Bonding Over Radio

Yesterday's weather was uncharacteristically pleasant for the month of May in Delhi. I was lying in my room after dinner and listening to Ruskin Bond narrate his "The Eyes Have it" on the radio. I had switched off the lights in my room. I had my window open because it had been a rainy day and there was a nice cool breeze. The reception was patchy and I the could hear lots of static. It had taken some effort to find a corner of the room where the static was low. Bond's warm voice flowing from the radio with his impeccable English made the experience timeless.


This picture captures how I saw the world outside my window, lying on my bed. Bond's narration lasted for just 15 min but those 15 min seemed borrowed from another era. I was reminded of those small radio clips of important historical announcements that you get in movies and documentaries. The opening lines of Nehru's tryst with destiny speech, IG announcing the imposition of emergency and a news announcer declaring that India was now in a state of war with Pakistan after airfields in Ambala had been bombed by the PAF. I was filled with a strange feeling which I find hard to describe. I guess it was the just the similarity in the medium for those broadcasts- the radio. Or perhaps just a yearning for being present at those pivotal occasions. Whatever the cause may have been, at that moment, I was filled with what I can best describe in a word as nostalgia. A quick google search shows that there is a word for that- anemoia. I guess, nostalgia is a feeling of familiarity which doesn’t always connect to actual memories. Politicians seem to exploit it all the time. Isn't it what makes Trump's supporters fired up about "Making America Great Again"? Or, Hindu Nationalists misty eyed about India as a "Sone ki Chidiya". The relationship between nostalgia and populism deserves a separate post. I will try to do it, but no promises.

For now, I wonder which announcements (videos and not audio most likely) will go down in documentaries for the COVID19 pandemic? I think the lockdown announcements will surely make it and also Trump's many faux pas. But, what about the millions who are starving or migrants whose trains home were cancelled? None of that will make it into the big budget movies/documentaries, of course. Perhaps, in the age of social media and camera phones everywhere, their voices might get recorded. And, they may find a place somewhere in the audio/visual historiography. I really hope they do. 



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