Although we were in love with our small black and white TV sets since childhood, it was the beautiful year of 1982 that colour came to our lives – thanks to some games, a city that transformed itself and a gentleman called Vasant Sathe!
Over the years, a core centrally managed terrestrial channel dished some amazing programming and even today we rue the loss of some of its content. They lived by the credo ‘70 per cent of Indians live in rural lands’. One thing, or should I say, one TV channel led to many others. The first one is hardly watched now and many others have become many many others. The TV programmes, that we used to call by many names, have come to be termed as content today and how it reaches us is called distribution. Both these terms never existed in 1982, the year of colour.
Why am I writing this television piece? Well, because I feel core TV watchers like us are under a threat today. Not because of what is dished out on the telly box (I still refuse to call it the idiot box), but because a new genre of threat seems to be emerging – technology and we are all being forced to keep pace.
It seems we are running our daily life on a treadmill where we are being forced to run at a speed of 10+ and an incline of 3+. It surely will break the back and not improve the core! We are being forced to remember terms such as devices, TV on the go, OTT, small screens, still smaller screens, pads and notes and how all our television programming (nah, not content!) will soon be available on these devices (or machines) and how we will watch everything on the go.
Now before I pick a sickle and decide to thrash some of these professors, let me tell you why I and many like me remain TV purists.
The black screen addiction
The screen is additive. The whole size of the screen is additive. Coming back home and looking at that black screen is as fulfilling as possibly cuddling your Pomeranian after a hard day’s work. The screen is also baffling. You don’t know what will come on when you switch the TV on. And nowadays you also get to see some cropped pictures. Some say these are 4:3 or 16:9 formats. I am appalled. There were no such numbers when it all started. It was either a small screen or a big screen. That’s all.
Anyway it still doesn’t take away an inch of that addiction that others and I have to the screen. One smiles alone, cries a bit alone (actually the eyes swell), emotes alone and in times of a hero hitting a bad man, actions alone (maar maar…kill, kill him) with the screen. At times purists like us seem to be in love with this black screen and left alone we can spend nights and days (work permitting) with the telly and its screen. Pure joy. The best part is when a passing child or a demanding spouse obstructs the view. All one does is wave them off with one hand. One is unmindful of what they are conveying and carries on with those transfixed eyes on what is being dished. The beautiful sight is when the wife or the maid puts something to eat in front of you and you dish it in without knowing what you are eating. And then an hour later you ask your wife “what did you cook for dinner’?
Something called a remote
This gentle weapon came into life very late even after the screens turned color. Now we didn’t know this screen will work only when the remote is pressed. One look and it is amusing how people protect this remote, more than those cash hiding small white vaults in their households. I have seen some within a leather cover and no visibility of the buttons. Young and old alike bring them close to their cornea’s in order to read the numbers, takes ages to press those numbers and by then Sehwag has already been caught at deep mid wicket. Yet, they must protect the remote as if protecting a would-be bride in the badlands. Some cover it with realms of polyethylene cover and what is funny is how a small incision is made in the front of the remote so that it transmits the RF signal to the TV. Quite like a pee hole cut out of a toddler’s pyjama! What is worse is how quickly the polyethylene is peeled off when the batteries run out and then it is never covered again. Leaving the shining remote at the mercy of those fat oily hands. But that is bliss. The sheer feeling of gliding those fingers through the smooth rounded buttons and pressing that message button the moment you see a message icon on the screen is not addictive but transcendental.
Some use the remote to remind the young yokels within the household to keep quiet while a movie is on. I have seen the remotes flying in households, including mine to make the not-to-strong to behave while a programme is on (or should I say while the content is being played). The remote is always lost especially when the TV gets switched off late at night and someone attempts to switch on the screen in the morning. You hear howls, cries and shouts as if a kidnapper has lifted some child. Remote, in such cases acts like an alarm clock. And yes, have you seen those remotes flying when a house rage episode is on full form enacted right in front of the screens. The TV hardware manufacturers have a field day in earning that extra buck selling those remotes to hapless customers. Try living in your house without a remote for a day. Life, mates will be hell!
The beauty stems also how the remotes are precariously balanced on one’s body. I see the men folk balancing it on their beer extended bellies shoulders and yes in their back pockets. Some core muscles do get exercised in the bargain. Somebody said a day is not far off when the phone and the remote will be combined. My god, why are you troubling us? What have we done to invoke your “device love” wrath? Imagine pressing a button to change the channel and it ends up dialing your boss.
The family wrangles or angles?
We may not admit but the pleasure exists to watch programmes in a conducive and collective atmosphere. The bablis and babloos of the world are a ubiquitous requirement. You want to watch news (yes, you are a man) and she wants to watch somebody’s Rishta. The younger ‘he’ wants to watch the kids go mad and the younger ‘she’ wants to still watch a teeny boppy. This confusion that transcends any classical thoughts on collective peace is a treat. An absolute treat! It cannot be missed for any money in life and this brings the families together. The pleasure of enacting this day in and night out makes a TV screen experience worth emulating. And remember when the doorbell rings and the family is watching its favourite programme. Nobody dares to move. Of course, finally the youngest babloo in the house has to do what others don’t. Do remember the times your spouse calls you when the dinner is ready to be served. You get up and stand fixed in front of the lovely screen, remote in hand. “I am coming” is followed by many more such assurances. The spouse meanwhile loses all her patience. I call this that one-upmanship which the screen bestows upon the male kinds.
Gentlemen and ladies, I have nothing against technology and its march. But please leave some areas untouched. Let me enjoy my favourite programme on that screen which I grew up with!
“kaminey, mein tera khoon pe loonga”…Now imagine listening and watching this evergreen line on a 10’’ device. That will put our handsome Gharam Dharam to shame!
The writer is COO of Ten Sports