Monday, June 03, 2013

On AIR, Online: All India Radio's Urdu service is now available to listeners around the world


The famed Urdu service of the All India Radio (AIR), which kept generations of radio lovers hooked, is finally available to the audiences across the world.

For years, the dedicated followers of Urdu service, struggled with the knobs on the radios, in order to catch the service.

At times it worked and then the voice would suddenly vanish. The reason was that transmission wasn't strong in most parts of the country, except regions in North viz. Punjab and Kashmir.

The service is now available online 24/7. Also, you can tune it on the internet, listen it through your laptop or cell phone without worrying about the frequency or KHZ. The AIR Urdu service's link is here. In fact, the AIR radio channel has been available on most digital networks [DTH] and for sometime now and can be heard on TV also. With growing digitisation of cable, it will hopefully have even greater reach.

I still remember how a shop owner from Maharashtra, who stayed near my house, daily tuned in to the Urdu service station in the afternoon. For hours, one could hear lovely songs. The choice of Bollywood songs and music made it a hit with the non-Urdu walas.

Nostalgia: The Era of Radios and Transistors

Mind you, in those days, there was just a single TV channel--Doordarshan, that too for a few hours in the evening. So entertainment still meant radio. Not just music and news, the AIR Urdu service, aired literary programmes, dramas, interviews and almost everything you can think of throughout the day. Just have a look at the list of programmes at this link.

Just today I tuned in the station, and at 3 am, an interesting soap opera was being aired. The Urdu service was started in the seventies. I often heard that it was to counter the influence of neighbouring country's radio and TV in bordering areas.

The fact is that the Urdu service succeeded and it had a cult following. Even today, there are lovers of the AIR Urdu service, just like Vividh Bharti fans, spread across India. In towns in UP, Bihar, MP and Rajasthan, you find numerous people who wait eagerly with transistors [remember the word!] to listen to the service.

Catching Short Wave stations, struggling with knobs, going to radio mechanics

In those days, just like catching BBC Urdu or Hindi service, it was a tough job to catch AIR Urdu service. People tried all sorts of methods.

There were mechanics who specialised in this art. The buyer often asked the radio seller to ensure that the 'sui' [needle] was specially adjusted and attuned for the BBC or Urdu service.

Some radio mechanics used a long metal strip on which a wire was fixed, to serve as an extension for the antenna.

Last year only, a mechanic told me that he was still doing it. Yes, every home in India doesn't have a laptop yet. All these efforts are made to catch the radio services which were not in Medium Wave but seemed floating [or lost] somewhere in the Short Wave. Today, its the era of FM.

But the stories remain. And so does the AIR Urdu service. Thank God. Information & Broadcasting (I and B) ministry must be congratulated for turning tech-savvy and saving the service. So what are you waiting for? Feeling nostalgic! Just click and listen to the melody AT THIS LINK.