Spaced out

by Roopinder Singh

UNOBTRUSIVELY the little black box added music to our life. When my wife came back from school one day, it was there; waiting for her, and the little startled smile that came on her face was reward enough.


Our mornings started with Asa Di Var, and kirtan. Later in the day, we would be humming to some old songs on Farishta, or the more contemporary film music on Jhankar.

Jansher enjoyed the latest English songs on Spin and Top 40, which we also liked, after a fashion, but then we had our own little refuge in Amore, that played mushy ol’e songs and spun its own magic.

The selection was great. Sound quality was crystal clear, except for the occasional day when clouds eclipsed a service that lit up our life at home.

It was the gadget aficionado A.J. Philip who had introduced me to Worldspace and its wonders. Typically, the receiver he had was not available in India, and thus we are relegated to using ones especially made by BPL for the service. Then Sunil got his Worldspace and started singing its praises… and then Shastri…

The thrifty logic in me, however, just could not warm up to the idea of paying for something that was free on the airwaves, and has been so ever since the inception of the radio. Let’s not get into details like licence fees, which have thankfully died a natural and least lamented death.

My father always listened to the radio, and normally by the time I woke up he had twisted the knobs of his trusty old Philips receiver and was au-fair with the latest events. Then it was time for music, which would continue all day, and sometimes into the night, providing a background to his reading and writing. So it was not that there was no music in the house, and to top it all, it was free and FM too was fairly good, becoming better by the day, or so it seemed.

All this was fine, till I realised that Jaspreet was pining for Worldspace, and that was reason enough to change my stance on free airwaves. I joined the gang, and realised what I had been missing all these years. Now it was an integral part of our lives. Yet there were clouds, and we are not talking of atmospheric disturbances.

Now that it has been announced that the New York-based Worldspace Corp has filed for bankruptcy protection, the last day of this year will be the end of service of this remarkable satellite radio that enriched our lives. We will still have music in our lives, Thank God for the free airwaves and the wonderful variety of music that comes through them.

This middle was published in The Tribune on December 29, 2009

I had written about how TV and FM radio in India are turning base in an earlier article.

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