City Moment – Radio Star, Central Delhi
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He was glued to the radio, his eyes focused towards the instrument as if it were a mobile phone screen.
One Sunday morning, rickshaw puller Manta Ram Sisodia was lounging in a central Delhi bazaar lane. Plopped up on the passenger’s seat of his vehicle, the elderly man was lightly holding onto the old-fashioned grey radio that seemed to have weathered many seasons. With the antenna drawn out to its full length, the rickshaw puller’s channel of choice was loudly playing an audio drama. The walls on both sides of the empty street were resounding with the play’s overtly dramatic dialogue deliveries.
Mr Sisodia was so involved in the unfolding plot that he would not look up at the occasional passers-by. Clearly, he was in no mood for business.
Suddenly, a character in the play barked out a comic line. The puller’s face instantly lit up into a noiseless giggle, while his eyes shut close the same moment, almost automatically. His whole body began to shake in quick spasms as he continued to laugh— silently—for about a minute.
The play ended immediately afterwards with a climactic music and Mr Sisodia returned to the world around him. “This radio is very, very old,” he informed, “I’d got it many years ago from my village in Gonda (Uttar Pradesh).”
Pressing down the antenna, he covered the radio with a gamcha and kept it carefully in the secret space hidden under the passenger’s seat. He then pedaled away the rickshaw to “other streets where I might find grahak (customers).”
Nobody killed the radio star