Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jhumri Tilaiyya- the town of farmaish senders

When one talks of Radio Ceylon, the first thing that comes to mind is Binaca geetmala and Ameen Sayani. What is the other thing that comes to mind ? It is the farmaishi programmes and the places from where the farmaishes would come. Small places whose names few people had heard of- Ganj Basoda,Mandi Bamora, Nanded, Gondia,Akola,Yavatmal.But the name that caught everyone's imagination was not these names, but a very cutely named place called Jhumri Talaiyya.

What exactly does Jhumri Talaiyya mean ? No one has any idea. Though much has been written about Jhumri Talaiyya, I am not sure if these writings have made us any wiser about this place.Let me try and address that.

I am not sure about Jhumri, but I am sure that the second portion of the name is Tilaiyya, not Talaiyya. Tilayya is a place located a few kilometers from Jhumri Tilayya on the Patna- Ranchi highway, and is known for Tilaiyya dam and Tilaiyya Sainik School.

Both Tilaiyya and Jhumri Tilaiyya are in Koderma district. This used to be in Bihar, but now,with the formation of Jharkhand state, this place is in Jharkhand and is located close to the Bihar Jharkhand border. Or one can say,drawing from our experience of say Delhi and New Delhi,or Hyderabad and Secunderabad- that Jhumri Tilaiyya and Tilaiyya are twin towns.

Those who were in school in 1970s and earlier and remember their geography lessons about various minerals, mica was one mineral that was used as an insulating material in electrical equipments, and India supplied almost the entire world requirement of mica. And almost the entire deposit of mica in the world and in India was found in the Koderma district of Bihar.

This mica mining is what led to the growth of Jhumri Tilaiyya which became the hub for mica business. The Sindhi businessmen, who came from outside and set the mica business became hugely rich. Jhumri Tilaiyya came into being because of mica. People were settled in Jhumri tilaiyya because of mica business. Serving the mica businessmen and workers was all that the people in Jhumri Tilaiyya needed to do.

The talk of Jhumri Tilaiyya always reminds me of the fictional town of Malgudi that R K Narayan created in 1930s. The description of Malgudi applies to Jhumri Tilaiyya as well, except that there was no railway station in Jhumri Tilaiyya.Jhumri Tilaiyya, the real town, had actually come into existence at about the same time when R K Narayan had created his fictional town of Malgudi.

As years rolled by and 1950s arrived, radio Ceylon came into existence and listening to radio became a good pastime for the residents of this sleepy little town nestled among hills.The radio Ceylon farmaishi programme "aap hi ke geet" caught their attention particularly well.

No one knows who was the first Jhumru ( Wow, I just coined a new term for a Jhumri Tilaiyyan) who sent in the request in this programme, but it appears that his request was successful and his name was read out by the announcer. In a small place where everyone knows everyone else, this fellow must have become an instant celebrity in his town. and this must have spurred on his fellow inhabitants to follow suit. Of course, like true small towners, they wanted to involve everyone else in their one minute of fame, so they would include the name of all their family members and friends, not forgetting to mention the names of their parents and grand parents too. And the announcers of radio Ceylon were kind enough to patiently read out all the names. In fact, the announcers took more time reading out the names than they spent in playing the request.

In those days,one judged the popularity of a movie by the length of the queue in front of the counter and the premium that the black marketers charged. Also the length for which the movie would run was a good indication of its popularity. Silver jubilee ( 25 weeks) and golden jubilee ( 50 weeks) in one movie hall were not uncommon for movies.

Similarly, the number of people who wanted to listen to a song could well have become a barometer to measure the popularity of a song. and there have been some suggestions that a few music directors may well have resorted to sending requests on behalf of Jhumri Tilaiyyans and others to artificially jack up the popularity of their songs. In those days, people could hurl accusations, but the trend of investigating such matters and coming out with a breaking news had not caught up. So no one knows if there was any truth in such allegations.

When Ameen Sayani was asked in interviews if he had been to Jhumri Tilaiyya then he replied in the negative. And that was a wise decision. People in that area were so starved of celebrities that even bit role players associated with Bollywood would be treated as superstars there if they ever found themselves in that part of the world. I recall that Paintal and Jalal Agha had come to Ranchi in 1970s, and more people had assembled to watch them than what you are likely to see in a rock concert. So one could well imagine what would have happened had Ameen Sayani gone to places like Ranchi, and indeed Jhumri tilaiyya.

Unlike Ameen Sayani,I have been to Jhumri Tilaiyya ( well, to Tilaiyya to be precise) a few times in 1980s while going from Patna to Ranchi and back. Assuming both to be the same town, I could say that it was a very small place, where people lived their lives cut off from the hustle bustle of big city lives. The fact that Jhumri Tilaiyya is not on the rail map also helped it maintain its isolation.

In fact, most farmaish happy places shared this in common with Jhumri Tilaiyya. They all were small one horse towns and were trading centres cut off from big cities. They were either not connected by rail, or if connected, it was the narrow gauge or meter gauge lines, not the broad gauge lines. Even if connected by broad gauge, express trains would not stop at these places. People in these places led unhurried leisurely lives.

Of course things have been changing of late. For instance,places like Akola,Nanded, Parbhani, all in Maharashtra, also shared the passion of sending farmaishes like Jhumri Tilaiyya . They were all small towns which were on the meter gauge lines, but they all now boast of broad gauge and they have become busy places. Of course,I have been to all these places, and in fact I saw it with my own eyes how the meter gauge lines were removed and BG lines came up in 1994.

I wonder if Jhumri Tilaiyya itself is the same any longer. But I can say that there are still small sleepy towns left in the country where one could go and experience an unhurried life style.Please go and experience it before such places gradually pass into history.


RBan said...

Very interesting post, Atul! Jhumri Talaiya ,or tilaiya as you say, is definitely a very prominent feature of my memories of radio too.
Very nice blog, genuine and real.Keep the posts coming, they are a joy to read.

squarecut.atul said...

Thanks RBan,

I am pleased that you liked it. My blog is an attempt to go back in time and reminisce about the interesting things of the past. Appreciations like yours encourage me to keep writing more.

Raja Swaminathan said...

Very nice post again, Atul.
I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. It is on my blogroll now.

squarecut.atul said...


I was sure you would like this topic.And thanks for putting my blog on your blogroll.

Corinne Rodrigues said...

Hi Atul
Thanks for stopping by on my blog. Enjoyed this post - though I'm not an avid Hindi music listener.....I'm sure you're making a lot of people happy with your writing :)


squarecut.atul said...

Thanks a lot for your kind words, Corinne.

Your blog has really made an impression on me, and I am definitely trying to make people happy in my own small way.

रविकान्त said...

Thanks Atul,

I have also been following the Jhoomri Tilaiyya radio myth and publishing something written by an authentic Tilaiyyan, or Jhoomru, if you prefer that way. Would be happy to share this with you. Will also use snippets from your blog. Keep it up. I keep coming back to it.


squarecut.atul said...

Thanks for your comments,Mr Ravikant. I will definitely like to read the accounts of someone who actually lived in that town during the halcyon days of radio farmaishes.

Jay's music world said...

Yes , Jhumri Tilaiya took me back the memory lane when not a day passed without hearing this name on the radio. Hope you also remember "Rajnandgaon se Radhe Shyam Pawar and Karimnagar se Jalaluddin Sahil!".A couple of years back when I was in A.P.a person from Karimnagar came to meet me and I asked him whether he was Mr. Jslaluddin Sahil. We had a hearty laugh when I explained to him why I asked the question as he also was fond of old Hindi songs and the radio.
Regards from

Canasya said...

A rare, sympathetic account of the Jhumri Telaiyya phenomenon that often attracts only ridicule or disdain. During the peak of its prosperity in the 1960s Jhumri Telaiyya reportedly had the largest number of Mercedes cars per capita among all cities in the country. Wikipedia says that until late 1960s Jhumri Telaiyya boasted several Porsches, thoroughbreds from Arabia, the largest number of phone connections in the country and the largest number of calls originating (these must be in per capita terms, I think):
According to one story the idea of using the radio waves to make the city famous was the brainchild of an enterprising person in Jhumri Telaiyya in the 1950s. He got printed a number of pre-stamped, pre-addressed (with the address of either Radio Ceylon or Vividh Bharati) postcards and made them available for sale at a nominal price at all paan-shops in the city. All a fan had to do was write his name and the name of his song and post it.

G P SAHU Akashvani said...

very inresetng post on rdio ceylon