Relishing the radio

There used to be a time when the radio was the only means of listening to live sporting events. Local stations in the mediumwave and international services in shortwave covered the whole gamut of sports from European football to Formula 1, not to mention the legendary Test Match Special cricket commentary on the BBC that was also picked up by the local stations when India was touring England.

There is a sense of equality about the radio. Irrespective of the listener’s ability to see (or not), radio offered verbal descriptions of events and allowed people to imagine the scene for themselves. One of our (visually challenged) friends who became a star listener for many of the international stations like BBC World Service and VOA always quoted the example of the Sherlock Holmes dramas.

In one of the episodes Holmes walks out and closes the door before which Dr Watson, his fellow lodger, asks him a question. “Only if you closely follow the sequence will you understand that Holmes has simply responded by nodding his head while walking out,” our friend noted, praising the radio for turning his disability into an ability.
The three-hour Saturday Sportsworld (formerly Saturday Special) in the World Service used to be a favourite programme for many avid shortwave listeners. They would get up-to-date information on all major sports, besides some live commentary. There was a time when we longed to tune into the programme, unmindful of the noisy and unclear shortwave reception to hear the voice of its versatile presenter Paddy Feeny at least for a short time.

As an avid World Service listener, I had some peculiar issues with the shortwave. The tube lights in my room (and sometimes even in the next room) had to be off since it increased the noise level. I had to tune at least an hour before the programme if I were to expect a clearer reception. Despite all these seaming difficulties, World Service — especially some of its presenters — gave us the real joy of radio by their enthusiasm.
Now though, things have changed with the advent of internet. You can tune into almost any of the programmes online, even download them as podcasts, but the sophistication doesn’t provide the same pleasure and excitement of listening to shortwave radio on a dusty radio set.

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