Shri Ajeet Singh
(We present an article ‘Memories of the Victory Day 1971’ written by Shri Ajeet Singh ji, Ex-Director (News), Doordarshan.)
☆ Victory Day Special – Memories of the Victory Day 1971 ☆ Shri Ajeet Singh ☆
Bliss was it to be in the newsroom of All India Radio Simla this day 50 years ago. And it was heaven to be a young Sub-Editor listening to the relay of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi addressing Parliament on the fall of Dhaka garrison after the 16-day long Bangladesh liberation war. Clapping and celebratory gestures erupted as she announced, “Dhaka is now the free capital of a free nation”.
Member after member hailed the indian victory over the Pakistani forces. I still remember Srinagar MP Shamim Ahmad Shamim who while congratulating the Prime Minister said, “She has not only created a new history but also a new geography”.
It was a bigger bliss for me as I was to read that evening’s regional news bulletin as our regular Newsreader veteran Ramkumar Kale had taken ill since the eruption of war itself.
A senior announcer had been very keen to read a news bulletin. He frequently demanded to be given a chance but Assistant News Editor Puran Chand didn’t oblige.
In his usual jovial manner, the announcer would plead that he had been PA to actor Premnath and was experienced enough.
The first reason to deny him reading a news bulletin was that he
was a perpetual paan-eater and we non-paan eaters were scared of his spitting paan while talking. Some time we even told him that.
“Paan is essential for a clear throat. An announcer has to speak a lot. Paan, therefore, is a must for him. Your newsreader Ramkumar Kale speaks only for 10 minutes. That is no job. I speak for six hours”.
Ramkumar Kale would say that job of a newsreader and that of an announcer are quite different. “An announcer could make a mess of a news bulletin if he didn’t practice off air in a studio for one month and listened to his recordings under professional guidance”.
When the December 1971 India- Pakistan war broke out, Newsreader Ramkumar Kale fell sick and the Regional News Unit Shimla did not have a panel of casual newsreaders.
It was decided, though reluctantly, to try the senior Announcer for newsreading as he only was available on announcer duty that day.
The jovial Announcer was thrilled. “You should listen to the bulletin today. You may forget Ramkumar Kale”.
We pleaded with him to practice hard as this was his first chance. He didn’t care much.
I, as standby news editor in the studio, wished him all the best.
Hardly two minutes into the bulletin, he closed the fader switch and said, ” this bloody thing is choking my breath”.
I gestured him not to talk and concentrate on the bulletin. He opened the fader and read the next item but to close it again saying, “you will kill me today”.
I showed my eyes hinting that he should calm down and read the bulletin.
At half time, he rose from his seat after closing the fader. I was shocked. I just got hold of him by his arm and gave a big rap on his back dragging him to the seat.
There was a gap of about half a minute or so. The Duty Officer and the Engineer on Duty rushed to the studio. By that time a humbled Announcer was in the chair and reading bulletin at a much slower speed. He threw no tantrums.
As he, somehow, finished the bulletin, the Duty Officer and the Engineer-on-Duty, still in the studio, wanted to know what had happened. The Announcer mumbled something that wasn’t much audible.
They turned to me. I told them it may be a short studio failure. Check it up tomorrow.
I told the factual story in the newsroom. Everybody laughed. ANE Puranchand said, “No more chance taking with announcers. Ajeet Singh, you will read bulletins from tomorrow. Take these old bulletins home and practice. Will record you off air tomorrow at 2 PM”.
The jovial Announcer was friend from the following day but he never pestered for news reading.
And I read the bulletins for the next about three months.
1971 war had ended after 17 days. We had started an additional daily bulletin that continued long after.
The bulletins were also used to be relayed through a public address system on the Mall Road Shimla where people would crowd to listen to the latest on the war front. It was still the Radio age. Television had arrived but was still in its infancy, confined mainly to the national capital Delhi.
Due to some strategic consideration, Jalandhar and other stations of All India Radio used to stop transmission early as the enemy could locate the position of their transmitters and bombard, especially during night when engaging them was rather difficult. Shimla located among hills didn’t suffer this disadvantage. So it was listened to even in the plains of Punjab and Haryana.
It did give some sort of image or recognition to me. People in my home village near Panipat would tell me having listened to the bulletins from Shimla. It did please me.
Every experience makes one a better person. By and by I became more confident.
War ended and bulletins also came back to development and local stories. After about two months of my news reading, came a letter from some listener saying that one Ajeet Singh who read news that day mispronounced
the word ‘zila’ as ‘jila’ 13 times. He was right as we counted the word was used 14 times in the bulletin, may be he missed one count. I improved not only that but started rehearsing for all Urdu words. Mr. Puranchand ANE was an Urdu man and a big help.
Newsreader Kale joined after about three months. He trained me in voice acculturation.
Jasdev Singh, the ace sports commentator used to do Newsreel from Delhi. I got hooked to that.
During 1980s and 90s when I was in J&K, SFH Naqvi was incharge of the Newsreel section in the News Services Division in Delhi. The Statesman used to carry detailed review of radio programmes of the week those days. One of my despatches was praised therein. HT also appreciated some despatch later.
Joint Director of News, Jag Mohan Lal Mathur rang me up once to say that one of my Samayiki programme was appreciated in the Director’s meeting following its newspaper review. I asked him if he had listened to the programme, he said none had. Newspaper reference only thrilled everybody. Now tape was being located to listen in the evening meeting.
Instances are numerous but I think this grinding must have shaped me to be awarded the Akashvani Award for the “Correspondent of the Year” for 1990.
It was all very thrilling that took me through about 20 years in J&K . The Kargil war, Hazratbal shrine seize and a lot more.
Thank you dear jovial Announcer, thanks Puranchand ji, Kale ji, SFH Naqvi and everybody who helped me shape what I am.
© Shri Ajeet Singh
Shri Ajeet Singh ji is a freelance journalist based at Hisar. He retired as Director of News , Doordarshan Hisar in 2006.
Mo. – 9466647037
≈ Blog Editor – Shri Hemant Bawankar/Editor (English) – Captain Pravin Raghuvanshi, NM ≈