In this digital age not many people care for the good old radio. But there is that one time of the year when nostalgia for this communication device is rekindled for many in Kolkata, and in West Bengal.
Mahalaya, which marks the beginning of the festival season, is also an occasion for the rendition of Mahishasura Mardini by Birendrakrishna Bhadra on the radio. For decades Mahisasura Mardini has been religiously played in every Bengali household in the wee hours of Mahalaya.
Amit Ranjan Karmakar (62) has been repairing radios in his small dingy shop in north Kolkata for almost five decades. The shop on 40 Banamali Sarkar Street in Kumartuli is easy to miss but a peek into it reveals that it is stocked with hundreds of models of vintage radios. By Wednesday, a day before Mahalaya, Mr. Karmakar said that he had repaired 30-odd radio sets.
I will not say that business is like previous years. Trains are not running and there are fewer customers. But still there is work, Mr. Karmakar said.
He started repairing radios in 1976, as a teenager, long before there was television. For those in their 20s it might not matter but for the older generation listening to Mahisasura Mardini on radio is a must, he said. Till a few years ago there were a number of shops repairing radios in Kolkata but now his is one of the few remaining. Photographers and tourists who visit Kumartuli in the run up to Durga Puja often bring their old radios along to be repaired. There is also a yearningnostalgia among people that on the day of Mahalaya they want to hear the Mahisasura Mardini on the very device their fathers and grandfathers listened to, he said, adding that listening to it over mobile phone is not the same.
Mahisasura Mardini, is one of the oldest All India Radio programmes played every year on Mahalaya since 1966. Conceived by Bani Kumar and narrated by Birendrakrishna Bhadra, the music was composed by Pankaj Mullick. It is dedicated to Goddess Durga and her conquering of Mahisasura, the bull-demon.