Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Radio Ceylon fan from 1960s and 70s

Though Jhumri Tilaiyya was the most famous of all places known for sending farmaishes, it was not the only such place. Jhumri Tilayya, a small town in Bihar ( now Jharkhand) was the only such place in that region. But most such places, known for sending farmaishes were in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Small towns in Maharashtra known for sending farmaishes were Yavatmal, Buldhana, Akola, Nanded, Parbhani, Balharshah,Gondia etc. Their Madhya Pradesh counterparts were places like Ganj Basoda,Nainpur,Mandi Bamora,Bina etc.

I always wondered what these fans were like, and what did they do in their lives apart from sending farmaishes. Also, where are they now, and what are they doing now? What follows is a brief account of one such fan whom I know personally.

The question that can be asked is, what about me? Was I not one of the radio fans ? The answer is, I was a radio fan, but I never sent any farmaishes. Moreover, I was not growing up in a small town, and most farmaishes tended to be from small one horse towns, and each of the place mentioned above was a small town, where everyone knew everyone else, and life used to be slow paced and leisurely.

I have been to most of the places mentioned above, and in fact I can vouch for the facts that life in some of these places continue to be just as leisurely and relaxed as it was 30-40 years ago.

Growing up in his small town, he caught the radio and movie songs bug in 1960s when he was in his teens. His elder brother was a fan too, but the younger brother was a much bigger fan.

He would send farmaishes in Radio Ceylon, and it was common in Aaphi ke geet to listen to, " aur Nainpur se Prakash,Mukund .."
The farmaishi letters were written by Mukund and he possessed the most important pre requisite for a successful farmaish sender- he had a superb handwriting. His handwriting looked like calligraphy, ("moti jaise akshar likhta hai" were the comments made about his handwriting), and that helped him catch the eyes of the Radio Ceylon announcers more often than many other farmaish senders.

Apart from just sending farmaishes, he was actively involved in other things associated with songs. For instance, he was an avid reader and collector of filmy magazines. He would also faithfully maintain the list of Binaca geetmala weekly countdown statistics. He maintained these records from 1970 onwards.

All these documents were kept stored in a big trunk under lock and key.

One night,when everyone was fast asleeo, a thief entered his house. Looking at the trunk with a big lock hanging on it, he thought that there must be valuables inside. He tried to lift the box. But the box was very heavy. Thinking that heavy box meant big booty, he gathered all his strength and with great difficulty, decamped with the trunk.

Hardly had the thief gone a small distance that his strength and resolve gave way, and he stumbled under the heavy weight of the trunk. The noise woke people up. "Chor, chor" was the alarm raised by people, and the thief, sensing trouble, ran for his life, leaving the trunk behind. The box lying on the ground was retrieved back. People wondered what was there inside it. When opened, one saw heaps and heaps of filmy magazines, notebooks containing details about binaca geetmala weekly positions of songs etc.

His letter writing was not just limited to sending farmaishes. He was a fan of film stars too, and he would write to many film personalities.Unlike farmaishes, his letters to film personalities did not yield much result. But he caught the eye of the singer cum actress Sharda. She became sort of like his pen friend, and she would send him Rakhi during the Rakhi festival for many years.

He had younger sisters, and like a good elder brother , he would exhort his sisters to study, and would make them open their books and study evey morning and evening. Those times were also the times when the best musical programmes would be on the air. He would have his transistor tuned to these programmes, and he would multi task- viz supervising the study of his sisters as well as listening to songs on the radio transistor. His sisters too would be distracted into listening to the wonderful songs emanating from the transistor. Noticing that, he would reduce the volume so low that his sisters would be unable to listen to the songs. As mentioned, he was an archtypical elder brother to his sisters.

In those days ( late 1960s), filmy magazines had called for applications from people who wanted to act in movies. Oldtimers would remember that Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan became actors through this method. Both sent their applications, which were accepted and they were called to Bombay to act.

Mukund too had sent his application. And unbelivably, his application was accepted too.

But that is where dreams met harsh realities of life and got shattered. Economic condition of his family was not such that they could have afforded sending him to Bombay and helping him financially. Also, his parents, though tolerating his radio listening and movie loving ways, would have none of this film acting. So that was the end of his Bollywood dreams.

Was he made of Bollywood stuff? Well, imagine a person of Amitabh's height and physique with the complexion of Mithun da. Appearance wise, he had the right credentials. In his town, he was popular, thanks to his farmaishes and other cultural activities. He was the head of the trustees of a leading temple of the town, and he was a good leader.If his aspirations of acting were confined to local dramas, then there was the option of becoming a leader. But deterioration of politics had begun in 1970s, and his simple and straighforward ways would not have taken him far in politics. For record, his maternal grandfather (Nana) was a member of parliament, and his cousin was a minister in Madhya Pradesh. So it was not as if his political aspirations would have been just a pipe dream had he decided to pick that career.

Sending farmaishes and aspiring to be a Bollywood actor were all right, but with time, he needed to decide what to do for a living. So he started applying for jobs. He got one and left his town for West Bengal.

There he became an active participant in cultural activities including Durga Puja and Kali puja.

His radio farmaish days were obviously behind him by then, but he was a big fan of cricket too ( now who in India is not a fan of Bollywood as well as cricket)?

What about his carefully collected and stored documents related to movies ? The problem with these books were that they were occupying too much space in the modest house where he lived with his parents and siblings. So the magazines gradually ended up with raddiwalas. But he resisted the efforts of his binaca notebooks to be disposed that way.

It was in 1996 or so that he suffered a string of personal tragedies, and he decided that holding on to his memories of Binaca geetmala records was not worth it, so he burnt his Binaca geetmala related notebooks.

The first time I met him and I was introduced to him was in 1996. Of course, I was not aware of his radio farmaish past at that time.

By now, we know each other well. He does not talk much about movies and songs , mainly because there are not too many people who are interested in movies and songs of that era. But he still has an encyclopaediac knowledge about songs of that era, which he displays if asked.

Ofcourse, he talks about cricket, because he finds many takers for this topic. Often, when cricket matches are in progress, he would ring me and discuss the match. Once or twice in a year, when he comes on leave, he meets me.

He is a few months short of 60 now. (How time flies)? He has an Amitabh like goatie (white in colour). I often wondered how it would be if he had to come face to face with Amitabh Bachchan. Similar appearance, similar goatie.

He is a nice and caring person, and kids adore him. I am hoping that he may have atleast kept some of his past notebooks intact. That would have been such big assets for me. I have been writing articles in internet for a few years. When I showed him one of my first articles published in a website, he felt so pleased about it and about me. He will be retiring soon, and I hope I will have enough opportunities to learn from him about the days of 1960s and 70s from his point of view.


Raja Swaminathan said...

Am reading this only now, Atul.
Very touching. The way you describe it, I can imagine the entire canvas of his life.

Strange how life pans out. There are defining moments which you may not at that moment recognise as defining ones.

He seems to be a very interesting person. Good to read about him.

Wish him the best from my side when you meet him next.

squarecut.atul said...

Nice to see you comment o this topic, Raja.Unlike most other topis here, I had written this with a personal touch,because I know him.

You are right, there are defining moments in our lives about which we are not aware at that time.

I met him last one month ago. I will be seeing him again later this year. In fact he will retire at the end of this year.

ramdas said...

Dear Atul,

Thanks for the article.My name is Ramdas.i am from calicut district of kerala.i am not writing too much about Radio ceylon.i feel a sort of naustalgia while remembering the heydays of Radio ceylon.still iam listerning to Radio ceylon in the morning from 6.45 to 8.30 although it is noicy.

With regards,,


Yennar Nexus said...

I spent my early childhood 1962-67 in Nainpur, Mandla and Jabalpur. I was just 6 then. My dad was in SERly (narrow guage). We had such a good time then, the memories are still fresh like it was just yesterday. We are Tamils and imagine how it would have been for a south Indian brahmin to spend his childhood in MP. Wow, it was a paradise. I learnt my Shuddh Hindi there only which still exists in me.

We used to go for plucking _Ber" in the jungles on the railway lines (past Railway talaab).
I was planning for an MP trip on my vehicle with family. When I was doing my homework, I stumbled on this article and what a fresh rejuvenation it has been.
We all were very fond of Binaca Geet mala by Amin Sayani and for some songs like "Taareef karoon kys uski" I used take a big jumb on a set of pillows.
I am now 58 yrs and well settled in Navi MUmbai