BBC Hindi will no longer be heard in the north Indian heartland from March. Achala Sharma, former head of the service, remembers how a British broadcaster brought the world to the towns and villages of India.
It was the morning of October 31, 1984. I was working as a programme executive at the Delhi station of All India Radio, after a three-year stint with the BBC Hindi Service in London.
At the 10 am meeting of AIR programmers, a senior colleague barged in to say that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had been shot by her bodyguards. We were asked to tone down the programmes but, at the same time, instructed not to say a single word about the incident.
In the afternoon, BBC's Mark Tully and Satish Jacob broke the news of the assassination on BBC World Service — and on BBC Hindi. The AIR was mum. Until six in the evening, AIR officials maintained that a clearance from the top was awaited before the death of the Prime Minister could be announced. Those were the days of state broadcasting. So what? The BBC was there.