By Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai
Editor’s Note: The writer was born and brought up in Rawalpindi. He studied in Denny’s High School, Mission High School and Gordon College. He worked as a Consultant in Provisioning & Stock Control and Logistics in various Organisations. Finally retired from PIA and now lives in Dubai. He is writing a series of articles about the life in Rawalpindi during 1930s, 40s and 50s.
Continued from Part 7 ………..
During 1940s a number of radio stations started functioning, which created a lot of choices to choose from. In the meanwhile All India Radio had started transmitting various types of programmes, like dramas, talks, discussions, music, children programmes, religious programmes; but no advertisements were made for the business community. Thus the radio was very popular to the listeners. Almost all the restaurants and tea shops in Rawalpindi started keeping radios to attract more customers.
As All India Radio transmitted only on medium wave length, there used to be atmospheric disturbances during the bad weather and we had to listen to the repulsive type of thundering noises also along with music and talks. BBC and other European radio stations were received on short wave meter bands with clear sounds without any atmospheric disturbance; and Russian/Central Asian Radio Stations were received on Long Wave Meter Bands.
During World War 2 the BBC also started Urdu programmes to counter the Berlin Radio. I faintly remember one Balraj Sahni and his wife used to speak on BBC in Urdu/Punjabi.
I also remember King Edward VIII; speaking for the last time after his abdication with his closing sentence “God save our new King”.
(Editor: Edward VIII was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January 1936 until his abdication on 11 December 1936. He abdicated the throne for an American socialite Wallis Simpson, who had divorced her first husband and was seeking a divorce from her second husband. After his abdication, he was created Duke of Windsor. He married Simpson in France on 3 June 1937, after her second divorce became final).
I also remember listening to the running commentary for the funeral of Quaid-e-Azam: all the listening gathering was crying with tears in their eyes.
During early 1940s the film songs were started in their mid day transmissions, which proved to be great entertainment especially with “Request Programmes”.
I remember when in 1957 Suraiya Multanikar sang her famous ghazal “Barray beymarawat hein yeh hussan walley” for the first time, it was announced by the Radio Pakistan that they had received mail equal to two truck loads, requesting for the repeat transmission of the ghazal.
With the coming of radio the use of gramophones started diminishing and soon the usage there of was almost finished. The sale of gramophone records reduced substantially. The price of gramophone records was Rs. 3 each; and price for a set of discs for complete dramas used to cost Rs. 10-15 depending upon the length of the drama, which was recorded on more than two/three discs on both sides. During 1920s these discs were only one-sided, and were very heavy in weight with 3 minute recording; but during 1930s the quality improved with recording on both the sides with a diameter of 5 inches. Later “LP” (Long Play) records were introduced with bigger size long-playing time.
Interestingly with the coming of television in the market, the usage of radios had also diminished drastically. Radios seem to have become out dated, and are in use in villages, far-flung areas and in automobiles. In late 1960s I saw so many radiograms (which were loaded with more than six discs at one time and played back automatically one by one), radio sets and gramophones and their discs lying in heaps in the shops of second-hand items sellers (Kabarees).
After the Partition of India in 1947 till mid 1960s radio and cinema were main source of entertainments; but when television was introduced in 1960s all attention was diverted to this new super entertainment, which rapidly became a household routine. In the initial stages television started with very sober and high quality programmes without any vulgar or poor quality items. Respect of the audience/listeners was duly maintained during the performance; unlike the present deplorable condition of the existing vulgar, insolent and low quality TV transmissions disregarding the sanctity of the family and our religious culture. The way and the speed at which the present television system is going astray, it will soon supersede the Indian and Western transmissions to expedite speedy deterioration of our culture.
Up to 1920/30s there were other types of entertainment which were fast approaching extinction. Those were Theater and Puppetry. The Imperial Cinema in the city area of Rawalpindi was initially a theater also. There used to be mobile theatrical companies. I still remember one such company called Corinthian Theater Company. Being a mobile company it used to go round all the cities in India, and held live shows before the public. It was a very big theatrical company with its headquarters in Calcutta. I had only one chance to see this theater in the Imperial Cinema during 1930s.
Almost all schools and colleges used to have theatrical groups which used to entertain the school gatherings on functions. The student actors were trained by the teachers mainly off the school hours. I was in the singing choir of our theatrical group in the Mission High School, which used to sing national/prayer (DUWAYA) songs before the start of the drama.
Though the dramas of Agha Hashar Kashmiri and Munshi Prem Chand were modern and liked very much; the scripts of old romantic fables like “LAILA MAJNOO”, “HEER RANJHA”, “SOHNI MAHIWAAL” etc., were also dramatized and were very common and popular.
The Hindus used to have street drama groups who would perform their religious dramas like “RAM LILA”, “MAHA BHARAT” and “BANBAAS” showing the exile of their Lord Rama during evenings. The stage was set at some height and the public would sit on ground on “Durrees”. For lights “Petromax” gas lights were used.
There used to be “FAUJI DRAMA SABHA” in the Army during British times. These drama units were mobile and kept visiting Units in various cantonments; and provided a big amusement/entertainment to the otherwise boring military personnel, who were posted in far-flung uninhibited areas.
Another type of entertainment were puppeteer and Magicians, who were mainly booked by the schools and other such organizations. These type of entertainers also performed on road sides gathering large crowds and earning their livelihood.
There used to be mobile cinemas on wheels going round the streets showing short cut movie films (“TOTAY”) or fixed slides. They were small oblong boxes fixed on four small wheels; with two or three magnifying glasses fixed on both the sides for the viewers to see through, with a hand projector fixed on one end and one square foot screen on the other side of the box. Children used to enjoy a lot after watching the “show”, after paying one or two paisa as tickets. (Editor: Probably these were commonly known as Biscopes).
These type of performances were so peaceful, entertaining, and soul touching that the present generation can not even think about the pleasure and satisfaction felt by the audiences during those times. I wonder why such a closely knitted, multi-religious society disintegrated; that the past now looks a dream. TO BE CONTINUED …………
My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 1)
My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 2)
My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 3)
My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 4)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 5)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 6)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 7)
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi
Editor’s Note: Did you find this article interesting? Feel free to share this Post on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media by using the buttons below.
If it is not inconvenient, please do write a brief comment at the end of this page under the heading “Leave a Reply here”.
You are welcome to contribute nostalgic articles about Rawalpindi by sending to: firstname.lastname@example.org