New Delhi: Life of Karuna Srivastava has been stitched around radio. Be it listening her favourite songs or programme or making a programme for the people, all have been the soul of her life since the beginning.
She, in her seventies, resides at White Rose Apartments in Sector 13, Dwarka with her family, cherishing the memories of her 35 years of illustrious career with All India Radio holding various important positions.
She started her journey in 1976 formally and it continued till 2008 when she retired as ADG (Additional Director General). Karuna says, “Life is radio and radio is life for me. What I am today is due to radio.”
In her twenties, Karuna joined AIR Delhi leaving her government job in Ministry of Defense Archive Section because she had a passion to ultimately join radio.
She recalls, “It was a good job and I was enjoying in section of war history archive there. But I wanted to join radio. I saw an advertisement in newspaper that AIR had vacancy through UPSC. I applied for that and you can imagine my intensity to join as I was the topper out of 143 candidates appeared in exam. I started my career and joined in music section in June 1976. My work was basically to contact classical singers and line up them for programmes etc. So this was the beginning of my journey with AIR.”
Meeting with dream
Karuna has many memorable moments in her life during radio days. She always remember those memories and live the moment. One of the memories is the meeting with her dream and it was meeting with her role model Lata Mangeshkar. In Karuna’s words, it was climax of her life. She shares with a thrill and a smile on face, “Radio gave me three chance to meet Lata Mangeshkar. Once on the occasion of 50th anniversary of independence, there was a program at the Parliament. Lata Ji had to perform. I was incharge there from AIR. That day I welcomed her and stood aside her. It was like a dream come true. She was in white silk saree. I feel that moment very often.”
Karuna's journey in radio made her meet the giants of their own fields like Shyam Benegal, Lata Mangeshkar, Bheem Sen Joshi, Smita Patil, Raj Babbar, Harivansh Rai Bacchan, Debu Chaudhry, Amjad Ali Khan, Bismillah Khan, Anuradha Poudwal, Kavita Krishnamurti, Bappi Lahiri, Girija Devi, Jagjit Singh and many more.
She still after her retirement in 2008 is on the panel of AIR as an expert and often go to check the audition and contribute in other required works for AIR.
Being in radio, Karuna got many chance to earn glory, make great friends and get blessings of veteran artists and laureates of India. When she was looking after Yuwavani, she had friends like Raj Babbar and his wife Nadira Babbar. “We used to invite youths from Delhi University and it was the time when we used to interact more after program or before program. We all were of same age so there was a connect. In that period, Raj Babbar used to visit us and also her wife Nadira. With the time, Nadira became my good friend.”
Eight hours recording with Harivansh Rai Bacchan and letters
When she was handling the programmes with veteran writers and music artists, she got used to contacting them for recording. It was a program in which the AIR was doing long recording of artists and writers. In that, Karuna recorded famous poet and father of Amitabh Bacchan, Harivansh Rai Bacchan. Karuna used to interact with him and his wife Teji Bacchan. She has a memory associated with Harivansh Rai Bacchan, “He was a fatherly figure for me and he treated me like a daughter. He used to write me letters too. I had his five hand written letters on inland. His writing was beautiful. Unfortunately, I lost those letters.
They were kept in a box with my own writing works. Somehow moisture entered in that and they got corrupted. It was a great loss for me.”
Interaction with Smita Patil
During her days in Yuwavani, Karuna got a chance to interact with Smita Patil. Smita was invited by AIR as she was on a program in Delhi. Karuna shares, “There was an excitement in us to meet her. Before that we went to Regal to watch her movie Bhoomika. She was a lady with grace. A young, simple girl with dark complexion. Humble in talking.”
Received award on behalf of Bismillah Khan
Karuna was holding charge of Station Director in Lucknow. In 2003, there was a function organised by AIR to honour the artists. In that, Ustad Bismillah Khan had to be honoured but he was not present. On his behalf, Karuna received the award. “I was Station Director, so CEO Prasar Bharti asked me to go on stage and receive the award. It was a big moment that I was given a responsibility to get the honour of such a legend and hand over to him in the same way. I did that. I went to Banaras to give his award and award money. He was very happy seeing me visiting him personally. He blessed me patting my back. I could feel that warmth still in my life.”
A challenging moment
Karuna shares, “It was the period when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister and there was a program at Ramleela Ground. Lata Mangeshkar was also there. It was a big program in which the PM had to address farmers. I was incharge of coverage and had to record the program for AIR. I somehow left my recording tape at office. When I reached, I realised that I had no tape. At that place, Doordarshan, Film Division and other media were there but only Film Division had that type of recording tape. I took a risk. I decided to return to office to take my tapes. There was no vehicle outside. I requested the Film Division people to start recording for me also in emergency if the program starts before I reach. I walked down the lane reached the office and took my tape. Fortunately, the program was not started till I reached. It taught me that one should take risk in such a situation.”
Meaning of radio
Karuna Srivastava says that the form of radio has changed but the meaning and importance has remained same yet in this era. “I have seen changes from generation to generation in radio but its importance is still significant. I can say that the radio is the strongest medium yet in all mass media. FM and community radio concept is revolutionary and it has brought this medium in front line competing with other media. So radio is a civilisation and the civilisation has it own definition of radio. It will remain for ages.
About her 35 years of association, she says, “By and large, I fully enjoyed my journey in radio and feel proud to be associated with AIR, a prestigious institution of music, art and culture.”