I have a grudge against TVs for stealing precious time. The idiot box made its intrusion when I was a 3rd grader, thought television broadcasts weren’t yet round-the-clock and the channel-selector was a vestigial ornament since we had only one channel to ‘select.’ Antennas aiming for the relay tower proliferated and jostled for precious space atop all buildings. The remote was a luxury and our set didn’t feel terribly handicapped without one. Though color sets were the object of envy, B&W set owners still had their pride – especially since India was the largest manufacturer of such sets in the world.
TV watching habits were synchronized across demographics. The young ones especially loved Chitrahaar and the Sunday movie. Monday mornings in the school assembly area were spent in discussing the comic passages from the previous day’s flick. Television reruns were unheard of, the only exception being UGC’s Countrywide Classroom – a 1 hr Monday-Saturday afternoon broadcast meant strictly for academics, repeated in the evening.
The current set I have to contend with is a 14” relic bought for a bargain price by Mantu. It works well, except that the remote is overzealous and sometimes races up the channels without manual orders. I’m watching a movie – a blonde says something romantic and I almost fall for her charms, when…all of a sudden, Mamta Banerjee is crying hoarse about the greedy CPM, Aaj Tak uses dramatic effect to fill its air-time with rhetoric in the absence of news, the business channel talks about recession blues, a fat and ugly South-Indian star is singing and dancing his way into the heart of his lady love, … . I leap at the remote and press the erring button to put a stop to the auto-surf. Sometimes when that doesn’t work, I have to hide the remote in the shelf.