• Pallavi Rao

The Miracleme Story 04-I fell in love in School

This is All India Radio. The news read by C.Pallavi Rao.

These were the dozen words I yearned to say on Radio. My ultimate ambition in life. To be a newsreader on AIR.

The little Grey-black box

However the day was, it always ended with the 11 pm news on AIR that my dad listened to through that little grey-black box, also called a transistor. Thel Panasonic transistor was our constant companion for many nights over two decades.

As a school student of class 5 and 6, I remember being tucked into bed by Amma latest by 8 pm. I would happily get into the blanket to catch HAWA MAHAL, a 15 minute radio play that was broadcast each night followed by SANTOGEN KI MEHFIL that played lateefey (jokes).

Post this I would wait for my dad to get home from work. Sharing with him the day’s happenings and mis-happenings (read what all happened in school and which friend and teacher did what to me) at the dining table, while he nursed his drink, remains one of my most fond childhood memories.

11 PM: The world in the Rao family would come to a halt as all ears would be on the NEWS.

“This… is All India Radio. The News. Read by Barun Haldar.”

Woooo….what a voice! What diction! What pronunciation! What perfection!

The voice of AIR News, Barun Haldar who would insist being called either   ‘Grand Pa’ or ‘Booooo run!’

I was brought up listening to Barun Haldar and Vijay Daniels and Minoti Chatterji.

Daddy would each night say the same thing. “Just listen to them and learn your pronunciations.  See how with just their voice they capture our attention for 5 full minutes. Speak if you have to like Barun Haldar or Vijay Daniels.”

Each day. Every night. The delightful ritual continued.

This is how I started to slowly fall in love with a medium that played a hundred images with the sheer use of sound and voice.

Be it radio plays, be it a Bournvita Quiz contest or a sports commentary, I was hooked.

When daddy had his radio show to record I used to be most excited. He had a more or less regular Sports update on Radio as a freelancer. He otherwise was a senior reporter and later the Sports Editor of the Hindustan Times.

As he would sit down to type his script on the small portable ‘Brother’ typewriter, I would wait impatiently to read it ‘aloud.’

By the time I was 11 or 12 years old, I had started to read everything aloud. My English and Hindi syllabus books, for that matter even the science and social science chapters I read aloud with full expressions.

I remember my mom asking me many a times to learn to read silently too as I would later in life have difficulty reading in a library!

Another year down I was reading the front page of the newspaper. The entire page. Aloud.

Soon it became an obsession. I would read aloud printed ads, the handouts given arbitrarily at a market place about JEE tutorials, to the cheap newspaper insertions in pink coloured paper, to advertising tin boards at traffic crossings promising safety to men who were beaten by their wives! I even the matrimonial section aloud with full expressions!

I must add here though, that all through the 9 years of my school and college education, I divulged this passion of voicing to NO ONE. Not my group of friends, not my best friend. No one.

According to my school friends, the maximum I would ever achieve in life would be to be a good housewife or be a teacher. I have no idea why it hurt hearing their prediction then. As if both were derogatory.

I realized much later in life that both jobs were as tough as any other job but highly underrated. However, at that time I said silently to myself, teach I would, but in a University with a doctorate attached to my name and housewife I never would be, instead I am going to be famous. Unlike most of you. The last bit was with bitterness. Achieve I would. Much more than their prophecies.

In school, I was

  • submissive

  • quiet

  • docile

  • the mother figure

  • keeper of secrets

  • the good girl and

  • an average student

No one thought highly of me. I always remained in the background. Always ready to follow the leader. Self-conscious to the hilt.

I was supremely self-conscious about my

  • whitish complexion

  • big fat nose

  • heavy calf muscles due to Bharatanatyam.

And even my best buddies never left an opportunity to pass a rude, uncared for remark on the physical. Some unintentionally. And some very close, intentionally.

At that time if I shared my dreams of Radio, I was sure I would be scoffed at.

If I told them I was in love with a little black box called the Radio, I would be mocked at.

My first love was thus, kept a closely guarded secret by my family.

Instead, as a school and college girl I would request Daddy to let me read his script on radio for him. He would laugh and tell me that was not possible, I had to pass tests to be approved by AIR and for that I would have to wait till graduation.

However, I could not wait that long.

I did not.

Except, my first Radio show… was a disaster. A complete disaster.


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