IT WAS a routine broadcast schedule for the listeners of All India Radio (AIR) on Monday morning, when presenter Manoj Kshirsagar started the regional news bulletin at 7.10 am in his distinctive voice. However, halfway into the bulletin, Kshirsagar said that he would now pass on the microphone to Dhanraj Patil, a representative of Pune Blind Men’s Association, who will complete the bulletin by reading the news in braille.
Patil’s presentation surprised not only Kshirsagar, but all the staff at the AIR and the listeners. “It takes people months to catch the right speed and tone; but he did it with precision,” said Kshirsagar, who has been on the job for several years.
It was a first for AIR Pune that a visually-impaired person presented the news bulletin. The programme was orchestrated as a tribute to French educationist Louis Braille on his 207th birth anniversary.
Speaking on the occasion, Nitin Kelkar, Director News, AIR Pune, said, “On Louis Braille’s birth anniversary last year, AIR Ahmedabad had invited representatives of the visually-impaired community to read out the news in braille. Usually, we don’t take people as news anchors until we certify the quality of their voice. But when we heard Patil’s voice, we were happy. Our only concern was that he won’t be able to read or write the news rapidly, as we have to update the list in the morning,” said Kelkar.
Patil was advised to record the news which are uploaded on the website of AIR in his own voice, five days before the broadcast. “He read the news from 7.15 am to 7.20 am, before handing over again to Kshirsagar, who then concluded the bulletin,” said Kelkar. The response from people for Patil’s session was tremendous and AIR received many congratulatory calls from across Maharashtra, said Kelkar.
The Deputy Director General of AIR Pune, Ashish Bhatnagar, said, visually-challenged people are often good listeners and keenly follow the programmes of Aakashwani. “On October 2, which is our foundation day, we had organised a rally of visually-challenged from Shaniwarwada to our Shivajinagar office,” said Bhatnagar.
Patil used to teach languages and philosophy to the prisoners in Yerawada jail till 2011. He has also written Dnayneshwari in braille. After retirement, he works as the editor of Antar Jyoti magazine. “When our president, Niranjan Pandya, told me that I’ve been selected for the session, I felt happy as well as nervous. It is difficult to match the speed and diction of AIR presenters. I used to record their voices and listen to how they stress upon words or pause at the right place. ,” said Patil.