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  • Writer's pictureProf. Mohan Singh

THE BUFFALO IN MY DRAWING ROOM


Pakistan Television’s war propaganda, in 1971, was clearly received in Amritsar, but there was no border station to counter it. Indira Gandhi’s inauguration of the first Doordarshan station of Punjab in 1973, from the eastern quadrangle of Khalsa College Amritsar, should therefore be appreciated for more than one reason. The studios then were in Delhi. One of their popular slots was ‘Javaan Tarang’ especially produced for the youth. Our college was the first to get an invitation to participate, and I was deputed to select the students, two boys and two girls, and accompany them to Delhi. TA & DA on the College. There was no time to get a reservation and hence we took the plunge in the general compartment of the overcrowded Janta Express which departed in the evening. It was already dark when the train reached Beas, but I don’t know why it stopped midway, on the river bridge itself. It didn’t move for more than an hour and its batteries also ran out. But we were all well ensconced on the luggage racks. The light from an occasional match stick would be received with a momentary sigh of relief. However, in that perfect silence of the dark and crowded compartment, on the middle of a bridge, I asked my students to rehearse what they had planned to sing at the studio the next day. All our folk songs were well received and we heard loud clappings from an invisible audience. At the next station, there was a scramble for water and a couple of Coca Cola crates on the platform, evaporated in minutes. The same scene was witnessed at the next stations, and we had a late-night dinner at the Jullundur platform. Now, none of us had ever seen the inside of a TV studio. Anyway, our students presented a set of very popular folk songs they had rehearsed in the middle of the bridge. When the shooting ended, we were asked to collect our remuneration cheques. We didn’t know that we would be paid. So much so that the students now wanted to have a good time in Delhi. I got their requests to stay back in writing and caught the morning train to Amritsar. Since my own remuneration was much more than the students’, I too was overwhelmed and throughout the journey, made many castles in the air. When the train reached Amritsar, I ‘chartered’ a rickshaw and we rode through Hall Bazar where I stopped at Bholi Radios and after examining different LP record players, purchased the newly arrived HMV 666 Stereophonic machine with two independent 5 X 5 HiFi speakers.

Proudly, I stepped into my house and without even changing, unpacked the ‘trophy’ of sorts and switched it on at full volume. The LP, an album of Sheikh Farid Sloks ( couplets ) from the holy Guru Granth Sahib, had just been released, in 1973, to mark the eighth centenary of the birth of the first Punjabi poet. It had an introduction by Khushwant Singh and lilting renditions by Neelam Sahni, Manna Dey and Jagjeet Singh, under the baton of S. Mohinder. My father, then in his late eighties, enjoyed the music but at the end, asked me how much I had spent on it. I had spent Rs 1500/-, all of what I had received from the studios at Delhi. When I told him that, he wryly remarked, “You could have bought a buffalo instead, with that”. Fortunately, I still have that heritage hi-fi ‘buffalo’ in my drawing-room.



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PROF. MOHAN SINGH

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