When I wanted to be a newsreader

When I wanted to be a newsreader

I vaguely remember the padded, enclosed room where I was isolated.

Representative Image. Credit: iStock Photo

To find employment in those days was as difficult as it is today. I had my choices, of course, my first preference being a career as a newsreader on All India Radio (AIR). The glamour of a newsreader’s job had me hooked and I decided to get an interview at AIR. Since I worked in the Accounts Office as a stop-gap, the interview part was easy as the Accounts Office was in the same building that housed the AIR. 

A day and a time were fixed for my audition which left me all worked up. I could hardly pay attention to the files piled up on my table, pending disposal. Those were the days before TV and the internet when AIR was the only mode of breaking news. Since my teachers in school had always commended me on my voice and I had also won a prize in the elocution contest in college, I was convinced the job would be mine. I look back now with a wry smile at my youthful naiveté.

The day before the audition I practised a passage from Longfellow’s poem Hiawatha’s Wooing… ‘As unto the bow the arrow is, so unto man is woman.’ This was the very passage for which I had got the prize. Also, I spent some time gargling with salt water to clear my throat in preparation.

To steal up to the AIR office at 10.30 am did not come in the way of my accounts job. We had a strict section officer who took his rounds at noon sharp but then I would be back in my seat well before that.

I forget what passage I was given to read. But I vaguely remember the padded, enclosed room where I was isolated. I sat at a table with a mike in front of me and through the dividing glass, I discerned the program assistant who with a wave of his hand started me off. The whole exercise hardly took ten to fifteen minutes. The guy came round and said, ‘come tomorrow at the same time and we’ll let you know.’ That was it. Had I failed? I could not make out anything from his expression. I knew I had the voice. But the accent? The icing on the cake? 

The next morning I climbed the stairs with a thudding heart. I sat waiting when he bustled in with a bundle of papers in his hand. He looked at me questioningly having forgotten who I was and why I was there. ‘About the audition…’ I started timidly, my ever-reliable voice sinking to the soles of my Bata chappals.

‘Ah yes, I remember, you want to be a newsreader, well, well right now we are not appointing anyone. Maybe you can try again next year…’ he said crisply, not looking at me.

All that was some decades ago. As they say, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

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