One of the many reasons why car-pooling won’t quite work for me is that I am too whimsical with the radio while driving. I don’t have TV as part of my family since that thing enslaves me. An hour spent in two parts listening to the radio while commuting between office and home is my only source of passive entertainment.
Radio-Indigo, FM 91.9: Amongst all the channels in Bangalore, this one suits me the finest. I love the daily stock market update when RJ Meghna calls up their stock market expert. My heart goes out for her. She usually starts with a witty line depending on that day’s events, like “Mr. Ahuja, Are the stock markets going to make us millionaire too?” when Slumdog won Oscars.
A pretty flat toned reply comes from the other end and then he straightaway gets on with the updates “The markets are seen up/down due to global cues. * ABC is at X. * BCA seems to be doing well due to the new regulations. * CBA is coming up with new product. * Inflation numbers are at low at Y%. * …” .
Now replace all the * with Meghna’s disinterested “OK” and “Umhmm”. Mostly there are 4 OKs and 5 Umhmms, in no specific order, which makes for a good guessing game. That man could as well have been telling the scores of a Test match between Baroda and Railways. You can almost feel the relief in her voice when she hurriedly thanks him in the end, “Alright Mr. Ahuja, THANK YOU VERY MUCH”. Many times she has to ask a question related to one of his updates and at the same time concerning the financially illiterate common man; in this case she would say, “So finally we can eat vegetables now, hee hee .”
Radio One, FM 94.3: This is the only channel which continuously plays Hindi music, but it’s too mass-oriented and marred with very long breaks. I can recite all the ads including the ones in Kannada without understanding a word. In the evening there’s this request show in which the lady RJ repeats “How sweet/cute” to all the callers. Imagine listening to a tired software engineer telling “I am returning from my office” and then the response “So sweet”, especially when you too are returning from the office after a hectic day. I admit though that I couldn't have done any better than her in long term.
The greatest insult to your intelligence is done when they air celebrity interviews which are obviously already recorded and of course not taken by their RJs. They try to build up the excitement hours before the interview, then they actually let us hear Katrina’s phone ring and in between the pauses that Katrina takes while talking, they provide fillers like “Yes, Katrina, we all do that.”
However, the most annoying part is when they play a song with Punjabi touch like “Uncha Lamba Kadd” . When the song is about to begin, the RJ Prithvi, in his josh, blurts out something on the lines of “Oye Sonniye, Haai Kudiye ,Mar jaavan..” in a horrible imitation of northie accent. My Gurgaon born Vinnie shudders at those sounds; her childhood memories are so timidly molested.
All India Radio (AIR) Channels: Let’s start with the irritating bits first in continuation with the cribbing I’ve done so far. Most of private radio channels have pretty catchy brand music/song. They have their tag lines too like “Radio Mirchi, It’s HOT”, “FM 94.30, the Station For The Fatafat Generation” or "Radio Indigo, The Color Of Music" and you can clearly sense the hard work gone into creating these and ensuring that everything together present a coherent image to the listeners. Here’s what our Sarkaari channel FM Rainbow has to offer: A girl sings, just like a kindergarten kid would, “FM Rainbow Aaha , FM Rainbow Aaha”, twice, with no background music to speak of.
Then there are these poll/request kind of programs. The private channels come up with questions like “What would you do if the man you've been dating for two years tells you that he actually wears a wig?” or something contextual like “How safe do you feel the next day whenever there is a Bomb Hoax in Bangalore?”. You can see that they TRY.
Sometimes back this is what I heard on one of the national channels, in a fake American accent, and even shallower deep voice “I have a very interesting question today for you. What you would ask for if a Jinnie, you know the Aladdin Jinnie, grants you three wishes. Please sms to xyz number. Now listen to the song Mahi-Ve”. Then they went on to play Mind-blowing Mahia. That song too got interrupted all of a sudden. There’s simply no attempt towards creativity and there are just too many mistakes to ignore.
Meanwhile someone in fact replied to the above question. I was surprised to hear that. So now our RJ goes “We have a very funny reply from number ending with 666. His first wish is a hundred Armani Suits. What would you do with these many suits? Haa haa. His second wish is a Ferrari car. And his third wish is a big house”. You wonder whether the sender was sarcastic enough to send the apt reply to the ordinary question. Our dear RJ found it very funny though.
However, the programs on Vivid-bharti are very genuine. Their target audiences are small towns and villages, the three fourth of India. The requests come to them in form of hand written letters and the language is totally earthy and unpretentious.
Personal favorites are “Fauji Bhaiyon ke liye”, a program where mostly the requests from soldiers are entertained and “Sakhi-Saheli”, a program for housewives in the afternoon, where they discuss domestic issues and homely tips like how to prepare pickles, what are the benefits of sending girls to the school, how to handle family finance and save money, how they celebrate Holi. You realize that these things are not as simple as they sound and such programs are very much needed for the entertainment and information they provide. The best thing is that everything is so real.
When I hear “Jhumka Gira re” is requested by Billu, Tinku, Jamuna, Suman from Nagda, Nafeez, Tinu, Babu from Betiya.., I slip into nostalgia. As a child I had a peculiar insomniac condition of not being able to sleep in the afternoon (which is now getting compensated for). While my mom and younger brother used to sleep, I would be listening to the radio waiting for a request from Dewas. The other times I would just play cards by myself or would kill the passers by with my gun as the radio played. Of course this was before we had a TV.