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In its 60th year, AIR Shillong ‘skips’ anchor Kyndiah

Shillong, July 29: His voice was a symbol of “breaking news” during undivided Assam, but he was not remembered when the commemoration programme of 60 years of broadcasting in the Northeast, organised by All India Radio, Shillong, ended yesterday.

Former Union tribal affairs minister P.R. Kyndiah, 81, was the first newsreader and compere of AIR Shillong, a fact which did not find mention during the beginning and culmination of the 60th anniversary celebrations of All India Radio.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Kyndiah expressed his disappointment over AIR not recognising its old contributors. However, when contacted, the officials of AIR Shillong said they could organise the culmination programme only in a small way and did not have the intention to forget its old-timers.

The Shillong station of AIR began the yearlong commemoration programme on July 1 last year to mark its 60th birth anniversary.

As part of the culmination of 60 years of broadcasting, a musical concert, “All India Radio on the move” featuring songs by eminent radio artistes, was held at the State Central Library yesterday.

Kyndiah recalled that 60 years ago in July 1948, he was appointed on contract the first compere of AIR Shillong, which was part of the Shillong-Guwahati station.

“My duty in the first instance was to be a newsreader in both Khasi and Jaintia languages and also to compere programmes of talks on different topics and also on music, both vocal and instrumental,” Kyndiah recalled.

Since it was for the first time that AIR was known to the people of Shillong, Kyndiah took upon the job not only as a newsreader and compere of programmes, but primarily as a person assigned to hunt for talents of musicians, both in traditional and modern.

The Shillong station of AIR was established in July 1948 in undivided Assam. After Meghalaya came into being, a full-fledged station was established in 1977.

Kyndiah said his intense desire was to project the cultural wealth of the Khasi and Jaintia people. He was initially paid a modest Rs 60 a month. It was later increased to Rs 120 per month. “I was not drawn to the job merely on monetary consideration but it coincided with my mission in life.”

Kyndiah left the job only in 1962 when after he was elected a member to the Shillong civic body.

“If my memory serves me right, I received Rs 180 per month before I resigned from my job and on my resignation I was paid a few thousand rupees as gratuity,” he said.

The former Union minister’s association with AIR Shillong for almost 14 years had brought him in contact with a number of talented music composers and artistes of excellence.

Kyndiah recalled that reputed film director and an outstanding artiste from Assam, Bhupen Hazarika also joined AIR Shillong as a programme assistant in the 1950s.

“He had just returned from a university in USA and loved to sing Old Man River, a spiritual song made famous by Paul Robeson, a noted singer of that time. We got acquainted since then,” Kyndiah said.

“I made efforts to see that musical talents are persuaded to come to the All India Radio station for both broadcasting and recording. I must admit that it was not an easy task to do that,” Kyndiah said.

He does not regret for not getting any recognition. “As AIR is still a powerful weapon of mass communication, it has to induct fresh ideas and innovative programmes designed to catch the attention of the listeners in the context of challenges from the FM channels.”

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