LONDON, June 20 (Reuters) - Veteran British DJ Dave Lee Travis said he was “astonished” that his radio show aired on the BBC World Service provided comfort to Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during her many years in captivity.
Suu Kyi had previously singled out Travis’ music request programme “A Jolly Good Show” for making her “world much more complete” while she was held under house arrest for a total of 15 years between 1989 and 2010.
Even during periods of freedom the leader of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement did not leave the country, afraid the military would not let her back in.
But now she is free to travel and, during a visit to the BBC’s London headquarters this week, she finally put a face to the voice that helped her through dark times.
“I just shook her by the hand,” Travis said of their brief meeting on Tuesday during which he kissed her hand.
”I realise now that I didn’t let go of her hand, in case she was trying to get away from me. There was no chance really, not until we had finished what we were doing.
“She is just an excellent icon for the age and that is why it becomes more and more surprising to me that a DJ, whose job is to play music, have fun, jolly things along a bit, should have been a part, almost a cure for her loneliness there.”
Suu Kyi, who celebrated her 67th birthday on Tuesday, told Travis that she had been particularly thrilled when he featured a young Burmese boy on his programme.
Asked how he felt when he learned that Suu Kyi, an international symbol of peaceful protest and sacrifice, had been a fan for so long, he replied:
”It is quite a shock really. You know, we had 40 million people listening to that programme, so factually it was a big programme round the world.
“But still you don’t expect to have world leaders, people of that stature, not only just listening to the programme but actually finding solace in it,” the 67-year-old nicknamed the “Hairy Cornflake” told Reuters in an interview.
“That to me ... is the touching part about it. To think that somehow it helped her, I am sure it’s not just me but loads of people, BBC World Service generally, it’s just astonishing.”
With the radio as one of her few links with the outside world, Suu Kyi, who was educated at Oxford in the 1960s and married the late academic Michael Aris, listened regularly to the World Service.
“Everywhere I have been, the BBC has been with me,” she said at Broadcasting House on Tuesday.
“It kept me in touch with the rest of the world, and it allowed me to keep up with developments in the outside world although I was not able to contact anybody.”
But she also expressed regret that some of the programmes she used to listen to had been cut and that the service appeared to be dominated today by news and commentaries.
“I know that times have changed and I‘m a little sad about that. I feel that the BBC World Service is not as versatile as it used to be ... I miss the old programmes. It’s not what it used to be.” (Writing by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)