Turn on the radio
I am reading the newspaper and matching headlines to the songs playing on the radio. “Mercury found in Delhi air” has Dil Ullu Ka Pattha Hai for company; “If you shed kilos, partner is likely to do so too” is matched by Lagdi Punjaban, Lagdi Patola, and “Cancer risk from mobile? Studies say no need to hang up” with Dheere Dheere Zara Dum Lena. In between a listener pipes in: “What happens if in your 30s you suddenly realize that you don’t know what to do with your life?”
For the past week, my morning routine, when I down stories on murders, road rage, cricket and the weather with my cup of tea, has changed. For company I now have the radio, lying next to me, chirpy and cheerful, in sharp contrast to the newspaper.
Last weekend, I was rummaging through a drawer in a cupboard at my mother’s home (she doesn’t know this, she gets anxious that I will throw away something she hasn’t found a use for in all these years). After the usual pair of socks still in their original pack, a wallet which was meant to be thrown but got stored, a Keystone XR308 Telephoto camera, etc., I found two objects at the deep end, lying unnoticed: a never-used Philips Pocket Radio bought by my father, and a much used pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, my first ever, a gift from my sister.
The best part: Both were in their original box/case, with the guarantee and service manual. The radio was bought on 3 February 1992 in Davos. It has the dealer’s name, address and signature: Migros Markt Rätia, M-Electronic, 7270, Davos-Platz. It is a type AE 1492, has a telescopic aerial, earphone connection and built-in loudspeaker. It has two bands, FM and LW, an on/off button, which also works as the volume control, and a channel changer. At the bottom on the reverse side is a slot for two batteries. Nothing complicated.
The best part: The flap that you remove to insert the batteries has the words “Made In India” printed on it. Made In India was in Davos 26 years ago! Some things are sent out into the world, but find a way of returning home.
My first reaction: Why didn’t we ever use this radio? Second: Good thing my mother rarely throws away anything, the sunglasses don’t look out of date.
In that moment, I realized a few things: The importance of giving timeless (and thoughtful) presents, and why KonMari can never really take off in our country. My father liked buying gifts while travelling, though we might not always have appreciated them at the time. For instance, a Dhakai sari and a Russian Platok shawl—these will never go out of fashion, no upgrade to version 2 needed. When I look at these things, it blows the dust off memories.
Growing up, the radio was always playing in the background. The size of a small TV, it was like an idol in a temple when cricket matches were on, especially India versus Pakistan: An uncle liked putting the TV on mute and hearing the commentary on radio. And when the compère with a rich, deep voice played popular English songs, you would wonder what he looked like.
But that was then, and I did not even notice when the radio faded from the background. But here it is now, a portable radio, small and easy to hold. In the meantime, we have moved from Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin to The Breakup Song.
It was time to put the radio to the test. Thankfully, AA batteries are still in use. There was a certain joy in sliding the batteries into their slot and hearing the click sound of a device coming to life. But turning the volume knob only produced a lot of scratchy sound. Of course, the antenna hadn’t been pulled out.
Soon Karan Johar was filling the air waves, telling a caller on his show on Ishq FM, who had had an arranged marriage, how to be friends with her husband.
As for the sunglasses, I am waiting for Kala Chashma to shimmy from the radio. And the newspaper headline to go with it: “New reality show announced—Keeping up with the Kadarshian babies”.