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THE FREE RADIO SUMMARY BY SALMAN RUSHDIE
About the Author :
Salman Rushdie (1947 – Present) has remarkably in the development of Indian Literature in English. His contribution in historical fiction and magic realism is immense. He deals with, in his writing, memory, nostalgia, and issues and impact of migration. His treatment of religious and political issues give birth to burning controversy.
“The Free Radio” belongs to “East, West”. In “The Free Radio”, he presents how, during the period of Emergency, the semi dictatorial government under the leadership of Indira Gandhi brainwashed contemporary youths to lead them to go through sterilization by using The central government used radio as a mass media to brainwash the youths. Rushdie, probably, uses the thief’s widow as the shadow of Indira Gandhi and Ramani as the representative of naive youths in the then period.
The teacher sahib, the narrator of the short story “Free Radio” by Salman Rushdie, begins narrating the story by saying that nothing good will happen to Ramani, a young boy with distinguished look, because he has been trapped in the evil claws of the widow. He says that Ramani is a donkey’s son as he cannot be taught what is good for him and what is bad. He is a dumb headed young boy.
Ramani’s father, at the time of his death, has left a new-branded first class rickshaw. The narrator laments that utilising his look and other things his father left for him at the time of his death, he could have got a good wife after saving some rupees over the years which he couldn’t.. But Ramani ended his promising life by falling in love of the thief’s widow who is ten years older than him and five surviving children before, even, reaching his youth.
The narrator sits under the baniyan tree with his hookah and notices the harmful affairs of Ramani with the widow. Whenever Ramani would pass with rickshaw, women would talk and admire Ramani’s attractive look. Out of his aquintance with Ramani’s parents, the teacher sahib felt sorrow for him and tried to save him from the evil claws of the widow whom the narrator describes as witch. The narrator gives a hint about the profession of widow which is of prostitution, though he does not comment personally.
One day the widow goes to the bania shop to buy dals and while she decides to return, she rides on Ramani’s rickshaw though she has to keep her children unfed to ride on the rickshaw. After this encounter, they are seen shamelessly everywhere in the public. The narrator comments that Ramani’s mother is fortunate enough being dead as had she been alive, she couldn’t have tolerated Ramani’s degradation. Sometimes in the evening, Ramani comes to meet his friends in the streets. Thinking themselves very smart, the so called friends take money from Ramani making him fool and go to the back room of Irani’s canteen to drink illegal liquor.
The teacher sahib regrets to see their degradation but ultimately blames those boys for own destruction. The teacher sahib felt sad to see Ramani’s friendship with those drunkard friends who wear armbands of the New Youths Movement and advises Ramani to stay away from them only to be rejected by Ramani as Ramani finds nothing wrong in it.
These friends begin to flatter him by saying the insignificance of great actors like Sashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan only to lead Ramani buy illegal liquor for them. From then onwards Ramani begin to dream to go to Bombay and to become great hero in Bollywood. But the teacher sahib blames the widow for this also as she begins to encourage him by comparing his look to that of lord Krishna.
The teacher sahib decides to rescue Ramani from the evil claws of the widow. He, therefore, asks the widow and warns her to stay away from Ramani. But the widow, in reply, insults the teacher sahib with filthy words and curse by saying that the people like him should have died long years ago. She also says that she has rejected Ramani saying that she will never conceive, when he gives her marriage proposal due to having five surviving children. She also informs the teacher sahib that as Ramani is unmarried, it was usual for him to want child that she will never be able to fulfil. S After this, the teacher sahid ends his desire to interfare the affair between Ramanı and the widow.
Then, the local health officer brngs a large white caravan and parks under baniyan tree where the teacher sahib used to sit with his hookah. Every night, young men are taken into this van to make them sterilized. The youths with arm bands guard this caravan outside. The narrator changes his siting position somewhere else to stay out of the vicinity of those arm banded youths. Though a rumour is spreaded in the town regarding the activities done in the caravan, the narrator stops thinking of it until he gets to know of Ramani’s new fantasy regarding the new-branded first class transistor radio which he, as he was saying to everyone, is going to get shortly.
The narrator, very soon, realizes what Ramani has done, i.e, sterilization and the narrator blames the widow for this. The townspeople take Ramani’s behavior sportingly as they have seen Ramani in this way over the years. Then Ramani and the widow get wedded. The narrator, the teacher sahib, approaches Ramani to ask if he had been there in the caravan. Ramani replies positively by saying that he has contributed in the national interest.
Then, Ramani continues to put his hand to his ear to imitate radio broadcasting while working with his rickshaw by making people believe actual radio broadcasting. But Ramani gets impatient not to get his radio, the Thanksgiving gift from the central government.
He waits two days more hoping they will bring it to his home. But as nobody comes with radio, he goes to the caravan to demand his rightful radio. But the disagreement appears as they refuse to give Ramani the radio and the youths with arm bands beat him mercilessly and throw him to the street and blood begins to be emitted from his mouth. But the widow never cmoes to rescue Ramani. Once Ramani’s fascination about free radio is over, he decides to sell his rickshaw and move to Bombay to be film star, even greater than Sashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan.
Hearing this, the narrator meets with Ramani to know the truth and Ramani informs him his decision to leave. Then Ramani along with the widow with five children, went to Bombay from where he continues sending letter to the narrator telling about his new career as film star. He informs the narrator through letter how his talent has been discovered by a big studio and offer him an opportunity to act and how they begin to groom him for stardom.
Finally, he becomes a famous film star and begins to lead a life like rich people. The narrator ends the story by commenting on the kind of madness Ramani begins to express regarding the free radio and its eventual betrayal by the central government.