Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Grey Blue

It isn't as though I am not familiar with grey-blue. It is a feeling I've met many times, around the gentle bend of a song, in a chilly office when you suddenly look up and realise that the sky has darkened and most of the cubicles are empty, and the electrician is switching off the tubes, one by one, by one...

The quiet hum of machinery, the drone of a distant TV with a couple of office boys and a security guard hunched up around it, half guilty for being there while I still work, so snapped up into irritating attention whenever I pass by to visit the ladies or walk into the studio.

A radio station is a funny place to work in. A monstrous machinery of people, strategy, technology, database and planning - to talk to one person. Its astounding. While an ESPN gears up to cater to a billion people during the EPL, a Star Plus grooms itself to please millions of viewers per saas serial, what is our job? To make ONE person smile.

The rest follows. But the day you loose sight of that one person, you're sunk. You cannot address yourself to a mass on radio. The only way to procure the masses, is to forget them and focus on the individual.

That, I think, is what Amitabh Bachchan used to do. Talk to an audience of one. And get the nation by the balls of its imagination. O yeah, its his birthday tomorrow. Happy birthday big b.

Grey-blue often keeps me company while I work here. Today I was chatting with the jocks team in Jaipur about who they are really talking to, and why... and I started to do this typical character sketch of an average middle class listener. What does he think about, what are his insecurities, how does he feel, what does he wish for? 6 matches of the ICC Champions Trophy are happening in Jaipur, but does this guy have a ticket? Can he buy one if he wishes to?

And I suddenly felt that unbidden lump in my throat and that slight pin prick behind the eye lid. A tad embarassing when you're addressing a gaggle of giggly barely-out-of-teens.

I don't know when grey-blue will show up in this line of work. That's probably why I love this job so much. Sometimes, when I'd work really late, and the office would be deserted, I'd step into the on air studio, before leaving for home, on a chilly winter morning. I'd know that the roads outside would be fogged over at 1 or 2 a.m. and just before braving that cold lonely drive, I'd push open the solid thick wooden doors that lead into the On Air.

Normally the engineers would've darkened the room before leaving. And the entire studio would be in dim, weak starlight streaming in from the massive glass paned windows on a clear night. Else the sound of the radio would be filtering in through the dark, and just the red and yellow lights on the consol would be glowing, and twinkling, and blinking... like friendly magic.

I've stood there, in the shadow, on many a night, and felt grey-blue curl up like a muffler around my neck, a rug at my feet. I've heard the strains of a soft song filter out of that twinkling blinking friendly magic, and reach its gentle fingers out into the night.

And as I stood there, I have imagined that same song soaking into a romantic drive a young couple is taking on the gurgaon road; sinking under a blanket where a teenager has hidden a radio; caressing an old man as he nods off to sleep on his rocking chair; keeping a night watchman company in his wooden shack, accompanying a call center executive as she works late into the night with a steaming cup of coffee by her side.

Our entire working, planning, thinking, strategizing, meeting - for that one moment.

Do you know that what you hear on your radio set is actually playing 8 seconds after it plays out from the On Air studio? Jokingly once, a jock of mine had said about the On Air - if the rest of Delhi is in the present, then this studio is the future.

As I have stood there late into the night, watching the blinking lights, and feeling the emotions that seep out of that room to touch lives, hearts, moments, situations, fights, cuddles, huddles, arguments and pain; interest and boredom, aloofness and involvement - I have felt for a split second that I genuinely did stand in the future and beheld magic near enough to touch.

And I have quietly left the room, wrapped in grey-blue, wondering if any of us understood the power we held in our hands. And if we'd ever put it to the right use.


kaaju katli said...

You capture the magic of radio beautifully. Goosepimply - and not because I'm freezing in the office today!

Anu said...

radio mirchi might have been our respective past, present and future, but I would like to remove the RJ hat (therefore not talking about the content)and compliment you on your style of writing. Grey blue actually made me feel both the greys and the blues that exist not just in the present space but in boundless time as well. While reading,I could literally smell the studio and see the dawn break from the studio window..guess it is not just radio that is 'theatre of the mind'. cheerio