Remembering Bobby Talyarkhan and the Murphy Radio

A homesick Parsi in Vancouver sent me this vintage newspaper ad for Murphy Radio featuring the venerable AFST, Ardeshir Furdorji Sohrabji Talyarkhan, or Bobby as he was popularly known in Bombay. Zoroastrians who remember the radio will undoubtedly recollect Talyarkhan. He was I think our earliest sports commentator. Cricket was his specialty. And he took to the mike in November 1934 when the Bombay Pentangular was played between Parsis and Muslims at Bombay Gymkhana. He had a rich fruity voice and a fund of anecdotes.
That was before most people’s time, well almost, but those who followed cricket in subsequent decades will remember Talyarkhan as being their eyes and ears at the stadium. He had the voice and mannerisms of a commentator. A beer-soaked and cigarette-stained voice. He could breathe life into a game and make it come alive. And he had the ability to share his enthusiasm with his All-India Radio listeners. Talyarkhan would speak for hours without interruption. Except for lunch and tea. His broadcasts were firm, full of life, and filled with the scent of the playing fields.
When I eventually got to hear him, Talyarkhan’s voice had gone gruff with all that talking. But the clipped accent was still there. The angry flourish. The tone. I think he was reduced to giving an expert close-of-the-day summary to a cricket series in the 1970s. Yet later, when I was a young journalist in the Bombay tabloid MidDay, Talyarkhan wrote a column there till he passed away on July 13, 1990 on cricket, racing, hockey, football and boxing that he uniquely signed off with the line “Do you get me Steve?” I never met him but Dr. Hirji Adenwalla, the eminent surgeon, described Talyarkhan as being a debonair man who drove a red sports model MG.
It’s interesting that Talyarkhan endorsed the Murphy Radio. My family had one. It ran on valves and had a Green Magic Eye that would glow when the radio was ready to receive audio frequency signal. The radio had two bands: Medium Wave and Short Wave. Both run by All India Radio. Medium Wave was Vividh Bharti. Its lineup was Hindi film music. More than music, it was cricket commentary that was followed on the radio. The live, ball-by-ball broadcast took the game to the masses. Conveying the roar of the stadium among runs and the silence in between wickets. Old timers miss Talyarkhan’s wit and wisdom still when there’s satellite television that colourfully brings cricket live to our homes from around the world.”

Mark Manuel

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