Prof. V. Balasubramanian, an ardent listener of foreign radio stations tunes his valve radio. — DC
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Texas, Prof. V. Balasubramanian knew about it in a few minutes sitting in Chennai thanks to his Murphy valve radio to which he has been glued for the last six decades.
Prof. Balasubramanian has been an avid radio listener who has a collection of over 5,000 cassettes with recordings for over three decades.
DC spoke to Prof. Balasubramanian on the occasion of World Radio Day (February 13). It was his hobby that helped the 71-year-old Mr Balasubramanian get his first pen-friend abroad. "I befriended Mr Ronald James from New Zealand through Radio Australia's mailbag programme," said Balu Sir as he is fondly called in the radio listeners' circle.
Attributing his desire to develop an English vocabulary as his main reason behind tuning into stations like British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VOA), Prof. Balasubramanian said that during 1950s, it was not possible to get an English magazine in Chennai so with no other option left, he had tuned into foreign radios.
"We use to listen to the West Indies-Australia match commentary on BBC during 1960s at our college hostel and note down the scores for debating about it in our free time," Prof. Balasubramanian, a 1959 batch Mechanical Engineering student of the prestigious College of Engineering, Guindy.
Reminiscing incidents like the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, John F. Kennedy and man's first landing on the moon as the most memorable events he has heard on the radio, he said that there were many such incidents, which he could associate with radio.
"When my mother fell sick I could not listen to my favourite shows on air so I started recording programmes on my tape recorder. This habit continues even today," added Prof. Balasubramanian, who was the head of the department in a private polytechnic college in the city.
"With the advent of satellite radios and difficulty in maintenance of short wave transmitters combined with lack of funding for radio stations the hobby is slowing dying," he complained.