GRANNY GOES ON AIR!


The latent actor in me had always been hankering for an opportunity to express the minimal histrionic talent I had been endowed with. But the roving life of a Defense Service officer’s wife would hardly let me develop roots enough to make my mark on the local art scene. So, when my husband got posted to Bangalore prior to his early retirement, first thing I did was to apply for an audition to All India Radio (AIR) Bangalore in the drama section.

In due course, I was called for an audition test. I was asked to read a dramatic piece, a tongue twisting bit of classic prose, a play script with an unseen voice providing the cue and finally to sing a song.

After some days, I got a letter saying that I had been selected and placed in the B category (A second rate actor, no less!) However, I had no complex about it because, even as an also-ran I would be hobnobbing with all the top artists of Kannada theatre.

Unfortunately, by the time I got my first contract, I had already enrolled myself in B.Ed course as a full time day scholar. In the hectic academic schedule, it was impossible to think of absenting myself from College for 3 days’ rehearsal and a day’s recording every time. So, I had to request AIR to defer the offer.

Later, when I had little more time at my disposal, I informed them of my willingness to accept roles.

This time, the contract they sent me was for a long, classy play which would be broadcast in the one and half hour slot on Thursday night. But, this time, I was pat in the middle of a baby sitting pact with my daughter! She and her husband had planned to go to Srinagar for 3 weeks for my niece’s wedding cum sight seeing trip, leaving baby Shriram with me. I had least expected that I would be getting a plum contract from AIR during the same period.

Since asking AIR to defer a second time would mean ringing the death knell to my radio career, I requested my sister-in law Rekha to babysit for a couple of hours on the rehearsal days at her place.
On the second day of the rehearsal, there was an annual death ceremony in the family which was being conducted in one of the mutts which she had to attend. I was expected to go there after my rehearsal.

So, when baby Shriram’s other set of grandparents, who were missing their grandchild badly, came to my place to see their grandson, they found the house locked! Puzzled, they proceeded to Rekha’s place which was close by, but found it also locked!! On being told that the whole family was at the ‘shraddh’ they came to the mutt and found their precious ‘prince’ lying on a dirty mat on the floor and the caretaker granny nowhere in sight !!! I just cannot imagine what their thoughts must have been when they were told that the grandmother was at the radio station rehearsing.

Anyway, after three days of rehearsal, came the day of recording. We had been told that it would take a whole day. To leave the baby with just Rekha the whole day was not fair on my part. But, I could not think up any other way to manage. Luckily Rekha sportingly offered to come to AIR with the baby. So, we packed the baby’s bottles and our lunches and left for the radio station by an auto rickshaw.

The All India Radio station, unlike the single roomed studios of the FM stations of today, was (and still is) housed in a spacious, imposing colonial type of bungalow with a huge lawn in front with a thick canopy of tall, old trees.

Rekha spent the whole day on the lawn and the baby too enjoyed the outdoor freedom. By evening the recording was duly completed.

It was a time when Doordarshan had just made its advent in Bangalore. Though people were disappointed that I asked them to listen to a play on the radio and not to see me on TV, I had a thrilling moment when the names of the actors were announced at the end of the play.

The play, an adaptation from a Malayalam one was quite a successful one. To this day, it remains in their archives and is brought out once in a while to be re-broadcast.

Thus thanks to Rekha’s co operation and generosity, I had my debut in AIR. But, my radio career , like other things, tapered off after a couple of years when my profession of teaching took precedence over my hobbies.

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