Imagine growing up on an audio collection where almost every cassette sleeve had tiny portraits of Mother Mary and/or JC woefully staring back at you, decked in costumes born out of some underpaid artist’s garish imagination. Well, thanks to my Dad’s single-minded taste in music, I didn’t have to. Aatmeeya Geethangal, Aatmeeya Naadhan, Swargiya Naadhan, Nammude Swargiya Aasrayam etc. were the chartbusters playing on repeat in my house. Don’t even bother trying to figure out what all that means. Just know it’s the business mantra of the ruthless Mallu Devotional Tape industry that translates to ‘Blessed are the musically challenged, for their misplaced faith shall line our coffers.’
So that’s why when I say, “Thank God for Vividh Bharathi“, I really REALLY mean it.
My parents were surprisingly tolerant of Mediumwave Radio. In fact, every morning Dad would religiously (pun, eh?) listen to this dude called K.P.Yohanan interpret the Bible in a million different ways on a show called Aatmeeya Yatra. KP usually started off with an off-beat story, probably borrowed from an ancient Reader’s Digest issue, and then make a “smart” segue into the Topic of the Day with the following announcement – Ente Paeru KP Yohanan. Idhuuuuu Aatmeeya Yaatra (The name’s Yohanan KP. Thisssss is “Spiritual Journey’). Dad never liked it when I timed this right and repeated the line alongwith KP. In fact, many years later I changed it to the lamer ‘Idhuuuu Eppidi Irukku‘ in my best Rajinikant impression. Dad had stopped caring by then.
With Dad out of the house by 7:30, it was back to Vividh Bharathi. After all, amidst the early morning scramble to pack lunches and find matching socks, you really did need a squeaky female voice constantly reminding how much behind schedule you were.
Ting-Tong, Neram Ippozhuthu Ettu Mani, Padhinaindhu Nimidam (Ding-Dong, the time is now 8:15)
This was usually when Mom let loose a series of clenched-teeth, PG-rated expletives and rushed out the door, the shoddily applied talcum powder making her look like some dyslexic Kathakali dancer. I would usually follow her to the gate yelling Powder, Powder and after a rapid makeover session of Here? Where? Face? There? Oh..the neck? would transform her back into the strict Math teacher she was.
And with Mom safely on her way to a window seat on 29C, I would return to plant myself in front of the radio as I hastily devoured the dosas, glady ignored the boiled eggs and forgot to drink up the glass of Boost. I would get shoe polish on my fingernails as I chuckled at a ChandraBabu song or was startled by another ear-piercing ad for AUE Grinder-Motor. My belt would miss a loop as the stunning sweetness of an exquisite Ilaiyaraja interlude briefly numbed my senses. I would pause in the middle of getting my hairstyle in place, to use the comb as a make-shift microphone, singing to the mirror in my best Mohan impression. And thanks to impolite neighbours and unmindful local businesses, loud radios would keep playing my songs as I pedaled my way to school – spirits high and sweet music on my mind.