AIR off the air!

Has the venerable AIR become redundant? Think of AIR switching off itself. Hard to imagine isn’t it?  But the other day it did happen. It went dead for 48 hours.

As is my wont every morning when I switched on the radio and didn’t hear my favourite music I tried the other three AIR channels. But no. All I could hear was the usual transmission noise when the station is off the air. My initial reaction was that my radio had conked. But only the previous night it was blaring out the usual ragas. What could have happened overnight?

Last time a similar silence haunted me when WorldSpace went off the air on January 1. But it was expected. AIR going silent was unknown and least expected.

Why are you observing ‘maun vrata’? I asked the radio (or myself?). Music filled the home as I went about doing my morning chores. Music was and is my companion. But today it was not to be. Why? There was power. The radio connections were in tact.

What next? I asked myself as silence filled the room now. Where do I locate the radio doctor who would restore its audio glory? But my worry was that he would make me visit him several times before handing over the repaired set. It is not just the tailors who do not stitch in time.

An unpalatable silence hung around the home when I glanced at the newspaper. There it was — the reason for my radio’s nonperformance. It was not the instrument that had struck work. It was the music provider himself. AIR staff was on strike! But I was suspecting my faithful radio. I was so unfaithful.

In my 64 years of existence on this earth I have seen, observed and suffered several strikes. Participated in a few also. Banks have shut the doors; government staff has ‘officially’ struck work; city buses have gone off the road; doctors have hung up stethoscope. Lawyers have kept away from the court and cases have been adjourned without their pleading. Students have cheerfully kept away from classes. Our ‘netas’ have been shutting parliament and assemblies for days. I have even suffered the only railway strike so far and had to travel from Gujarat to Kolar by bus to attend my sister’s wedding — thanks to George Fernandes.

But no sir, not an AIR strike. Now I can add this to my list of strikes observed and suffered. But what surprised me was that there was hardly any public reaction to this rare AIR (non)performance. When I told a colleague about AIR going off the air he dismissed it as of no consequence because he hardly listened to it. With so many private FM channels blabbering nonstop 24x7 and TV stations adding to the cacophony has AIR become redundant? Is AIR no longer an essential service then?

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