I’m seated on the ground in an air-conditioned recording studio at All India Radio (AIR). I have a live broadcast in a few minutes when I suddenly realize I need to use the facilities. I make a mad dash across the hallway and the building’s only toilet is occupied. As the clock ticks away, I realize no amount of hand wringing is going to help. The occupant inside is oblivious to the concerted throat clearing or door handle jiggling. I return to the recording studio with my teeth clenched. After the broadcast, before my accompanists can engage in small talk, I’m out of there in a jiffy answering nature’s call.
I am a much more relaxed musician when I make my way to the canteen behind the studio. This is my first visit to the canteen and I am appalled at its decrepit state. No one else seems to be bothered. I wonder if the media that provided literally wall-to-wall coverage of the state of the bathrooms, bedrooms and dining halls of the Athletes village at the Commonwealth Games, would ever get worked up about the canteen or bathrooms at AIR, where equally world-class musicians struggle every day.
While the government saw it fit to spend thousands of crores for a ten-day sporting event why can’t it be using its resources to provide better facilities for a 24-hour daily broadcast service that reaches millions of people? Even a millionth of the money used for the CWG games would go a long way to provide reasonable canteens and bathrooms for musicians.
Whether one listens to the strains of a Bhairavi or the dulcet tones of ML Vasanthakumari, the radio has remained an integral part of millions of Indian households. It’s like a family member, one who has been with us for a long time and gives unstintingly. But what are we doing to help this beloved and somewhat down-at-the-heels relation? Classical music is our nation’s pride and AIR has been spearheading the task of preserving and spreading this art form to every nook and corner of the country. Whenever I listen to archival recordings being aired, it’s like being transported to another era. An era when musicians breathed music and seldom thought about monetary compensations often leading a life of penury. It’s time to give this neglected relative some Tender Loving Care.
This article first appeared as a middle in The Deccan Herald