NEW DELHI: “Mahboob Radio Service,” reads the faded panel on a small repair shop near the 16th-century Charminar mosque in the heart of the old town of Hyderabad.
The shop, which has been open since 1948, is filled with thousands of radio sets stacked in the small space where two aging brothers have been repairing radios for as long as they can remember.
The brothers, Mohammed Mujeebudin, 82, and Mohammed Moinuddin, 71, learned the craft from their father, who started selling and repairing radios in the 1920s after a trip to Bombay, where he bought his first set.
“My father started Mahboob Radio Service from Dabeerpura in Hyderabad before moving to the present location in Chatta Bazar in 1948,” Moinuddin said.
He remembered his father’s most prominent customers, such as Viceroy Mir Osman Ali Khan, who ruled Hyderabad until the princely state’s merger with India.
“He was our client, and we would repair his radios. Once the work was done, we would deliver the radio to the palace and receive some 20 or 30 rupees,” Moinuddin recalled. The sum today is equivalent to less than one US dollar. “We never dared to ask for money.”
More than seven decades later, Mahboob Radio Service is now the last radio repair shop in Hyderabad and the whole southern Indian state of Telangana.
“People from far-off places come here for repairs,” Moinuddin said. “We also get clients from Dubai, Sharjah and other Gulf countries.”
Many more people used to come to Mahboob Radio Service in the 1970s and 1980s, not only to buy or repair a radio set but also to listen to the BBC, Voice of America and other foreign stations.
“Radio was also a luxury once upon a time,” Moinuddin said. “Some 3,000 people would gather to listen to the BBC and other stations, in the morning and evening.”
The brothers say they have all kinds of radio sets, from brands like Phillips, GEC, Johnson, Marconi and Telefunken to the iconic Murphy.
“The oldest radio set that I have is 100 years old. It’s a Murphy radio,” Moinuddin said. “It still works fine and is up for sale to anyone who pays 20,000 rupees ($275).”
He regrets that many top brands stopped making radios in the 1980s and no longer produce parts for their once-famous sets.
“The advantage with old radios is that you can repair them by replacing damaged parts, but the same is not possible with damaged technology,” he said.
With the golden age of radio long gone, not only does the technology seem beyond fixing but also the future of Mahboob Radio Service. Neither of the brothers has taught his children the art of repair.
“Our children are educated, and they don’t want to join our profession. This business will end with us,” Moinuddin said, although he believes that better times are yet in store for the radio as a medium.
“This digital phase is not permanent,” he said. “People will return to radio.”