I do not remember the exact date but it was in 1991 when I got the call letter from the All India Radio's local FM station in Tirupati. I had sent my Telugu poems and the same was accepted by the radio station.
AIR was not new to me and neither my name was unknown to Tirupati FM station. I used to write letters almost regularly to the Station Director on various programs that were broadcast from the station, Many of those letters were being read and answered by the station authorities. Likewise my name was pretty much known to the staff and listeners.
But the twist in the story is that no staff had seen my face till I was called for the maiden recording. Amongst all the AIR staff of that time, Malladi Chandrasekhar was the most creative announcer. He was hosting a talk show called "Mano Ranjani" wherein the short poems or poetic prose sent by the listeners were read by him and a suitable film song was played along. Here too,my poems were being read many a time by Malladi.
It was in one rainy afternoon that my first AIR recording was scheduled. I was sitting in the lounge like frightened duck. My fear was not because of my first appearance but because of sitting alone in that vast room where the tiny humming of centralized AC was the only noise to be heard of. I sat for more than 30 minutes before being finally called in to the studio.
During those 30 heavy minutes, an young guy in his late twenties was saw by me coming in and going out of that big lounge. At every entry and exit by him, there was a stare or glance towards me but he never gave a chance or took one to speak to me.
Now, I am inside the chilly and quiet studio. I was welcomed by an young guy who introduced himself as the Sound Engineer and he said "Take your seat there and recite your writings. Someone would come for the recording."
As there was no need for me to recite or rehearse my own poems, I was simply gazing at the acoustic walls and ceilings. This time, the presence of couple of mikes, big and round table, cushion chairs etc. have put me in a comfort zone. I liked the quietness of the studio room than the lounge's weary, dreary silence.
Then came the same young man whom I had seen many a time doing thoroughfare in the lounge. He quickly got into the anti-room of the studio, switched on the lights and stood before a mike and was looking at a piece of paper laid on the table.
He smiled at me through the glass wall that bifurcated the studio room and the recording room. Suddenly a speaker came to life by carrying his voice "Are you Mr. Raghothama Rao?". Now I got to know who that guy is. My dear Malladi Chandrasekhar!
I smiled and said "Yes Mr. Malladi."
In next minute Malladi was in studio room shaking my hands and donning a wide and wild grin on his face. He said "Oh! Are you really Raghothama Rao? I thought that Mr. Raghothama Rao must be an old, person. All these days I was visualizing you to be grey haired or bald headed, retired government employee. But you turned out to be much younger. How old are you?"
"19 years....." I answered him sheepishly.
"Oh my God! Then I am the oldest fox. I am 27. Why did your parents gave you such an ancient name?" he enquired further.
I just shook my shoulders and kept smiling.
What followed next does not matter much as it was a regular thing that happens in every radio station. But this unique experience remains fresh in mind and would revisit me every now and then.