Any change, at times, can be deeply uncomfortable, but it remains inevitable. Some of us easily switch to the new identities but some others become victims of ‘identity paralysis’. However there are a few who somehow manage to find a balance when life offers options. Meet Ghulam Nabi Shawl who found the middle path, and made a career out of repairing radios, a gizmo he loves.

Ghulam Nabi shawl, 80, sitting at the window of his shop, which once was buzzing with people

Ghulam Nabi was 17 years old when he started helping his father at the shop in 1950. The radio repairing shop was the first of its kind at Shesyar, Habba Kaddal , Srinagar. It was opened just few years after Radio Kashmir was established in July 1948.

Ghulam Nabi was a happy teenager once he found himself at a place where he could work on the latest ‘techno-toy’ the radio. Within a decade he mastered the art of repairing radios. He was the at engine of the workforce at this fathers shop during the time that radio was becoming a favorite must have on the shelf all the homes of the region. Each set would be caressed in a posh covering too.

The 1960’s and 70’s, recalls Ghulam Nabi, was the golden period of his workmanship too. He was the most sought man by all those who owned a rad and commoners as well. “I have, more than once, repaired the personal radio of Sheikh Sahab (Sheikh Abduallh, then Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir) and have also been invited by Mufti Sayed (the ex-CM) to his home for repairing his radio,” he recalled.

Ghulam Nabi, holds a vintage microphone in his hand as he sits is surrounded by memories of his work

For Ghulam Nabi even the television’s arrival in 1980’s didn’t harm his radio repairing business. However, vy end of 1990, Srinagar was in the middle of an armed conflict and the need for mass communication became more important than ever.

With dozens violent incidents occuring each day, the locals were tuned onto their radio sets all day to learn about the latest ‘halat’ (conditions). Amidst this suffering , Ghulam Nabi was the man of moment. He repaired the radios, by then the most important possession of each household of downtown Srinagar. This earned him the title of ‘Radioman of Kashmir’.

A complex looking amplifier-mixer is a simple gizmo for Ghulam Nabi

However, soon television sets became common in many households and slowly the radio lost its space as the favorite. However, Ghulam Nabi had decided to also update his skills and began work on all the new arrivals including televisions, amplifiers and transformers.

A black and white TV set that still survives

Some gizmos which could not be revived, continue to rest on the shelves Ghulam Nabi’s shop

Although there is almost no significant work for Ghulam Nabi to do anymore, he still opens his shop every morning. He keeps himself busy and tinkers with repairing and soldering appliances. This keeps him busy, and also keeps alive the memories of the golden times that his crumbling shop has seen.

The self-assigned repairing projects continue to keep the workman busy

The shop’s backyard resembles a landfill of discarded electronic devices