In our childhood, big wooden cabinet radios were a precious possession of well to do families. The number of families that owned a radio set in a locality could be counted on fingertips. Two of my braggart friends, often claimed of being first in the Mohalla to have owned a radio - Made in Germany. But the story rife on the shop fronts was that a family in the neighboring Mohalla, Paandan, had purchased the first Radio set during the Second World War. People at sunset thronged to their compound and squatted on the ground to know latest about the war- the owner, an official in the Maharaja’s government kept the radio on full volume on his verandah.
I have no idea, when our family purchased a Radio set but I do remember, it was kept in a carved walnut wood alimirah fitted with a brass lock. And keys remained with my uncle only. I think, it was in early fifties, when I was reading in primary classes the Radio Room, as one of the rooms had been named as, after six in the evening remained crowded with friends of my uncle. The only passion that brought them to our home at evening was listening news from Azad Kashmir Radio, Radio Pakistan, All India Radio Urdu News and occasionally BBC. Filling the room with aroma of tobacco and smoke, from much sought after hubble-bubble they discussed every news item about Kashmir, India and Pakistan to details. No sooner, it was 8.30 P.M. a serene silence descended on the room, the hubble-bubble calmed down, everyone in the room glued his ears to the radio. As news from Radio Pakistan started, I remember a friend of my uncle shut his eyes to imprint every syllable of the news with accuracy on the chip in his head. It brightened their faces, when news reader would be legendary Shakeel Ahmed. Two other legendary news readers of Radio Pakistan were Anwar Behzad and Warasat Mirza, but Shakeel Ahmed who was called as “Dada” in broadcasting world had a very good fan club in our part of the city. His inimitable delivery of words, correct stresses and pauses, flawless pronunciation and confidence as broadcaster in emergent situations made even children envious. I and my peers often tried to imitate him- “Ab App Shakeel Ahmed Say Khabarain Sunyai”- often this sentence echoed in dark lanes of our Mohalla.
Equally, the 9.15 Urdu news bulletin of All India Radio had some legendary voices like Sayeeda Bano. But, it was the golden and magnetic voice of Abdur Rasheed, news reader of Radio Kashmir that captivated me and made stand still at the main crossing of our Mohalla in front of the “Halaqa” Radio - the community Radio set. Those days Radio Kashmir had a galaxy of newsreaders. The voices of Mahinder Koul, Motilal Khazanchi, Makhanlal Bakas and Prem Nath Harnam, the great Kashmiri news readers of Radio Kashmir I believe still reverberate in the minds of people of my generation. Abdur Rasheed reigned supreme on the airwaves of Kashmir for decades with his Aaj Ki Baat, Nawisht-e-Deewar Programs but it was his movingly presented program Radio Newsreel that attracted me the most. Years later, I learned this legendary broadcaster lived in neighboring locality of Khanyar. And was from the Banday family…