Monday, May 15, 2006

My Window to the World

Knowing about and exploring different cultures and places has always been a hobby. These days one can do a lot of armchair traveling thanks to the many travel oriented shows on TV and write-ups in magazines but when I was growing up there weren't too many options available except for reading and traveling to the location and exploring for real.

Thanks to the uncountable Mills and Boons I consumed in my teen years, I know quite a lot of UK, Australia, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece. I wonder why Frenchmen were not preferred as heroes in Mills and Boons - perhaps it is because of the age old rivalry between the English and the French? My other obsession was listening to shortwave radio. During a trip to Amsterdam, my Mother brought me a Sony world receiver where one could do a digital scan of all shortwave frequencies. It is till date the most wonderful gift that anyone has ever given me.

Shortwave radio added an entirely new dimension to my learning and also gave me a chance to peek into cultures and countries far away from me. The most accessible stations were Voice of America and BBC; VOA ran a US top 40 song countdown which was then probably the only source for updated music. I still remember Ray Mc Donald who hosted those shows and actually came down to Calcutta to marry a Bengali girl (not me :(). BBC was my favorite source for economic analyses, news and literature. There used to be a program called Bookshelf where selected works for great authors were read out - I 'read' Madame Bovary, Picture of Dorian Gray and Hayavadana through BBC. Hunting out newer shortwave stations became an obsession, I used to maintain a diary of the names of stations and their frequencies - later I found that this hobby had a name, it was called DXing. Then the Internet had not hit India so there was no way to connect with people having the same hobby and no way to share what I had found.

Everyday I would strain my ears at each frequency to try and discover a station; at times the languages were different so I had to wait till they announced the name of the station. I found Radio Luxembourg, Radio Berlin (before the unification of Germany) and few more - 40 in all. Radio Australia was also one of my favorites and I used to listen to a program called Good Morning Australia hosted by a very cheery gentleman with a wonderful Australian accent - he managed to paint a very vivid picture of Melbourne.

I still miss my world receiver which was junked a few years back and I haven't got down to replacing it and neither have I checked the state of shortwave radio after I started working but it was my greatest companion in my growing up years and also my window to the world.


The Comic Project said...

chatterbai:: Three things stand out in my SW listening experience.
1. I learnt my angrezi listening to BBC World Service and my favourite on SW was the BBC Top 20 at Midnight IST every Monday (Tuesday).
2. Radio Ceylon was another one..They played old hindi songs at 7 AM every day and on the first of the month, they played without fail "Khush hain zamana aaj pehli taareek hai" song by kishore kumar.
3. Randomly changing channels and stopping wherever there was Western Classical playing because that was the only (inexpensive) source for some great music.

But had no idea that this was a "hobby" :-)

This encourages me and time/cost permitting - I might get myself a world receiver - something I have planned for the last 8 years but never managed to buy one.

Nidhi said...

Wow !! this is so interesting...i was born into the internet age..

See what i meant when i said i love dropping by...i get to know things from times i have never lived...

Thanks !!

BTW I liked that post of yours about ppl leaving for foreign destinations.....I loved the sensitivity ...our hands do get caked with dry gravy !! *sigh*

Muaah !!

rishabh_flop_ruler said...

awww, now i feel like getting one of those sony receivers and endlessly searching channels, now that i have free time.
I cant stand the FM of hyderabad. Its driving me crazy.

Kausum said...

I still remember my first radio .. It was a Philips one from Netherlands. Used to catch BBC world Service news to know events in the world. It was my companion in all the study sessions.

Planning to buy a XM Satellite Radio .. Its too cool

Albatross said...

Well, although I am a big music buff, I never have been a big radio fan. That's probably because I listen to what I like and not what others want me to listen to :)

But yeah, I miss those Fridays which I used to look forward to...Philips Top Ten, Antakshari and Zee Horror Show back to back ! Also the Sundays which used start with mytholgical stuff like Mahabharat and then cartoons like Ducktakes used to take over :) Does anyone remember Kroorsingh in Chandrakanta? Evening was the Spiderman time...

Now I have stopped watching the television for almost a year and books are music are my only windows to the world these days !

Sue said...

Were you ever a member of the ham radio junky groups? I believe they had a lot of fun apart from their serious work.

M (tread softly upon) said...

Radios lost out to the invasion of television and cable and internet. But they used to be a part of my growing years too. Inspite to the existence of TV and the works. These days I have gone back to the radio on my long drive to work each day. NPR is my window into the world these days.
Nice post.

ichatteralot said...

@TCP: Yes language is great on BBC and yes I listened to he top 10 on BBC as well but somehow I found teh VOA top 10 to be better as the songs were quite different on both. Infatuation by Rod Steward was a song I still like thanks to its record run on the BBC charts. Radio ceylon in the mornings had a great retro pick from the 60's - yellow polka dot bikini and tie a yellow ribbon were their favorite songs.

I also subscribed to a free magazine by BBC called London Calling - that too was good.

Maybe I will buy it with the dollars I earn in this trip...

@Nidhi: Now I feel like a dinosaur :D. Glad to give you a peep into my times and thanks a lot for your words - I am floored yet again!

@Rishabh: Two days of FM and one will hear all songs that they will play for a month. The constant reruns are so irritating - try shortwave!

@Kausum: Great - tell me whether its a good investment.

@Albatross: I have no time to watch TV, the only show I manage to catch is Desperate Housewives and that too I have to sit on the remore so nobody at home changes channels!

@Sue: Ham would have been the logical progression of the hobby but I never managed to graduate to that level as I got busy with my career :(

@m (tread softly upon): Radio is good in a way because it encourages one to think and visualize which TV does not do. It feeds us all the information we need and there is no further scope to think