All India Radio (Pondicherry)

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(Shobha Mitra:) “AIR Pondicherry was launched on 23rd September 1967 at 6:30 in the evening. It was in the presence of the lieutenant governor of Pondicherry, the first director of AIR and other invitees that the programme began. The inaugural function took place of the first floor of the governor's residence in a beautifully furnished big hall. We entered through the imposing gates, over a paved front-yard and white marble steps leading up to the ceremonial hall with impressive chandeliers suspended from the high ceiling. This was the first time we had been invited to such a programme and so naturally we were quite impressed.
         The programme began with a recorded piece of the Mother's organ music which at once created an otherworldly feel. Then, the Mother's recorded message given for this special occasion, was played:

”O India, land of light and spiritual knowledge! Wake up to your true mission in the world, show the way to union and harmony.”

After this, we, six participants, began our Vedic chants: three mantras from the Rigveda set to music under the Mother's instruction. After this a well-known Carnatic musician sang a short composition of Saint Tyagaraja. The programme ended with a speech by the first director of AIR, Mr. Dharmagyani, in English. The entire programme was recorded by AIR and broadcast from the Pondicherry station.
         I remember Mr. Dharmagyani's speech. One part of it had touched me very much, when he mentioned that the fountain of spiritual knowledge and education was the Ashram, that is why AIR Pondicherry would always seek assistance from the Ashram and strive for the Mother's blessings. When I went to see the Mother after this inaugural programme, I told her about the AIR station director's speech. That was when She told me, “Whenever JIPMER or AIR ask for any help, always collaborate.”
         AIR Pondicherry was originally situated next to the old lighthouse where the present Promenade hotel stands. It was enclosed within a white iron railing and had ‘AIR, Pondicherry’ written on top of the entrance. There was a reception area at the entrance and then the recording section. Over the first door of entry was inscribed the Mother's message. Each time I would go to AIR, my eyes inevitably fell on the Mother's words. I don't know if this message has been preserved at the new premises of the radio station in Indiranagar near JIPMER.
         AIR wished for two kinds of programmes from the Ashram: first, talks on a variety of topics. They would send a letter to the school in this regard. Whenever a student was ready to take up the request, the Registrar would designate him. If the talk was on the Mother's and Sri Aurobindo's life and on their yoga and sadhana, AIR would contact the concerned sadhak directly: Nolini Kanta Gupta, Madhav Pandit, Arabinda Basu, Nirodbaran, Manoj Das, Kireet Joshi among others.
         The second kind of programme they requested from us was music-based. For this their letter came to me, stating in detail the theme, the date and time of the broadcast, the duration of the programme, the date and time of recording and the honorarium offered for this work. I would always take the Mother's permission before starting the recording and worked either with students or with Ashram artists. Let me give you an example of one such programme:

Theme: Rabindra-sangeet
Voices: Manoj Dasgupta, Arup Tagore, Malay Bhattacharya, Smriti Ghosh, Sujata Mahatma, Shobha Mitra.
Accompaniment: Romen Palit – sitar, Debiprasad – sarod, Tublu – flute, Ramesh Rawal – tabla.
Date and time of broadcast: 8.5.1970 at 8.00 p.m.
Honorarium: 40 rupees.

While the Mother was in Her body, all the money we received from doing these programmes on AIR, I handed over to Her. She would write “Blessings” on accepting our offering.
         After the Mother left Her body, I did only a few more programmes for AIR. Sometime in the 1980's the AIR shifted to its newly constructed premises in Indiranagar, near JIPMER. Probably in the latter part of 1970s I received a letter from them. They wanted to nominate me on their 3-member audition board. I replied to them that as I had now knowledge of Carnatic music, it would be improper for me to be on the board. In spite of this, they kept insisting on nominating me. In the end, fully respectful of the Mother's wishes, I accepted their request and remained on their audition board for a few years.”[1]

  1. Shobha Mitra, Living in the Presence, p.189

See also