“Humpty dumpty sat on a wall;
Humpty dumpty had a great fall…”
BANG! And little Rimi cuts her knee.
The four-year-old was jumping from the stairs to the landing with those lines on her lips-one of the little ways she has invented to keep herself busy-when the accident occurred.
“Granny! Granny!” cries poor Rimi. With both her parents busy at work, she is the only one at home who the child can call her own.
But her S.O.S doesn’t reach her grandmother who’s watching her favourite serial on the television now, too enthralled by its unthinkably intelligent dialogues to be able to hear anything else…
No. This is not a true story. But not too exaggerated a version of the truth either. The television has changed our characters. The typical Indian grandmother of yesterday prepared pickles, looked after her grandchildren as much as her age and health allowed and engaged in spiritual activities. Today, the aged person, be it a man or a woman, without an addiction to the television is an endangered species.
The box has made us get rid of courtesies. When we have a guest, we cannot even conceal our lack of interest and attention in what they are saying or desist from turning to the TV every two minutes (’cause the TV is on virtually 24×7), leave alone turning the volume down or switching it off altogether.
We never think twice before turning the TV on at about 12:30 in the morning at a high volume.
The half-literate domestic help devours TV serials when she is free, whereas she would try hard to read the newspapers had it been a few years ago…And the list can go on.
In earlier times women spent their idle afternoons visiting their neighbours and men socialised with their friends and colleagues. In today’s competitive world people are willing to work for longer hours for a better future. It’s already hard for the modern urban Indian to spend time even with their family. But in spite of that, the television eats up from the few hours one gets to stay at home. Such meager interaction increases the distance between spouses, and more importantly, between children and their parents, which has been found to harm the way they grow up and form relationships.
As the TRP ratings of the various channels spiral, the number of sponsorships it bags keeps pace. And the dreamland of advertisements (it must be admitted that most of them offer real entertainment, thanks to our ad gurus) succeeds in giving rise to strong materialistic wants in people, which must be one of the reasons why our society is becoming increasingly consumerist.
The poor uneducated people-whose mental faculties never got the chance to get developed enough as to be able to appreciate the forms of entertainment that makes one exercise one’s brains, like reading, listening to good music etc. – are the worst hit by the lure of the television. Even the households in the slum areas, struggling to make the ends meet, cannot but own TVs. I know a family who didn’t have the connection of electricity in their village a few years ago, but had a battery operated TV.
The people of rural Bengal previously were entertained by snake-charmers and ‘Chhou’ (a type of dance from Bengal) performances. The other day somebody was mourning the fact that these have become rare in their village, while I was observing the young girl from the same village (widely known as a TV freak) whose face seemed to say, “Who needs Chhou, now that we have our Jeet and Koel?”
And these devotees of the television would never watch the news channels or the wildlife shows. Anything distantly related to reality is an absolute no-no for them. The brainless serials featuring the sacrifice of the ideal daughter-in-law, the villainous manoeuvres of her sister-in-law to harass her-all set in the framework of an unrealistically ‘ideal’ and opulent traditional family-are their favourites. But after all that is what the television is for- offering you temporary escapism in your fantasies from your bitingly real and persistent woes.
The enchanted audience of these serials consists mainly of housewives, elderly women and young girls, among whom, some have religious inclinations also. This becomes evident from their visiting temples and worshipping the gods! Thakur Sri Ramakrishna despised too much concern about anything material, even if it was your daily bread, since in His opinion one should perform all the essential functions in one’s life as mere obligations, and one’s only real purpose in life should be to be united with God. Also, one should devote as much time as one could to meditation and other spiritual activities. I wonder what He would say of these ‘devotees’!