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Shakunthala R Kini: Voice that struck a chord bids silent adieu to Akashvani

Florine Roche

Mangaluru, Feb 1: The radio voice that talked to the people of undivided Dakshina Kannada, Kasargod, Kundapur and other parts of the coastal region for the last 35 years has silently bid adieu to millions of her fans. Shakunthala R Kini, the last among the five announcers, who formed the main pillar of the institution called Akashavani, retired from service from January 31. With her retirement it can be firmly said the last leg of the five pillars that formed the announcer cadre of this great institution called Akashvani has finally crumbled as there is no feeder cadre to take over the mantle. Now on the institution will be deprived of the services of experienced and talented announcers and Akashvani has to carry on the task with the help of casual announcers.

They say people may come and go but institutions will remain. True to a certain extent and even after the retirement of Shakunthala Kini Akashvani will continue to carry out its duty as a public broadcaster. But she was the last link between the past and the present and with her departure Akashvani has been left poorer of her wisdom, experience, knowledge, talent, her poetic and writing skills and the rapport she had established between the listeners and the institution of Akashvani. For cynics who very casually comment or argue ‘who listens to radio these days’, the content of this article may not be of any significance.

No doubt her ubiquitous voice that talked to people on radio in their drawing rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, gardens or in cars when they drive to office of back home or in buses or trains when they travelled has come to a standstill, though not literally. (Listeners will be able to listen to her voice often through some of the programmes for which she has lent her voice). But She will be missed by millions of Akashavani listeners, who in today’s jargon are called as fans. Because the listeners and announcers formed the vital link and there is that unsaid and unwritten rapport that binds them together knowingly or unknowingly.

Leaving a Void

Though she retired on January 31, January 29 was the last day she performed duty as a staff of Akashvani. In the past four senior announcers have retired except K R Rai of Kenchana Kurlari fame, who died in service. But for the first time we the programme staff feel that we are on the brink of not merely losing a link but something more than that. We feel she has left a void that cannot be fulfilled by anyone. She was the one and only vital link to some of the unforgettable memories some of the employees share about our good old initial days in Akashvani. Being an amiable lady she shared excellent work and personal relationship with the colleagues and that is why there were more misty eyes and aching hearts when she retired.

On the verge of retirement I casually asked her whether she faces anything called retirement blues. I asked this despite knowing that she will be as busy as ever even after her retirement because basically she is a workaholic. Her quick riposte was “though I try to imagine myself as retired, my mind and the sensory organs are still attuned to the disciplined approach I had cultivated all these 35 years of service. This may be because subconsciously I feel relieved as I don’t have to struggle to come for shift duty anymore. But retirement does not make any difference as I have enough and more work on hand”.

Kini family with with son Rahul

The initial years in AIR

For the last one month there have been calls to Akashavani as there were WhatsApp and Facebook comments about her impending retirement. Since then Akashavani is flooded with phone calls seeking clarification on whether the news of her retirement is true. When they come to know it is true there is dejection in the voice of the caller. But then they reconcile to the idea because they have no other option.

Travails of Shift Duty

Being a colleague who worked in shifts for almost 20 years and as colleagues like any other staff for the last two years, I cannot help but recall the journey of Shakunthala Kini as Senior Announcer in Akashvani. It can be rightly said that Shakunthala Mai (as she was lovingly called by all of us) and Akashvani were and are made for each other. As an institution Akashvani has certainly benefitted by her unique sonorous voice in establishing that vital connect with the listeners. And on her part I believe she could not have found a better platform than Akashvani to showcase her eclectic talent as an announcer par excellence. As a presenter, compere, poet, writer, trainer, speaker, interviewer, voiceover artiste to features, jingles, B High grade drama voice artiste - she did justice to these multifarious roles with élan. With her deep voice, her perfect diction, voice modulation, control over Kannada language, the time sense, the patience, her craving for knowledge and the penchant for perfection, were some of the qualities that endeared her to the listeners.

None of this, however, came on a platter and there is lot of hard work that has gone behind the excellence Shakunthala has achieved apart from support of her family. Being a R J’s there was no way they could show their emotions, pain, hardships, turmoil , personal problem or the inconvenience that comes with working in different shifts almost every day. Having worked in shifts I can related to these inconveniences better though I am fortunate to be on regular shift now. But to work for 35 years on weird shift hours definitely take a toll on the person. Moreover, for a woman it is not easy to be in office by 5 am for morning shift or to be in office till 11.30 pm on evening shift and manage the home kitchen as well.

The Pancha Pandavas (left to right) - Shakunthala, Shankar Bhat, K R Rai, Muddu Moodublle and Narayani Damodar

Interviewing Dr D Veerendra Heggade for Chit Chat Athithi in Akashvani

With Varsha Usgaonkar on stage

Interviewing Kasaragod Chinna

10th anniversary of Akashavani public function

On duty with discs and faders

Turn Table discs - a thing of the past

In office among studio visiting students

"Morning shifts used to be sleepless nights till I retired because it keeps the mind alert saying I have to be in office for morning duty. After night shifts we arrive home between 11.45 and 12.15 am. As all our sensory organs have to be very active during duty hours, keeping perfect coordination of mind, eyes, hand moments etc, it is not easy to detach from it soon after coming home. So again it is disturbed sleep on night shift duties. Now I am in a way relieved from the burden of coming for different shifts everyday," she says with a sigh of relief.

Her husband U R Kini (ex employee of MSIL) and son Rahul have been the pillar of strength in her odyssey of personal and professional life. Rahul who spoke his heart out during the retirement function arranged for her said “I was always worried about this weird shift hours and was wondering why my mother was not there in the morning some days or in the evening on other days. I was not an easy child to be brought up but she has managed the home and her professional life beautifully and her discipline has inspired me a great deal. It has helped me in my life. Husband U R Kini, who has been her supportive partner is said to be her biggest critic. “His impartial criticism has helped me to grow and become better”, Shakunthala points out.

Reward for Talent

Shakunthala Kini however, says she is grateful to Akashvani for more than one ways. She was a simple village girl born in Ballambettu in Kasaragod as the 8th child among the 10 children born to farmer late Purushothama Pai and late Ramani Pai. Though her mother tongue is Konkani she had great love for Kannada and it showed in her mastery over the language without any trace of the mother tongue. “It was the environment of Kasargod where we had fight for Kannada and the good teachers and the high syllabus in Kasargod schools helped me develop a liking for Kannada”, she says. She did her school and college studies in Bellambettu, in Bengaluru and Arasikere. She recalls Pallathadka Babu Master for indoctrinating that ambition to do MA in Kannada and she did it in style coming out in flying colours.

Despite securing 8 gold medals in Kannada MA Shakunthala Kini had to toil hard for two long years as she could not get a decent job. "I applied to many posts but there were predetermined candidates and interview was only for namesake," she says. She began to teach in four colleges in the city as part time lecturer and stayed in the hostel in the city. “It was as if I was moving with a roller skater on my legs running from one college to another," she says with a smile. It was her hostel mate Girija Bai who suggested that there was announcers' post in Akashvani and she should apply and she did so.

"I came for the written test thinking it will be another routine affair but to my consternation I received a letter saying I was selected. I had to pass the written test, voice test and finally the interview and the process was a cakewalk for me. I am thankful for Akashvani because among 80 candidates I was selected only on the basis of merit. I have to thank H V Ramachandra Rao the then Station Director for giving priority only for merit," she recalls. She was selected and joined in 1981 and since then it has been a long, arduous but rewarding journey for her.

It was our good fortune to have worked with her. Her impeccable talent to announce or read a script without any mistake in the very first take is not easy to emulate. Though she is retired from Akashvani her voice and her writings will not bid goodbye to us. We will be able to hear or see her in some programmes or the otheras she is active in many organisations, institutions and public forums. Let us hope the retirement period will help her to sharpen her creative skills and reach out to more people in the form of her poetry, writings, translations or books. She has left behind a rich legacy. Full stop.


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Comment on this article

  • Vidya Pai, Switzerland

    Tue, Apr 26 2016

    Brilliant Tribute by Florine to Shakuntalakka.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Chandtashekhar, Land links

    Thu, Feb 4 2016

    There are people who are born on earth for a purpose. Smt Kini is one such personality. She educated, informed and entertained the people of more than 6 districts for 35 years. She has played her role in the success stories of many persons in this region as I believe that the achievers from our place grew up listening to AIR Mangalore. May be her voice is the most listened one around. We have to be grateful to her. There have been hurdles too for her in her profession. But she proved that talent can't be suppressed. She is lucky to have UR Shenoy in the journey of life. Congrats to Florine Roche. Excellent article and a real tribute. Florine gets deeper into her subject whatever she writes, wherever she goes.

    DisAgree Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Kishoo, Barkur

    Tue, Feb 2 2016

    Wonderful article Florine. Wishing you a very happy retired life Shakunthala Mai.

    DisAgree Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Cliffy, Mangalore

    Tue, Feb 2 2016

    Nice Article. Happy retirement to Madam Shakunthala. Gives great knowledge about the struggles and shift work of this job. Thanks Daiji.

    DisAgree Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Edwin DSouza, Angelore (U.S.A)

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Thank you Flourine for introducing Shakunthala. I wish Shakunthala a happy retired life.

    DisAgree Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • I J Saldanha-Shet, Mangalore - Rosario.

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Namaskar! Shakuntalaji,Have been glad to hear you for many years now. Indeed you will be missed. Be at rest that you have contributed to many a life in good times and bad.....more in joy.GOOD WISHES, REGARDS AND UNLIMITED THANKS are with you and your dear ones always. -ijss.

    DisAgree Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • Peter Lewis, Kalmady/k s a

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Madam, I wish you a healthy retired life. your voice never fades from our minds.

    DisAgree Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Happy retired life ...

    DisAgree Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • Mohan Prabhu G, Gurpur

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Shakunthala Madam, I always remember you because, you Started Your Profession as Kannada Lecturer in SDM college of Business Management Mangalore way back in 1980 and I was the Student Studied Kannada from you Mam. Wish you all the best and good luck.
    May Lord Sri Varadaraja bless you and your family.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [21] Reply Report Abuse

  • Lancy Pinto Nayak, Kulshekar

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    ಥೊಡ್ಯಾಂಕ್ ಮ್ಹಾನ್ ಪಾವೊ ತಾಣಿಂ ದಿಲ್ಲ್ಯಾ ಆನಿ ಕೆಲ್ಲ್ಯಾ "ಸೆವೆಖಾತಿರ್".
    ಥೊಡ್ಯಾಂಕ್ ಗೌರವ್ ಪಾವೊ ತಾಣಿಂ ದಿಲ್ಯಾ ಆನಿ ಘೆತ್ ಲ್ಲ್ಯಾ "ಗೌರವಾಖಾತಿರ್".
    ಮಾನೇಸ್ತಿಣ್ ಶಕುಂತಳಾ ಕಿಣಿಕ್ ದೋನೀ ಪಾವೊ - ಮ್ಹಾನ್ ಆನಿ ಗೌರವ್
    ಕಿತ್ಯಾಕ್ ?
    ತಿಚೊ ಉಗ್ಡಾಸ್ ಮ್ಹಾನಾಚೊ ಆನಿ ತಿಣೆ ದಿಲ್ಲೊ ಗೌರವ್ ಆಜೂನ್ ಜಿವೊ ಆಸಾ. ತಿ ಕೊಂಕ್ಣೆಚಿ "ಸುಪುತ್ರಿಣ್"
    ತಿಚ್ಯಾ ಮುಕ್ಲ್ಯಾ ಭವಿಷ್ಯಾಕ್ ಸರ್ವ್ ಬರೆಂ ಮಾಗ್ತಾಂ.

    ಲ್ಯಾನ್ಸಿ ಆನಿ ಜೆಸ್ಸಿ,

    DisAgree [4] Agree [18] Reply Report Abuse

  • jessy, mangalore/London

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Shakunthala madam, good things never end but they make a new beginning. Your retirement is a new beginning for us. Hope we can hear your voice through poetry or in some other way. I love your voice. Thank you.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Madhusudhan Bhat, Mauritius

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    We will simply miss the down-to-earth, friendly, neighbourhood aunt's voice of Ms.Shakuntala Kini. We listener's always had the pleasure of listening the final product of the golden voice of her announcements, wisdom, but rarely did we understood that there was so much of hard-work, personal travails and strong determination behind it. Even when we personally met her, she was a beacon of simplicity and warmth.

    Thanks to Daijiworld, we could have a rear-mirror view of her personality. Wish Madam an active second innings in whatever interests and tastes she pursues. I am sure she can liberally contribute now to literary interests, she perhaps intrinsically loves.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [13] Reply Report Abuse

  • gayathri, mangalore

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    nice article by daijiworld.
    True artist wont retire ...she is alive in audience heart . May god give her health , wealth to enjoy the future .

    DisAgree [2] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • Mavin , Mangalore

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    absolutely great initiative from Daijiworld in bring out individuals who have contributed to our society specially mangaloreans.. thanks again Mrs . Kini for your great service to listeners and mlore

    DisAgree [2] Agree [19] Reply Report Abuse

  • Lydia Lobo, Kadri

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Your farewell article is not less than a biography. Gives an idea of the atmosphere prevailing there in your workplace.

    I wish Mrs. Kini a happy retired life with many more hearty adventures.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [20] Reply Report Abuse

  • Andrew L D Cunha, mangalore

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    I salute ever graceful Madam Shakunthala R Kini. She is the one who recorded my first Akashvani programme of konkani poetry almost 30 years back, while I was studying in St. Aloysius college. After that, she is the one responsible for broadcasting more than 100 konkani poems through Akashvani. My mother who could not read, able to listen to my poetry which is a great satisfaction for me. I remember her giving me tape recorder to interview youths for independent day Akashvani programme. Madam, No words to explain your simplicity and affectionate nature. I wish you Lots of peace, joy, happiness and good health. Thank you for your affection and motivation.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [31] Reply Report Abuse

  • Devi, Mangalore

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Dear Madam Shakunthala, being lady professional completing 35 years of service uninterruptedly itself is great achievement. hats off to u madam. we will really going to miss your voice at Akashavani. Madam shakunthala means Akashavani and Akashavani Means Madam Shakunthala that's the identification u have earned. All the best for your retirement life . I know that u will be more busy now. i wish u good health, joy, and successful in your life.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [18] Reply Report Abuse

  • Hindustani, Manipal/Dubai

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Great work madam..Thanks for tuning all of us in happy mood for so last so many years.

    Wish you all the best and good luck.

    May God bless you and your family.

    Jai Hind

    DisAgree [1] Agree [22] Reply Report Abuse

  • Donald, Mangalore

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    God bless her in all her future endeavors.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [22] Reply Report Abuse

  • Harish, Kadab

    Mon, Feb 1 2016

    Great team, my childhood radio heroes

    DisAgree [2] Agree [25] Reply Report Abuse

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