Saturday, April 6, 2013

What do you watch on TV?

I was 3 years old when two men with long and thick wounded cables started fixing our television at home. My 10 year old brother was happily scampering about the drawing room. Being the younger sibling, I kept running after him, clueless. My father took those two men to the roof and then they started fixing the antenna for some reason. When we came back downstairs to the drawing room, there was something about the television that put a broad grin on everybody's faces. We had a cable connection!

It was pretty rare to have a colour TV with a cable connection back then. My brother would take charge of the remote controller while I'd sit beside him and try to understand what those 15 odd buttons meant. We slowly moved on from Byomkesh Bakshi to shows like Grihalaxmi ka Jinn and Rajni on Zee TV. There was about half an hour they dedicated entirely to the recent Bollywood hits. I picked up most of the songs from there. 'Oh Julie Julie Julie tu ladki nahi mamooli' became 'Oh Julie Julie Julie tu ladki hai ya mooli', thanks to my limited vocabulary.

Now our cable guy was quite the God of all cable-wallahs in Dehra Dun. He'd print the entire programme schedule in tiny booklets and distribute it to every home at the beginning of the month. So my brother would carefully teach me how to find the shows worth watching under the respective channels with the correct time. We'd highlight important shows like WWF, Tom and Jerry, Dennis the Menace, Small Wonder, The Three Stooges, Different Strokes, Hum Paanch and the likes and important movies like Hatim Tai (starring Jeetendra), Jurassic Park and other new Sunny Deol movies, primarily because my brother was a huge fan of his and remains one till date. Thankfully, we now have Tata Sky that saves us the trouble of memorising the TV schedule in addition to the textbook rote-learning.

My mother found it rather interesting that she could call the cable guy any time and ask him to show one of those old Rajesh Khanna movies (her childhood crush) on the local Prime TV channels. They'd both decide the time and my mother would watch all the movies of her choice everyday when she was free. All this with no extra charges as opposed to Tata Sky's Showcase.

As we grew older, Sony stopped airing the shows we liked, Star Plus started off with the famous saas-bahu saga which meant that the remote now remained snugly tucked under the grandmother's pillow. Arguing for the remote was a lost cause now. We sat with her daily, dealing with problems like 1000 crore business deals between suited and booted business men who seemed to spend more time with their love interests than at work, mental conversations between banarsi saari clad women bathing in gold, polygamy, vamps and gradually lost our childhood to them.

I became a couch potato again with shows like Shri Sifarishi Lal, Yes Boss and Office Office on SAB TV. Suddenly there was Sarabhai vs Sarabhai on Star One. Healthy comedy was back and how! And then the wise man's words came true again. All good things came to an end. We were reduced to watching scripted reality shows, more reality shows, family drama, more family drama, some more family drama. So much so, that music channels became entertainment channels and started airing unreal teenage shows. Cartoon network and Disney were hijacked by Japanese characters that had a common superpower of getting on your nerves within nanoseconds.

I still watch TV. I don't even know if I can call that watching TV, because I barely look at it. I only turn it on to provide background music while I'm on the laptop downloading torrents to better shows so that the silence doesn't creep me out.