Growing up, Mofazzal Hossain worked as a helper at his father’s small radio repair shop in a market in Mymensingh town. He quickly fostered a fascination for the device, learning the ins and outs of the trade.
The fifty-year-old is now an esteemed collector with at least 1,000 vintage radios from the Liberation War period.
It was quite by chance that he stumbled across the idea when a maimed freedom fighter came to his shop to repair a rare kind of radio back in 1982.
Curious, Mofazzal asked the freedom fighter how the radio broke and why he wanted it repaired after so many years.
In response, he heard the story of how a stray bullet hit him in the middle of an operation and the radio dropped from his hand and broke. The old fighter was repairing the radio as it carried memories of his months in battle.
The idea consumed Mofazzal ever since and he began collecting to immortalise their stories of bravery.
His father, Abdul Faruque, was also a freedom fighter and he grew up hearing tales of how the radio was their only source of information and news.
“It occurred to me that freedom fighters will not live forever but if I can preserve these radios, the history of the Liberation War will be preserved,” Mofazzal told The Daily Star recently on the side lines of the three-day Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) Radio Asia Conference and Radio Song Festival 2019 at Hotel Intercontinental in Dhaka.
“Today’s smartphones and gadgets do not have the same charm as the radio.”
A father of two sons and a daughter, Mofazzal currently has a collection of around 1,000 radios of different companies including Grundig, Hitachi, Citizen, Zenith, Murphy, national, Panasonic, Philips, Philco and many other local and international brands.
Mofazzal has had to sacrifice a lot in the last 37 years to chase his passion. Amid resource and space constraints, he has been living in a rented home in Mirpur since the 80s.
He recalls an incident in the 90s when he got news of another rare radio in Sylhet. Upon reaching his destination, the seller demanded Tk 1,500 for the radio, but Mofazzal had only Tk 1,000 on him.
“I was adamant to return with that radio even though I was Tk 500 short. I could not borrow the sum from anyone either as I did not know anyone in that city,” he said. “I decided to earn some money and I so I took up work as a day-labourer for a few days.”
Mofazzal, who has very little educational background, said every radio has a story and history.
“I have two families -- one is my wife and kids, and the other is my collection of radios. My wife was annoyed by my passion at first, but now she understands and helps me in my pursuit.”
Sharing another anecdote, he said he once went to Jinjira to buy a radio in the year 2000. However, the seller was having second thoughts about selling the piece.
“I spent the whole day, talking and pleading, trying to convince him to part with it. At last, he agreed to sell it for Tk 1,200, but I had only Tk 800,” he remembered. “At last, I struck a deal for Tk 800 and the new pair of shoes I was wearing; I walked off with the prized possession in hand.”
Mofazzal, a watch technician working from home, said he has no savings and has invested all his earnings to collect radios. The highest he paid to acquire a radio was Tk 70,000 as it was a rare piece.
“I have allotted a room to store the radios. But most are kept in boxes to preserve them.”
These radios are functional and in future, he wants to build a museum to display them and spread awareness among the youth on the role of radios in the war.
The oldest radio in his possession is from 1937. He also owns a vacuum tube radio, an archaic mechanism used in the devise, in teak box used by the British Indian Army.
His passion gives him a sense of purpose and he dedicates a part of his day to maintain these pieces.