All India Radio has been the centre point of more than fifty seven years of my musical journey and today I am very happy to share and relive a few of my memories and experiences in AIR Guwahati.
My earliest recollection of performing in Radio goes back to the early fifties, to the children’s programme named “Chemonia Chora”. During those times it was known as “All India Radio, Shillong Guwahati”. The radio station, which was established in 1948, was located on the banks of the Brahmaputra, it was housed in a sprawling dak bunglow built during the time of the British, complete with a beautiful flower garden; and the image etched in my memory is that of a flower vase, parrot green in colour, shaped almost like a beer mug, where the gardener would religiously place fresh flowers every day. The then Station Director, Ubeidur Latif Barua, was a very disciplined person under whose leadership the Radio Station flourished in all possible aspects. I am sure many of us still recall the notes of Raga “Hindol” with which the day’s programme would be inaugurated. Among many fond memories are those of songs like “Raije mor roja oi” of “Goyan Raijor Anusthan” and of the old “Gaon Burha” dialogues by young Mukul Barua.
I also vividly recall Bhubeneswar Bujar Baruah, Mrigen Raichoudhury, Babheja, Rousanara Khatun, Dhiraj Choudhury, Anushuya Das, Birendra Kumar Phukan, Prabin Phukan and many others. By 1965, when I begun to sing on a regular basis for AIR, the station had shifted its premises to the permanent site at Chandmari in 1958. Contracts were given quite frequently, almost every month. Songs for the general programme were increased from three to five. Special songs like “Xuror Xorai” and musical feature programmes were presented by artists in frequent intervals of three months compared to today’s annual rate. I still recall with pleasure the disciplined way in which programmes were conducted with schedules given well ahead in time. And, I was fortunate to have the august and inspiring musical company of several renowned luminaries of Assam like Sangeet Acharyya Lakshmi Ram Barua, Sahityarathi Lakshmi Nath Bezbaroa, Rupkonwar Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha, Asom Keshori Ambikagiri Raichoudhury, Kabya Bharati Nalini Bala Devi and many others. Of especially happy and interesting times were those, choral and chorus programmes, filled with bonhomic as well as mutual regards among singers, accompanists, composers and lyricists. Such an atmosphere was immensely conducive to a good performance. I still believe that, a successful performance is not possible without such synchrony and today in particular, I would like to pay my heartfull respects to the accompanists whom I met in AIR. They were Promod Chakravarty, Akhtar Khan, Ikbal Khan, Chitta Choudhury, Hiralal Banerjee, Sibesh Bose, Prabhat Sarma, Joney Joseph, Ramen Chaudhury, Peter Joseph and many others.
I remember, with great regard, the contribution of Late Bijoy Shankar Das (on violin) and Late Jayanta Hazarika (on guitar) to my very first special programme “Xuror Xorai” featuring the song “Swapna dila tumi”. The staff of AIR those days showed dedication towards duty and appreciation of music, no different from that of the artist. How can I forget members like Puroshuttam Das, who offered both help and encouragement during recordings, particularly his small gestures of appreciation that would touch my heart? To sum up all these experiences, one found in the AIR station of those days a unique togetherness that kept us full of life. And such an ambience, I realize, also contributed to the fact that we were able to perform live with confidence and concentration, especially able to meet the challenges of singing live, and perhaps all these added to the overall quality of performances. Apart from my esteemed Guru Preeti Nath Joaddar, three doyens of AIR who were renowned composers of Assam, namely, Mukul Barua, Jiten Deb, Deben Sarma were the greatest influences in my musical career.
In particular the sweet nuances of songs were inculcated in me by them. I continue to sing in AIR and my experience in performing in “Xuror Xorai” last July, 2012 conducted by renowned composer Ramen Barua, was equally fulfilling / satisfying. My life has always been shaped by three aspects – teaching as my profession, family as my responsibility, and music as my passion. Under such constraints, I was fortunate to have the AIR Guwahati as the only connecting thread that linked me to music lovers. Indeed, the All India Radio station has been a redeeming factor in my musical career, and a significant and endearing part of my life. This is the institution which is perhaps closest to passion, my music. I wish AIR Guwahati many many years of success, progress and may it flourish forever.
Mridula Das was a popular All India Radio Guwahati artist. She is a retired Professor of Chemistry (Cotton College, Guwahati).