M L Raina
The book, ‘Radio Kashmir and my days in Broadcasting’,written by Pran Kishore, is a highly interesting and informative work of art,giving an elaborate account of the strenuous and untiring efforts of the author and his colleagues in bringing into being the most important feature of the paradise on the earth,the vale of Kashmir.
Propelled by his profound attachment with and intense love for “Moej Kasheer”( Mother Kasheer), the author, along with his small group of like-minded enthusiasts,set his sights on his dream project of establishing the institution of Radio Kashmir, the much needed source of information and ,more importantly, the mode of entertainment.
The book is, in the main, in the nature of a multidimensional narrative, bewitchingly a long drawn out series of memoirs, describing, among other things, the relentless endeavours of the author and his ‘fellow travellers’, in raising, brick by brick, figuratively speaking, the edifice of Radio Kashmir station, an institution with a difference.
With his heart on fire for adventure cum research, the author went up hill and down dale, in Kashmir,visiting vast areas of the state,the valley in Kashmir in particular,meeting a cross section of people, gathering through interviews, information about their ways of life, social customs, mutual relationships, festivals, means of livelihood and modes of entertainment; recording all these in the recorder with the help of his friends who accompanied him on all his jaunts. All this to feed the wistful transmitters and the transmission lines of the studios of Radio Kashmir; the objective of these exercises being to reach out to the listeners with interesting programs.
In his long, relentlessly inquisitive search for broadcast worthy content, the author came across folk singers, dancers , satirical skit writers and talented performers. Moreover,he elicited information from knowledgeable sources about Sufi singers and also folk artists who would present short plays laced with humour and satire for the pleasure of the audiences. He eagerly recorded interviews with these people. Later, he would make interestingly informative and pleasurable documentaries for broadcasting. Incidentally, these gifted artists,invited to perform in the studios of radio station came into limelight and got introduced,through the medium of sound, to the public at large.
Being multidimensional, the book presents,among other myriad subjects, brief contours of the long and interesting history and geography, covering the ancient and modern periods.
He talks pathetically about the political landscape of the valley of the 40’s of the last century, which changed erratically and was gripped by turmoil before and after the infamous ‘ Qabali’raid engineered in 1946 by the ever belligerent Pakistan.It caused horrific devastation of men and material.
With an eye for detail, Pran Kishore describes how these tribesmen and the regular army men of Pakistan, masquerading as tribals, marching forward, were halted by a genuine patriot of Kashmir, namely M.M.Sherwani of Baramulla who tricked them into taking the wrong routes to Srinagar and giving them wrong information. He somehow kept them busy with strategic excuses,until the Indian army arrived on the scene. The author further describes the ensuing armed confrontation which pushed back the raiders and how the Indian soldiers gave them a hot chase and were about to capture some territories in Pakistan,but politics stepped in and cease fire was announced.
With the dauntless spirit of an explorer,the writer,with his team,travelled to the far flung border areas to know, at first hand,the travails of the people living in the border areas and the ravages caused by the unprovoked shelling by Pakistan. The interviews with these strife torn villagers,with the ever alert soldiers and their officers, were recorded for broadcasting from the studios of Radio Kashmir to reach the ever eager listeners of the valley.
The routine of making documentaries,and inviting persons of repute from various spheres of life like experts on different political,economic and educational subjects, singers, writers, actors, artists and the like, to the live programs of broadcasting, continued uninterruptedly to keep the ‘dream project’ ticking. Despite the initial teething troubles and complex problems that came their way,the robust optimism of the author and his committed colleagues overcame these hurdles and they marched forwards.
Pran Kishore, an embodiment of modesty and humility,does not give credit solely to himself for contribution to raising the institution of Radio Kashmir,Srinagar to great heights. In this respect he pays glowing tributes to his great colleagues for their invaluable contribution. He also remembers those of his friends who accompanied him during his trips of exploration. As a producer, his assistants proved assets for him by way of lending him a helping hand. In return, he helped the talented ones to rise gradually to the highest rungs of their professional career.
The author remains immersed in a pool of delightfully sweet memories and says , in a nostalgic vein, that when he goes to sleep,with deep silence all around,these recollections of the past events” flash upon (his) inward eye , which is the bliss of solitude”.
The author’s stupendous efforts to see Radio Kashmir Srinagar, growing from strength to strength and ultimately attaining the status of an outstanding broadcasting centre, was for him,a joy” too deep for tears”. This, he believes to be the fulfilment and the be all and end all of his broadcasting career.
The book is an interesting read for the readers especially for the older generations of listeners who will find their past memories of listening come alive on the printed pages. It will also interest young generations of listeners to learn how Radio Kashmir attained the status of a reputed broadcasting hub.
The lucid and the free flowing style with no trace of ambiguity anywhere in the grand narrative are remarkable. The author has successfully held a mirror to the multifaceted panorama of Kashmir with all its bright and dark spots.