For the 47th time, his familiar voice will take you through the R-Day paradeJanuary 25th, 2009 - 11:37 am ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) He was all of 17 when Jasdev Singh heard broadcaster Melville De Mellow give a marathon commentary on Mahatma Gandhi’s funeral in 1948. So overwhelmed was he by that voice that he decided to become a radio commentator. In no time he became a legend on radio.This year, when millions hear his familiar voice on the public address system on Rajpath giving vivid details of the Republic Day parade, it will be Singh’s 47th year of commentating on the annual event.
“Thank God people still remember me!” Singh said jovially at the mention that he enjoys a huge fan following across the country.
“I have been commentating on Republic Day since 1963. But for the last two years I have not been commentating on radio. Instead I have been commentating on the public address system at Rajpath, seeing all the action and reaction of the people live,” Singh, 77, told IANS.
A Padma Shri and, more recently, a Padma Bhushan (2008) winner, Singh comes from a family of engineers in Jaipur. So when he expressed his desire to become a commentator, it was met with surprise by his parents.
“My mother laughed at me because I did not know Hindi and wanted to become a Hindi/Urdu commentator. That somehow made me more determined to follow my idol, Melville De Mellow, and become like him,” Singh told IANS at his Delhi residence.
Singh started with a series of Hindi commentaries for functions in college, big or small. After initial rejection by All India Radio (AIR), he was eventually selected as a Hindi/Urdu announcer on radio.
“In 1960 I was asked to do a commentary for a football match in Jaipur. It greatly impressed my seniors. Then I was asked to do the Republic Day commentary in 1963. Although I have now been doing this for decades, I will not forget that first commentary,” he said.
“I reached Rajpath at 5 a.m. when the place was empty. There were a few people with their blankets to see the parade. That was the first and the last time when our Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, marched on the Rajpath with the contingents,” reminisced Singh, who worked at AIR for 34 years till his retirement.
“The crowd was so full of passion and excitement that they too started walking. It took hours for the crowd to finally disperse. The event now gets over by 11 a.m.”
Seeing the transition down the years, Singh, who is mostly remembered for his lively hockey match commentaries, said that while the security has definitely gone up on R-day, the common man’s participation has come down.
“Things change. Even when I talk about commentators, now it has become more of a fashionable job. Earlier we used to just make points and speak impromptu, with emotion. Now people simply read out of scripts.
“It is overwhelming the way people respond when they recognise my voice. Some remember me for my hockey match commentaries, some for the R-Day ones, while others say that my commentary on Nehru’s funeral brought tears to their eyes,” Singh said.
“I may have retired, but commentating is my atma (soul). Public commentary is an art. It has to be nurtured,” he added.
The fourth edition of Singh’s autobiography, “Main Jasdev Singh Bol Raha Hoon”, written in Hindi, hit the stands two months ago.
(Azera Rahman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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