The small plastic plaque attached to the microphone barely registers as the defiant index finger jabs at the air with the rise and fall of Sheikh Mujib’s thundering baritone.
Millions of Bangladeshis have seen the historic March 7 speech played over and over and therefore have seen those two words thousands of times.
Picked up almost subliminally, the double-barrel trade name has been etched into our collective psyche, like the horn-rimmed glasses, brushed back hair, salt-and-pepper moustache and unbuttoned band collar peeking out from behind the lectern.
Call-Ready, the microphone company, has been carrying the voice of political leaders for more than seven decades now.
A fixture in the story of Bangladesh, the name’s ubiquity in old photographs of the major events of the 1950s and ‘60s is truly astonishing.
Quite literally, this institution has carried the stirring words and speeches that galvanised people into action and brought docile men out on to the streets for rowdy protests.
Dayal Ghosh and Haripada Ghosh, sons of Debendra Chandra Ghosh of Bikrampur, started the business of mike service before the 1947 Partition at Hrishikesh Lane in Old Dhaka – and it still runs from there. The duo were in their mid-30s then.
The company was first named Arzo Light House, but was rebranded to Call-Ready only a year later.
The concept of mike service was still new when this business took off. Yet, the Ghosh brothers took the risk to serve people, and in doing so became a part of this country’s history. As it was the only microphone company around at that time, Call-Ready provided service in all major events in the then East Pakistan from 1947 to 1971.
After the death of Haripada Ghosh, his four sons Bishwanath Ghosh, Shibnath Ghosh, Trinath Ghosh Sagar and Shambhunath Ghosh now run the family business.
When asked about the historic speech by Bangabandhu on March 7, 1971, Trinath Ghosh said his father and uncle, along with some 30 people, worked for two days to set up the mikes on the stage at the Race Course Maidan in Dhaka.
“Bangabandhu called my father to his Dhanmondi residence on March 4 and asked him to set up the mikes for the March 7 programme,” he said. More than 150 mikes were set up.
Asked how much area the mike service covered, he said the landscape was different back then. “We covered the entire maidan as well as the Motijheel and New Market areas.”
Trinath further said eight mouthpieces were set up on the mike stand for Bangabandhu on March 7. “My father and uncle had preserved all those mikes, but when the war started, Pakistani forces burnt down our office and houses and looted everything. Luckily, we were able to save three or four of the mouthpieces and amplifiers from that event.”
He said the mouthpieces – German-made, Indian-assembled mikes from Green Bullet and Sure Company – do not work today, but the government can preserve them as historic symbols.
What was the cost of hiring Call-Ready’s service back in the day? According to Trinath, nothing significant. “It was less about the business and more about patriotism then,” he said. “As far as I know, only the cost of setting up the mikes was charged.”
The business hit a bump when Bangabandhu was killed along with most of his family in 1975. “It almost shut down, because my father was closely associated with the Awami League,” Trinath said.
But things started looking up again when Sheikh Hasina returned to Bangladesh in 1981. Since then, Call-Ready has been covering all Awami League events.
“We are providing mike services on March 7 this year too,” Trinath said.
Evidence of the close connection between Call-Ready and the Awami League adorns the company’s office – a photograph of Sheikh Hasina visiting Haripada Ghosh in hospital.
Asked if his father wrote anything about the experience of March 7 or his close connection with Bangabandhu and the Awami League, Trinath said he had not. “My father never left any writings on that.”
Despite being such a remarkable part of Bangladesh’s history, Call-Ready does not get the recognition it deserves, according to Trinath.
“Everyone got recognition for their parts in the Liberation War. In fact, many fake people got freedom fighter’s certificate. But my father and uncle were never recognised for their contribution,” he said. “We want that recognition for Call-Ready, and the attention and help to preserve the equipment which has such historic significance.”