In digital age, future tense for Chandni Chowk's radiowallahs
Kolkata: At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world slept, India awoke to life and freedom and with that, came one of most iconic speeches of Indian history – the 'Tryst with Destiny'.
Millions were glued to their radio sets as they heard the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru usher in India's independence. But that was 1947, and today, after 72 years, the once beloved radio finds itself in hot waters, with its waning popularity and decline in sales.
Niraj Srivastava, the owner of an electronic store in Chandni Chowk , said: "The sale of radio has gone down drastically with the advent of television, mobile and the internet. Nowadays, when the youngsters want to listen to any song, they just say 'Alexa, play'. But such was not the case, even 30 years ago. When we first opened our shop, we used to only sell radios and our sales figures were pretty impressive. At that time, a single radio set was priced somewhere between Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 and the pioneer in the market was Murphy radios. Nowadays, we only sell eight to ten radio sets in a month."
Emphasising on the fact that for Bengalis, Mahalaya is incomplete without 'Mahishasura Mardini' recitation by legendary Birendra Krishna Bhadra, Srivastava said: "Before Durga puja, particularly during Mahalaya, our sales are very high. At that time, we sell around five to ten sets every day and each radio set costs around Rs 400."
On Wednesday, the City of Joy observed the 'World Radio Day' and commemorating the occasion, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Twitter, "On #WorldRadioDay my best wishes to everyone associated with the radio industry. FM plays an important role in raising awareness among the people. May this vibrant medium continue to grow". Faiyaz Ahmed, another shopkeeper in the same market, said the ones who come to purchase these radio sets are the old people who mostly reside in rural areas.
"For people in the rural areas, it is still one of their primary sources of entertainment, knowledge and information. Apart from that, a handful of young people also buy these radio sets to gift it to their parents on celebratory occasions," Ahmed said.
He said: "Radio has been dying a slow, imminent death and there may come at a time in the near future when it will become absolutely obsolete. We should not forget this music box as it has been around for a very long time. People should buy it and at least keep it as a souvenir".