Charu speaks of the seventies-born generation and television. She speaks of Doordarshan, attitudes, our politics and what made our generation what it is... and I am not sure I can answer any of those questions.
But I'm indulging my nostalgia, today... I'm trying to think back.
Back to the time when television was Doordarshan. And vice versa. The logo slowly forms itself in my mind - the oval lines, the tangentially curving edges, the Hindi alphabets forming themselves.
The screen coming alive in the afternoon, but before that, the sharp, whining sound of the vertical colourful lines on the screen, as I switched the television set on, and immediately turned the volume down to zero - I wasn't allowed more than an hour a day, initially.
I don't remember what values and aspirations I absorbed from all those years of TV and DD.
I do remember being hooked. I remember slowly upping my television intake as I grew up, and mom relaxed the rules a little, or was too busy to keep an eye on me all the time. One hour turned to three. I ended up watching Chaupal and Krishi Darshan. And advertisements issued 'in the public interest'.
I even remember staring, over long, long minutes, at the 'Rukawat ke liye khed hai' (Sorry For The Interruption) notice, which had a cartoon of a man carrying a briefcase, not watching where he was going, about to fall into a manhole.
For years, I wondered whether this meant that some of the television crew had fallen into a sewer.
I remember watching regional movies - Tamil, Malayalam, Assamese, Punjabi - on Sunday afternoons. Some of these were award-winning. I also remember that, once cable television came in, I didn't get a chance to watch such movies again (now I go looking for 'different' cinema, at film festivals).
I remember watching only one late night English movie on DD.
The film was Tom Sawyer, and since we had the book in our English syllabus, mom (who worked in the same school) wanted all her students to watch it. I remember being the only student - the only person - who sat up half the night, watching it. Everyone else fell asleep. Including mom. (I don't remember seeing Tom kiss Becky Thatcher, though I swear I didn't even blink.)
I remember being thrown out of the room (by mom) the first time they showed a James Bond film on DD. It was not until I turned 17, when I was finally, officially, taken to see a James Bond film; it was dubbed in Hindi.
I vaguely remember Buniyaad. I remember that one scene, at any rate, in which Lajoji (Anita Kanwar - I remember thinking she was beautiful) sets back the clock, so she can spend more time with her Masterji (Alok Nath, with his shy smile, khadi kurta, and a lot more hair).
And Karamchand, with 'Kitty'. And the spine-chilling theme music for 'Honi Anhoni'; for some strange reason, I remember that Asian Paints used to be the sponsor for that program.
I remember waiting, week after week, for Fauji. I remember Shah Rukh Khan, before the symptomatic mannerisms were acquired.
Then, Zee TV brought cable into our lives. But there wasn't enough programming to fill the day, so they'd play and replay and rerererereplay old Hindi film songs.
The same ones, every day. I remember watching them - the same ones, every day. Even the order of the songs was the same, everyday.
Sanjeev Kumar singing Taal Mile Nadi ke Jal Mein, driving a bullock cart... Asha Parekh consoling a disconsolate Rajesh Khanna with Aaja Piya Tohe Pyar Doon... a screen-father leaning against a piano listening to his screen-wife hum Dheere Dheere Machal...
Then, the transition.
Game shows came in. Not just quiz contests. Not just tough army-style obstacle-clearing challenges. There was Snakes and Ladders, with tall girls in little shiny dresses and everyone getting all wet. I remember thinking that they didn't look like they were enjoying themselves so much.
Tara came in - Tara, with her cast of rebellious, fun, unhappy girls, and their complex, twisted destinies. And Banegi Apni Baat, where no one kissed anyone, but everyone ended up getting pregnant by someone.
There was firang cable TV too. But a lot of it was forbidden.
Mom got hooked to Santa Barbara; I had access to the Wonder Years, Small Wonder, Different Strokes, and much kissing.
I still remember the year I was home alone, watching a forbidden (or would have been forbidden, if mom knew it existed) romantic film where the heroine and hero wake up in bed, and the heroine saying, 'Lie here in bed, for a while;'.... I remember thinking 'You idiot, what else has he been doing all this time?'
I remember the first uncensored firang film, courtesy the local cablewalla. I remember the shock of it... for weeks, I used to stare suspiciously at the cablewalla. But most days, he'd just show us Mr India.
Again, and again. And again. Six times I saw it. Mr India. He made sure that we all came to appreciate 'Kaate nahin kat.te' and a bosom-heaving Sridevi being seduced by an invisible man.
When Mr India first reached us, on cable (we didn't have any movie theatres where I lived), none of the girls in school would sing this song. Because it had 'I love you' in the first verse.
At the end of the year, we were singing it, always in low voices, humming through the 'I love you' bit. (We practised heaving-bosom dancing, in the short lunch break, when the boys were out playing basketball.)
In news terms, I don't remember the transition from DD to cable.
One day, I seemed to be watching Rini Simon/Khanna and Sultana somebody (the one who read the news, wearing a rose in her hair)... and suddenly, I was a grown-up, sitting beside my grandfather, as he demanded that we watch ALL the news on ALL cable channels, one by one.
So first we heard a name-forgotten reporter talking about the latest blasts in Kashmir on Star News. Then, we were watching a name-forgotten reporter talking about the latest blasts in Kashmir on Zee News. Then we were watching the name-forgotten girl on CNN... somebody else on BBC...faces, names, channels... all melted into an indiscriminate slush of recorded misery. Same clothes. No flowers.
I forget when one turned to three, and then into a dozen news options.
But I remember Aap Ki Adalat. I liked the program - watching politicians and other important people being grilled by a sneaky-smart Rajat Sharma. He asked uncomfortable questions, ever-smiling. But he never screamed or outshouted anyone... I remember Vinod Dua and his talk-show too. (Both were better than Mr Sardesai, or any of the others, on any of the 24-hour news channels we have now.)
I don't watch TV now. I get my news from the papers or the web. I have never enjoyed news, and unless it's an emergency situation, I don't watch news channels.
When I did watch TV, until last year, I picked the garish, MTV-type of programming. The films, the songs, the mindlessly chattering veejays who wore nice clothes sponsored by designer boutiques. One didn't need to listen. I didn't want to listen.
I watched Friends. Or Will and Grace. Or Sex and The City (yes, that... unbelievable that!). Even Oprah.
I saw Office-Office (the only decent comedy show this country has produced over the last decade). Then, they started this show on Hindi poetry, Wah Wah, where poets would come on and compete, and I enjoyed that.
Nobody I know enjoys the saas-bahu drama. Nobody from my generation. Some married cousins do, perhaps. But none of my younger cousins would be caught dead watching Kyunki whatever.
Some of my friends watch cartoons. Even now. Some of my friends watch Pikachooo!!! And Bob-the-builder. Made for pre-schoolers. (Hey, the Sony Playstation was not designed as an adult toy either, was it?)
Yes, I saw Smriti Tulsi Irani do her silly stunts in Kuch Diiiil Se. Once or twice, I watched. Then I was disgusted and I stopped watching... she was judgmental, rude, inconsiderate of other people's compulsions or choices, super-conservative.
Charu, I cannot understand why the MTV generation voted for Ms Irani as a youth icon.
But, just like the TV channels give us few watchable options by way of programming, this country gives us very little by way of role models. Why single out this country? What does the world offer us? Who leads us? Who do we follow?
At least, Ms Irani stepped into politics at a time when she didn't need to. Not because her acting career was fading. Not because she was retired and missed the limelight. At least, she professed to stand for some ideals.... I don't know. The wrong ideals, maybe. But she stood up and spoke of the need for cleaning up the system. Maybe that was why?
Reminds me of the time when I spoke of some very uncomfortable truths about a certain celebrity-writer, to a friend.
He responded with a couplet: "Ye akhiri but bhi gir gaya... ab hum bhi musalmaan ho gaye..."
My last idol has fallen; perforce, I am now a Musalmaan (one who doesn't believe in idols).
Who are our icons, anyway? And who is the youth?
If youth is defined by idealism and innocence, where is that?
What ideals? And what are we innocent of? What is this post-MTV generation innocent of?
What, but a vast landscape of socio-economic truth, that our communication systems (TV, newspapers) increasingly keep us sheltered from?