months together), I would search for the page where I’d written the song and then fill in the blanks. It was such a good timepass. Didn’t have an option of rewinding and listening to it, so had to wait till it came again.
(Note : It’s not that I never studied during my college days, I did when I had to.)

Another bioscope incident that I remember is listening to Khamoshi’s story. And I just went numb and had tears streaming down my cheeks when the program got over. I had heard the songs, even seen their picturization (Tum pukar lo and Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thi) but had not seen the movie. I just fell in love with it’s story.
During summer holidays one year, I was home and was just switching channels. I saw one scene at the hospital and figured out it was Khamoshi. I stopped everything I was doing and sat down to watch the movie. Thankfully only dad was home that evening and he was ok with having late dinner, and that too because of Kaka and Waheeda (he would never mind that). We both watched the movie together and it’s one of my favourite movies till date.

After I finished college I started working and one thing I would miss the most in office was listening to radio. The surprise element is what I like the most about listening to songs on radio, not knowing what the next song is going to be. And the familiarity too – be it the program structure, content, presentation or the RJs’ voice. It was no fun searching for a song and listening to it on raaga, youtube or musicindiaonline.

One day I discovered an online radio station called bollywoodondemand.com. That site had some good programs but they closed down after a year or so.

I would still listen to radio at home or on my cell (fm at 102.8) in the cab/bus but I used to miss it at work (used to spend 10-12 hours a day in office). And then one fine day a friend sent me the link to voicevibes.net. I can never express in words how grateful I am for it. Though my Managers and co-workers initially found it weird that I would play music at work, over a period of time they came to accept the fact that I concentrate better with it and didn’t mind me sitting in office tuned to vividh bharati with my ear phones on.

In 2011-2012, I used to work during EST hours and work from home most of the time. Once all the meetings were done, I would put the radio on and work. We used to live in the out-skirts and evenings/nights were cool and breezy. I used to leave the front door open. April (our dog) would sit by the door and give me company. We would listen to radio till wee hours of the morning and then go to sleep.

I’ve been travelling quite a lot especially in the last couple of years – have been to different countries on different projects, working with different people but one thing that has remained constant is Vividh Bharati.
I was in Doha on a project. We were around 20 of us in that project and we were allotted one room to sit and work in, it was called the project room. Once I reached office, I would open voicevibes.net, plug my earphones and start work. Everybody else in the room would speak in Tamil most of the time. One day my project manager who used to sit next to me said – “We all speak in Tamil most of the time. We’ve had resources complaining about it in the past. If you have any problem, do let us know, we will try to speak in English”
I replied : “I have no problem, as long as you tell me what I need to know about the project and we have our meetings in English. Rest of the time you can carry on, doesn’t matter to me.” I put my earphones back and resumed my work.
Looking back I seriously feel if I had stayed on that project a little longer I would definitely have ended up learning a little bit of Tamil.

When I joined my office in Boston, I used to get strange looks because I would sit in my cubicle with ear-phones/headphones on. But since there were no major issues/escalations in my track, which meant I was doing my job well, nobody said anything about it, at least not to me.
 
Vividh Bharati was not available online for around 4 months last year (from August to December) and I almost went mad. I used to listen to AIR FM Gold, Radio City and Tunein, and they do play great songs but for me Vividh Bharati is the definition of radio. The day I got a message from Yunus ji, saying voicevibes.net is working, was one of the best days of my life.

Unfortunately in my current company external sites are blocked and I’ve already exhausted the data plan I had on my phone listening to radio online for the last 3 weeks. So, I’ve been VB-less for the last couple of days at work.

I’m in a new and a different time zone again and am still getting used to it. I wake up at 6:00 AM and it’s 09:30 PM in India. The first thing I do in the morning is to put the radio on. I listen to Aaj ke Funkaar, Chhaya Geet and a part of Aap Ki Farmaish before I leave home at 07:15 in the morning. And then I tune in the first thing I get back home and continue from previous day’s pitara till Manchahe Geet and then go to sleep. I’m still getting used to the new programs being aired in the night – SMS ke Bahane, Raat Ke HumSafar, Non-stop Express and Jaagte Raho. I miss the old format where they would repeat the programs in the night. That way I could catch up on what I had missed during the day and those programs were familiar to me.

But no complaints. No matter where I am, what I’m doing, I have Vividh Bharati playing in the background most of the time. The sound of “Yeh hai Vividh Bharati” makes me feel at home.  When I call home, we usually have the same songs playing in the background and and it feels so wonderful. My Dad’s tuned in to Vividh Bharati too and sometimes we just end up talking about the song that’s playing and Mom goes crazy.

It’s not loud and noisy and I like that the best. The programs are informative, interactive and entertaining. It has a balanced blend of everything – old and new songs, programs on health awareness, social issues, current affairs etc. The way it’s programs are structured and the time at which they are presented, it’s very evident that there’s been a lot of planning and a lot of thought’s been put into it.
It’s my one-stop destination for all those small things in life that keep me happy. It keeps me connected to my roots, reminds me of festivals and never lets me feel I’m so far away from home, from my family. It takes me away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and soothes my senses. It keeps me calm and balanced and cheers me up. A good song is all I need to remain happy no matter how my day’s been going and Vividh Bharati never disappoints me when it comes to that.

Vividh Bharati has been by my side for the last 14 years and I can’t imagine how my life would have been without it. In short, I love Vividh Bharati! Wish you a very Happy Birthday! And I sincerely hope and pray that you continue to entertain your audience the way you’ve been doing all these years.

A big thank you to each and every member involved in making Vividh Bharati what it is and to Raj to making it accessible to those living outside India. My life wouldn’t be the same without it! :-)

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15 Responses to “Vividh Bharati – An indispensable part of my life”

  1. thandapani Says:

    This is lovely. I miss our song listening session you-know-where. ;)

    There is something about radio. I miss it a lot. When I was younger I used to listen to the radio like you did. Ear glued to the speaker and lights out.

    During school-time, I HAD to have the radio on. After Vividh Bharti went off air, we had BBC. I remember the momentous day when ZA Bhutto was hanged and I listened to the news almost live on BBC. My uncle came in just then (early hours of the morning) and I told him about it.

    Now I don’t listen to it as much as I used to. :( I should get back into the habit.

    LOvely lovely post!

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      I miss those sessions too. It adds to the fun when all of us, scattered across the world, listen to the same program and then discuss the songs being played. May be we should schedule sessions on weekends once you get back home.

      I’m so glad to hear that! Thank god I’m not the only one with ears glued to the speaker. At times I wonder if I’m obsessed ;-)

      That was some memory. Radios used to be very informative. Honestly, even today, I prefer listening to that 5-10 mins news on radio everyday to watching all those news channels.

  2. harveypam Says:

    Loved every moment of reading this post! I could see in front of my eyes, how you work while having the headphones on. The way you and your Dad must have sat in front of the TV watching Khamoshi. Very vivid writing, with which I could connect right away.

    VB also played a big role in my life. Since we didn’t have TV at home when I was small, it was VB which we listened to most often, Mum would listen to Bombay B and Dad to Bombay A. Bombay B had Marathi programme and Bombay A was English mostly. VB was for us children. And even after TV came it was still VB which provided the most entertainment, it was source of information on Hindi films, where many film personalities would present their fav songs on Fauji Bhai. Film synopses would be offered, new films would be introduced. So one would know a lot about the newly released Hindi films, without even watching them. Ours was not a cinema-going family so the above fact was useful for us to discuss the new Hindi films with friends and cousins.
    Just like you, I think I might have watched at the most ten or twelve films in a cinema hall till I was fifteen.

    Nowadays I hardly listen to VB except in the forum. In fact I hardly lsiten to music when I’m alone.

    thanks for taking us on this nostalgic trip. Enjoyed it a lot.

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      Thank you, Harvey! Truly said, VB was, and for me it still is the source of information on Hindi films and songs.
      For me it’s the other way round, I feel alone when I don’t listen to music.I have to have music playing. I feel so incomplete without it and just can’t concentrate on anything.

  3. Raj Says:

    Great writing. Very nice, personal, and a lovely description of your passion for film songs. I am a film buff myself and have grown up with Vividh Bharathi. I don’t listen to it nowadays, but your post has awakened in me a desire to tune into these songs. Of late, I have been listening to songs on TV. Though it is with video, it has the same unpredictability of radio.

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      Thank you for dropping by, Raj!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. You can listen to it online at voicevibes.net

      Because I used to work during EST hours, I used to watch songs on B4U Music, Sony PIX and couple of more other channels late in the night when I was in India, but I personally found them repetitive and distracting too. When there’s a video playing, it’s kind of hard not to look at them and concentrate on work ;-)
      So I switched back to radio :-)

  4. raja Says:

    What a beautiful post,!!!

    Clearly it comes straight from the heart – and is a wonderful tribute to an institution that hardly ever gets mentioned anymore in the hubris that is today’s world, especially of music.

    The entire ecosystem of Vividh Bharti is SO different from that of other radio channels. Like you say, it’s far less noisy. And it’s not about marketing or trying to appear yuppy or hep.

    I enjoyed reading every word of this post – and, like harvey above, could picturise you all the way through your experiences cited above. :-) Clearly, radio for you has been a constant factor through all the changes in your life.

    Vividh Bharti was a part of my growing up years too – I remember many of its programmes of the 70s/early 80s. Jai Mala in particular was a feature – also, with its Vishesh Jai Mala. I remember the Sunil Gavaskar episode – his favourite song was (still is) “chand si mehbooba ho meri”.

    When I left home for the first time in 1981 and went to the big, bad city of Delhi, it was Vividh Bharti’s reassuring presence that made me miss home just that little bit less. I fondly remember many of the movie promos of the time – Love Story, Kaalia, Desh Premee, Hathkadi, Nikaah, Painter Babu, Dhanwan, Dard etc.And the usual programmes – Jai Mala, Hawa Mahal, Santogen Ki Mehfil (a comedy show, full of PJs – so right up my alley! ;-) ).

    I don’t remember the names of the presenters anymore except for Kanta Gupta, who used to present Chhaya Geet at 10.00 at night. She used to read out lovely letters from people giving her farmaishes.

    My memory is fast fading (am growing old!) but this lovely post has brought back lots of memories.

    Thank you so much!

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      Thank you so much!

      I don’t think I’ve ever listened to Santogen ki Mehfil. PJs sound very tempting.

      It was VB’s anniversary and Yunus ji asked on FB page what VB meant to us. That triggered so many memories that I ended up doing this post.
      I don’t think I can ever explain in words what VB means to me. In a place where I knew noone, VB was the only medium that kept me connected to the only world I knew. And that holds good even today. No wonder it’s such a favourite! :-)

  5. Shalini Says:

    Really enjoyed reading this.
    Brought back lots of lovely memories, especially from hostel days when I had a little Philips transistor which I used to put under my pillow after lights out to listen to Vividh Bharti :-)
    Vividh Bharti was a part of life we took for granted. There was no question of the radio not being on at home as we got ready for school / college and in later years for work. And I miss it a lot now as I don’t get to listen to it enough.
    Thank you so much for this.

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      Thank you, Shalini!
      I don’t have a transistor now, I listen to it online. But I still have it playing in the background most of the time – while making breakfast/dinner, packing lunch, getting ready for work, cleaning the house, doing dishes.

  6. Lalitha Says:

    Wonderful trip down memory lane! I grew up on a diet of Radio Ceylon and later Vividh Bharti. I remember the Fouji bhaiyon ke liye programs in ’65 and ’66 even now. In my third year in college, I had this small transistor (it was red in color) and I used to listen to VB at night. During the day, we used to sit in a friend’s room and study because she had a transistor which could get SW and MW radio, so we could listen to Radio Ceylon as well as VB. When I started working, I bought myself a transistor radio, which was my faithful companion until I got married and left India. How I miss those days! Thank you for a wonderful journey into the past.

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      Thank you for sharing your ‘radio’ journey :-)

      Though there have been few changes, I guess most of the programs are still the same.
      They still have Jaimala (fauji bhaiyon ke liye) at 7:05 PM everyday and a Vishsesh Jaimala on Saturdays.

      The transistor that I had in hostel used to get Doordarshan also. My room used to be full during cricket matches and on Friday/Saturday nights. We used to lsiten to the movies on Doordarshan on Friday and Saturday nights.

      During some of the matches, my classmates used to ask me to get my radio to class so that they could tune in during the breaks and check the score.

      Our workshop and ECM labs were at the far end of our 150 acre campus. And our lecturer was fond of old songs too. I used to take my radio and go the lab towards the end of the semester to redo some of the experiments. Used to play Manchahe Geet in full volume and practice experiments.

  7. Atul Says:

    It is wonderful to read your radio experiences. I too was a radio buff during 1970s. Radio Ceylon (later called Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation) was my favourite radio stations. I disliked its 7-30 to 8 AM programme called “Puraani filmon ke geet, but I loved the next programme called “Aap hi ke geet” which was a farmaishi programme of new songs. It was fun to listen to lost list of farmaish senders from Jhumri Tilaiyya and other such places. Wednesday night 8 PM to 9 PM was the time for Binaca geetmala.

    As for Vividh Bharati, Vishesh Jaimala was my favourite programme. I had heard The Sunil Gavaskar vishesh jaimala at the same time when Raja had heard it in 1975.

    All India Radio’s urdu service also had a farmaishi programme of songs (rather old songs by my definition, but then what could one expect from a sarkari organisation !) which I loved lisenng to.

    I also used radio to listen to the commentary of cricket test matches and hockey matches.

    I also loved to listen to BBC, Voice of America, Radio Moscow etc. In fact I was quite knowledgeable about the details of radio stations at that time.

    I have written several articles about my experiences with radio in one of my defunct blog. Some of them being

    http://squarecutsblog.blogspot.in/2008/07/vividh-bharati-outstanding-radio.html

    http://squarecutsblog.blogspot.in/2008/07/radio-ceylon-hindi-service-those-were.html

    http://squarecutsblog.blogspot.in/2008/07/ameen-sayani-and-binaca-geetmala.html

    http://squarecutsblog.blogspot.in/2008/07/jhumri-tilayya-town-of-farmaish-senders.html

    http://squarecutsblog.blogspot.in/2008/07/all-india-radio-akashwani-stations-in.html

    http://squarecutsblog.blogspot.in/2008/07/radio-in-india-in-1960s.html

    http://squarecutsblog.blogspot.in/2008/07/akashwani-news-and-indian-satellites.html

    http://squarecutsblog.blogspot.in/2008/07/akashwani-news-in-early-1970s.html

    http://squarecutsblog.blogspot.in/2008/07/bbc-world-service-english-in-1970s.html

    http://squarecutsblog.blogspot.in/2008/08/radio-ceylon-fan-from-1960s-and-70s.html

  8. sunheriyaadein Says:

    “I had heard The Sunil Gavaskar vishesh jaimala at the same time when Raja had heard it in 1975.” made me feel so good. That’s so sweet! Wonder how many other people would have heard it that day.

    My goodness, your posts are so informative! I wish I could have heard Radio Ceylon in it’s hay days.

  9. Rose Says:

    Really wonderful writing! I love all your posts but this one is more personal and so very close to my own experiences in a girls’ college hostel.
    I grew up listening to Radio Ceylon as well as Vividh-Bharati and I still remember, it was time to start walking to school when Kundanlal Sehgal’s song came on the radio at 7:55 am sharp. You could set your watch by it :)

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