Author: Dr. Sharmila Adhikary, Akashvani Drama Section Artist in Hindi/Urdu, 21+ years, English Lecturer, 27+ years in Mumbai
Date: August 1974
Place: Outside Ladies Common Room, St. Xavier’s College, Ranchi.
My friend Barbie made a strange request on that fateful day. Could I accompany her to the radio station, Ratu Road, as she had a youth program to be recorded, along with two XISS (Xavier Institute of Social Service) boys, she asked me. Initially I refused citing missing of my BIT bus and anyway I had nothing to do with all this. So why should I go at all, I thought. Her crest-fallen face later made me change my decision and we went there in a rickshaw. The formalities at the gate were done and we walked into the office. The XISS boys were already there.
Barbie had a thin, piping voice, and was nervous. I kept talking to boost her morale. Observing me for a while the officers were curious to know who I was- to which I replied that I was just a classmate indicating Barbie. “Aap bhi join kar sakte hai!” was the reply. I kept explaining that I was not prepared at all for this program on current affairs and even volunteered to leave. The two XISS boys gaped like goldfish at all this.
Bringing lots of newspaper and magazines, our producer was giving me half an hour for preparation. He had firmly decided that I also must join. He made me fill a simple form for my details.
Afterwards we went to the studio and -lo and behold- our man now says “Aap compere karenge.” and directed me on what I was supposed to do! The program went pretty much okay with the boys not speaking much. We were later taken to another room to hear the recording, where a lone guy was working. On hearing my voice he suggested that I should join the Drama Section. All I had to do was fill another form as the audition was couple of months away. This was too much, I thought. Dismissing the idea, which was well nigh impossible, I quickly changed the topic and enquired about him. He was MA in History, he told me. Period.
Trouble started when the cheques were handed out, the rate per student was Rs. 20/- but my cheque amount was Rs. 32.50/- ! Barbie was miffed to note this discrepancy and later we found out more about it. Taxi fare till BIT, my address, was added to Rs. 20/- which was Rs. 12.50/- .
I reached home late and recounted all that happened. The form for the drama section came by post which we filled and sent back. The audition took place in October. To make a long story short, I had passed muster. I was officially an Akashvani Drama Artist. “We were the first that ever burst upon that silent sea.”
Barbie’s honey colored hair and fair complexion floats in front of my eyes today. The blue eyed angel had come to my life for this reason. I imagine she and I sitting in Madras Coffee House and I looking on as she slurped her sambar from a plate. Wherever you are Barbie, god bless you!
All India Radio opening tune :