Music of life, once upon a time

Rajesh Sharma

ONCE upon a time there was a tavern/ where we would raise a glass or two… Those were the days, my friend/ We thought they’d never end… For we were young and so sure to have our way… Recently I received a link to this 1968 Mary Hopkin number from a batchmate.

I was 10 years old then. That was the time when listening to the unseen was listening to All India Radio and the news were read by veterans; when music meant Urdu Service of All India Radio and some Punjabi folk songs, and Pahari, too. For hill areas of erstwhile Punjab, the musical slot from Jalandhar was titled ‘Parvat ki Goonj’. A radio then was a wireless set and required registration and an annual fees of Rs 15, and half of it for single band sets, to be deposited at the post office.

My father, now a nonagenarian, bought his first and only radio set to date, in 1965 in Jalandhar for a princely sum of Rs 360. A government school principal, his monthly salary at that time was only a little more. He exulted in his new acquisition. Vividly do I remember his joy. My siblings and I were told that it was at this shop that he had heard Nehru’s famous address to the nation when Mahatma Gandhi was murdered.

Few years later, teenage happened. Hostel life was a vast sea, where one had to swim sans parental guidance. Some wonderful seniors accounted for being just that. But it was a blunder land and a wonderland at the same time. It was here that I found how most of the residents lived a spartan life and how some became connoisseurs. Keeping a personal radio set was prohibited. But playing a record player was not! It was here that I listened to western music. Boney M’s ‘Daddy Cool’ was the flavour of those years. Another hit was ‘Hooray, hooray, it is a holiday’. Beatles had happened more than a decade earlier. Those who had a record player — tave wala baja — learnt to get a stereo effect by parking two speakers on the brim of two small earthen pitchers placed across the corners of the room, at least 17 ft apart.

To own a record player one either fleeced one’s parents on some flimsy ground, or managed to be the secretary of the cooperative kitchen service, where one could embezzle and manage some easy money before being kicked out of the privileged post.

Few of the record players in each of the two hostels made most of us croon and swing to the tunes. That was the time when we thought we would never lose. For, we were young. I do not know how the teenagers of today will find life without YouTube, but for us ‘Those were the days my friend’!

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