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! :-)