By Harjap Singh Aujla
In the second half of 1950, one day my father, returning from parliament, told me that one of his colleagues in the princely state of Mysore, MH Sidhaveerappa, had told him about a new radio station called the radio’s commercial Hindi service. Ceylon appeared on shortwave. According to him, the Hindustani music played on this station was of very high quality.
Being a Kannada, he had no interest in Hindustani (Hindi + Urdu) music. My father was aware of my interest in discovering new radios. I immediately went to the radio and tried to locate the new kid on the block. I tried every possible shortwave frequency, but couldn’t find the station. I kept trying for several days without success.
One day an acquaintance, Mr. Raminder Singh, who was a dozen years older than me and who served as Indian military attache at the country’s embassy in Paris and retired as commander of wing in the Indian Air Force, offered to help me find the new station. His effort was also unsuccessful. He found the real reason for our repeated failures and bought a ten foot long wire from Connaught Place. He made it half bare, inserted one end into the antenna socket on the back of the radio, and hung the bare side on a wall. It worked and we were able to tune into a host of new radio stations. One fine morning, I found the elusive radio station. The music quality was excellent, but the sound suffered drops. KL Saigal, Pankaj Mullick and GM Durrani were the most frequently heard male voices. Suraiya, Noorjehan, Amir Bai Karnataki, Zohra Bai d’Ambala and Geeta Roy were the frequently aired female voices. The most popular program ran between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. and was devoted to old movie songs. Surprisingly, Lata Mangeshkar’s voice was missing. She being a relatively new voice, discovered in 1947. This program continues to this day and is the most popular program.
After the first general election in 1952 and having attended the lame duck session, we returned to Kapurthala, where we had a suitable roof aerial for the radio, the reception of Radio Ceylon was much better. My romance with “Purani Filmon ka Sangeet” continued unabated. Then Binaca Geet Mala also started in 1952. The voice of Lata Mangeshkar was also old enough to feature in this program, as were the voices of Talat Mahmood, Mukesh, Mohammad Rafi, Manna Dey and Hemant Kumar. Radio Ceylan was my favorite program even today.