Message from a radio that is heard no more

Message from a radio that is heard no more

Those days were thoroughly different; I was a college-going bloke who had many dreams to cherish. I didn’t know then any realm outside my college. I would board a gigantic bus from my village to enter the college gate, that of Abdul Ahad Azad Memorial Degree College Bemina. The gate was painted green, and, after entering it, I would feel total solace amid the tall trees with their deep shadows. They were completely alluring and provided me the real meaning of aesthetic beauty. It was to, as if, encounter epiphany.
The college had a small U-shaped park situated between the main gate and the classrooms. During summers, most of the undergraduates would sit in that small park under the shade of trees to protect themselves from the sizzling sun of June and July. When I entered the college campus, I used to recall many English poets and poetesses. We Literature students are romantic fools, who barely care for worldly rules and laws, believing instead in our own cosmos of imagination and having faith in the laws which nature teaches. Realistic people are banned from entering that place, the same way poets were banished in the ideal state of Plato’s “Republic”.
My 1st year of college passed in ecstasy and charm. New friends, new milieu, new teachers. I get the feeling that students of this generation are unlucky, since most of the time they are occupied with their phones. Our world was altogether dissimilar and matchless. We would board the bus at 07:30 in the morning and jostle to take the seats at the back. Then, 15 or more of us would start a debate that could span politics, geography, history, astrology, or astronomy. The discussion went on for one-and-a-half hour and at times for two hours, depending upon the pressure the driver’s right foot was applying on the accelerator. This discussion had two shifts: morning and evening. However, one did not enjoy much the evening debates, because of being worn out by the whole day spent in college, sitting in classes of professors whom we thought of as hubs of knowledge—an opinion that can be debated some other day.
Back home, Nani had inculcated in me the love of radio. She would often ask me questions related to geo-politics, and she would know more than me. It used to startle me, how she knew better than I did, when I read the newspaper every morning and the minutest details in it. We didn’t have social media those days. Science had done wonders but not to the level that it would go on hounding people. Science was humbler and more humanitarian; it allowed kids and parents to spend time with each other.
Nani had a Philips transistor which was black in colour and had a leather cover. She would keep it next to her pillow and take proper care of it. She was very particular about its safety. She did not allow anybody to touch it. She would enter her room early in the evening to listen to the radio and tune in to her favourite programmes. The list of her favourites included Quran and Naat, Kashmiri News at 7:30pm, Geami Bayan Hendi Kheatre (For the People of Villagers), and the drama which used to be broadcast every Monday at 9:30pm. I never saw her without the radio. Since I used to sleep next to her, my habit of listening to the radio developed unconsciously. Later, when I shifted to a separate room, I found it hard to sleep without listening to the radio.
Radio had become a friend, a guru, and a guardian. I, too, started to keep my silver Philips transistor next to my pillow and turn it on before I fell asleep. Those days I would listen more to Voice of America than the regional programmes, besides BBC’s Urdu service. I still recall some of the anchors: Khalid Hameed, with a deep voice, Alia Siddiqui and Shahnaz Nafees, whose voice I was really fond of – an enticing voice. Shahnaz Nafees was my favourite; her name was similar to someone I adored religiously.
Keats said, “Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter.” I did not know then that those were the best days of my life, for I could roam my imagination wherever I liked. That steering wheel in my mind has been snatched from me since the advent of social media; now my imagination has been captured, held captive.
People don’t read books now and don’t listen to the radio either. I have a premonition that we are heading towards an imminent disaster.
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