When I was on ‘AIR’

A long time before FM radio and the advent of television, All India Radio (AIR) stations and their programmes were a great source of news and entertainment.

My working mom used the radio as an alarm clock; as soon as she woke up she would turn on the radio and my sister and I would know it was nearly time to wake up and get ready for school. It also told time without having to look at the clock. So if the news was on, it was 7am, if film songs were on it was 7.30am, if classical music was on it was 9am….you get it, don’t you?
On Sundays we would tune in to the children’s programme. I think it was called ‘Baalavrinda, makkaLigaagi kaaryakrama’.

And then one day, when I was about 7 years old, I was interviewed for radio. Two ‘aunties’ came home with a tape recorder and asked me general questions. The interview was conducted in Kannada. To the question ‘do you feel sad if your parents scold you’ I remember saying ‘I do, but i know that all the scolding is for my good’. PROFOUND, don’t you think? 🙂 I somehow seemed to have impressed the two programme directors because I lent voice quite a few times for the dramas that were going to be aired. 

The AIR station was the poshest and the most ‘state-of-the-art’ building I had ever seen until then. The ‘red’ and ‘green’ lights, the padded flooring, the sound proof glass partitioned studios,  it was the coolest thing ever! I had fun going there for the recordings. After a few rehearsals, we would record, holding the script paper gingerly. Even the slightest rustle would be captured by the recorder and we would have to redo some sections sometimes. 

Participating in these programmes earned me money. A rupee for every minute of my ‘talk-time’. My father put away all the money I ‘earned’ and when sufficient funds accumulated, he bought a battery operated transistor radio. 

In 1981 for a live cultural programme (by invitation only) conducted by AIR in one of the halls in my city I was asked to do a mono-act. My uncle whose knowledge of the Kannada language was par excellence wrote me a script. He chose the Indian mythology, the Mahabharatha and wrote me a dialogue between Kunti and Karna. Kunti is upset that her eldest son is fighting his younger Pandava siblings in the mother of all wars and wants him back on the side of his brothers. Idealistic Karna refuses, having been sheltered and nurtured by the Kauravas. 
Different schools from the district and surrounds sent in groups for the programme, but your truly was there on her own, representing herself 🙂 All of 10, I supposedly enthralled the audience and the AIR Director showered his praise on me which was a big thing those days because when they praised you they meant it from the bottom of the heart. 

UntitledAfter a while the AIR station didn’t call me for recordings for reasons best known to them. But after a long gap they called me again for a small bit of recording. I remember I had to skip classes for it and the school headmistress wasn’t too pleased.

With that ended my tryst with the radio. These days people hardly listen to the radio, me neither. The only time I listen in is when I am driving. It keeps me company. I sometimes wonder if the people I worked with are still with AIR, Mangalore Station. They treated me like any child should be, they were kind, never rude, never mean or high and mighty. Wherever they are, let it be known that I think of them fondly. God bless them for giving me such a lovely experience! 


  1. I remember the mono act very well. So glad you wrote about this! And you were a star at 10! Paper mentions and all! Lots of love


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