The Lahore that was: Yeh Radio Pakistan Lahore hai
It was a glorious spring day in 1960 that I accompanied my father to the Radio Pakistan Lahore for an audition. This was a time when the radio station was housed in a sprawling old bungalow near the Simla Pahari gate of the Governors House. The studios were located in the main building, while a ‘U’ shaped annex across the rear courtyard made up the offices of the producers and administrative paraphernalia. As one entered the gate, one passed along a drive and into a porch that connected another small building to the main structure. This was the accounts office from where one got paid for the programmes one did. The radio station was surrounded by trees and there was a fairly well maintained lawn in front fringed by Jaman trees.
Life at Radio Pakistan Lahore was an unforgettable experience. Everyone from celebrity to the chaprassi acted as part of one big family. The young were respectful towards their older peers and the latter responded with great affection and dignity.
There was the great Ayub Romani, who was in charge of musical programmes. He was a popular figure, always surrounded by great names in music and one found the canteen hard to keep up with the demands for ‘a set or half set’ of tea from his office. The inimitable Sultan Sahib or Nizam Din to listeners was heard before he was seen. He was full of life and as child artistes we looked on him with awe.
Working with Mohini Ham-eed and Aqeel Ahmed was an experience that I cherish to this day. Mohini or Apa Shamim to thousands of boys and girls across the country anchored the ChildrenÂ’s Programme on Sundays. This wonderful person with the velvety voice also read out the daily evening story for the young. She had a great fan following as she often played lead female roles in radio plays. Aqeel Sahib had the gift of a perfect Urdu pronunciation and a voice to match it. I remember him as a man with wavy hair combed straight back, always ready to help faltering youngsters with their lines.
Begum Khurshid Shahid was a lady who was respected by ever-yone. She carried herself with great dignity and delivered her lines impeccably with great voice control in the style practiced by the old drama school. She was a great source of learning and it was a privilege to work with her.
Azizur Rehman was the doyen of radio announcers and the day was never complete unless one heard his resonant voice saying; “Yeh Radio Pakistan Lahore Hai.” He was a diminutive and gentle figure with a voice that could ‘calm a raving beast’. His two other equally famous colleagues were Mustafa Ali Hamdani and Akhlaq Ahmed. It was Hamdani Sahib, who had the proud privilege of making the first announcement as ‘Radio Pakistan’ at midnight on August 14, 1947.
In those days most programmes went live and one had to be careful of what one said on the side or how one delivered the lines in the script. One went on air with just a few rehearsals and there were times when a slip had to be covered with an impromptu dialogue. In such situations, the other members of the group always came to the rescue with a follow up question or a line and these slips generally went undetected by listeners.
The remuneration for amateur child artistes was only 10 rupees for each programme, a cheque for which was issued immediately after the event was aired or recorded. This was like largesse for a boy in those days as one could buy loads of goodies from Yasin Khan Bakers with the amount.
I had the opportunity to return to the familiar surroundings of the Radio Station in 1964 before it shifted to Empress Road. This time it was to record English language educational programmes for the British Council. I received my first sur-prise when the old chowkidar at the gate recognised me. I then came across individual after individual, who welcomed me as a long lost family member. I looked at the two goras accompanying me and just managed to say ‘I’m home’.
The writer is a freelance columnist.
Source: The Nation