One of the closest friends during my growing-up days was Murphy. A loyal friend, always reliable (well, almost always) and ready to sit up with me through the night as I struggled with the exam preparations. (I have always been a night person as you can guess). And Murphy was one loyal entertainer! Now a long forgotten name, Murphy used to be a leading brand of radios in those days. And we had one of the most gorgeous sets ever, valves and all. Squarish one, with round knobs for volume and frequency setting. A knob for shifting from Medium Wave to Short wave 1, 2 and 3. The panel also had a neatly printed list of stations the set carried; Dacca, Hyderabad, Delhi, Lahore, Karachi etc etc. It never failed to amaze me as to why the cities, long separated from India still found a mention on the panel. Maybe the radio was produced so long ago, maybe not. I wonder why I never questioned this of my parents.
Good old Murphy was the only source of entertainment we had. Never mind it took some two minutes for the valves to warm up before we could hear any sound. No TVs those days, record player with its 33 1/3 speed discs out of reach, cassette players were few and far between. (The days of WaIkman, Ipod and MP3 players were far, far, far away!!)
And Mr. Murphy lay nestled on my study table ready to provide all sorts of entertainment. There was this BBC Hindi news to start with at 8 pm with the much adored Ratnakar Bharatiya coming on at 8:10 pm just after the news. After Sri RB’s extensive commentary on the day’s events, it was time for the 8:45 pm Hindi news on AIR. If the news was riveting enough, I would continue onto the 9 pm English news to hear the husky voice of Lotika Ratnam or the baritone of Mellvyn D’ Mello. But of course all this was to lull the parents into the belief that I was onto some knowledge-gathering exercise… listening to news and all that. The real trick was to log in as quickly as possible to stations broadcasting Hindi film music. It was Radio Nepal at 9.20 pm, half an hour of good film music with Nepalese ads interspersed. The one jingle I remember even now is the ad for Vicks Vaporub which the voice-over claimed as the one remedy prescribed by the docs. And then followed (now that parents were deep asleep) the search for more stations broadcasting Hindi film songs. There was this “Bela key Phool”, followed by the foreign broadcasting service airing songs to the Pakhtoon (or was it Baloochi?) audience, Then the broadcast to the Russian audience and so on…) I remember that till four in the morning one could go on tweaking the frequency dial to coax more and more stations out of Mr. Murphy.
The key trick was tweaking (pardon the alliteration). It required years-and-years of practice the deft turn of the wrist to turn the dial not in degrees but in minutes and seconds. Each gut-wrenching and (micro) muscle-bending twist would unveil for me a new frequency and consequently a new “station” to enjoy music from. As if the frequency dial was not villainous enough, I would have to reckon with the treacherous “aerial” end which had to dexterously engaged into the fixture at the back of the radio so that the painstakingly tweaked waves would find their way into the radio. There were some bad days as well when despite the dial manipulation and the aerial adjustment, all we could hear was the static on the radio. The key trick was to bear this out till such time, some station, some frequency would yield the mellifluous notes of Lata Mangeshkar’s ” Jhoom, jhoom dhalti raat…”. Or “Duniya mein jab aayein hain toh jeena ho padega…” The organic chemistry book filled with aldehydes and ketones and alcohols (still a 2 dimensional version in the chemistry book) would be cast off to drift away……..
The greatest delight our Murphy offered was the undiluted pleasure of listening to Binaca Geet Mala… Wednesday-after-Wednesday. Amin Sayani was the most awaited guest in my room for the entire week. The whole week was filled with debates with friends and classmates as to which song would top the charts that week. Home work would be done well in advance even much before the Vishesh Jaimala for the soldiers ended on Vividh Bharti. A well-thumbed diary would be pulled out along with a pen. A fresh sheet of the diary would be marked with the date and the vigil would begin for Amin Sayani. And then he would sweep in at 8 pm sharp preceded by the signature tune of the program. How I wish I could write down the notes of this tune, that nerve-tingling overture to the program. And then his dulcet voice would croon into our ears (volume being kept at a reasonable low despite the fact that parents knew what I was upto at 8 in the evening on Wednesday), ” Behno aur Bhaiyo …” The magic would start! I would keep a careful note of the ascending and descending “payadaans” (steps) and the hour unfolded its set of revelations on the top-ranking sixteen songs for the week. The “sartaj geets” and the “super-sartaj geets” were all reverential noted down with the erratic strokes of the “ball-point” pen. His jokes would be laughed at, his Aunt-Wendy kind of advice would be filed away in memory (in our grey cells, there was no computer C drive those days!!), and all his Jhumari Talaiya listeners (or the Raj Nandgaon ones for that matter) would be envied as they would find a mention in his interjections. Ah what a joy a toothpaste and a radio could get into our lives.
The radio proved to be our most loyal companion all through the night!
And then happened the real radio-activity.
One night (early morning, really!) my mother happened to wake up something like three in the morning. Wondering how my bedroom’s light was on, she marched right in. There I was, slumped in my chair, trying to coax out a Baluchi or a Russian out of my Murphy. Half asleep. A quick shove to Murphy and down it went, along with all my dreams. The end of Murphy sahib. Fission at its cruelest. Murphy fragmented and broken heartlessly. The panel, the knob, the aerial fixture and the radio cabinet.. all given to the considerable fissile forces thanks to mother’s shove to Murphy off the table! Murphy sahib. RIP!
The “Bush Baron” bought subsequently after all our requests could hardly match the magnificence of Murphy. Would love to hear from anyone who has had an experience otherwise!