Sorry baby, no TV!

Sorry baby, no TV!

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Sorry baby, no TV!

Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
        - Roald Dahl

When the late British writer and poet penned the poem Television, he must have foreseen many a childhood wasted gaping at that  “idiotic thing”. Today if most busy neighbourhoods seem silent, it’s not because of the absence of the people residing there, but thanks to what we fondly called the idiot box.

It is strange, but many human lives revolve around the box that has now transformed into a ‘smart’ flat screen, promising wholesome entertainment within the four walls of the house. In a majority of Indian households, the furniture is arranged to suit comfortable TV viewing rather than to facilitate healthy conversations. Even when we go house hunting, the essential criterion is the size of the living room and the apt location to mount the TV set. Such has been the TV craze that social researchers never tire of exploring its impact in our lives.

Here, there, everywhereI still remember when three decades ago, dad got our first black and white TV home. It became a priced possession. Indira Gandhi happened to die the very next day and in no time our living room was converted into a movie theatre with viewers from each household in the colony, intently watching the funeral procession. That has been the lure to this day. Waiting rooms, hospitals, schools, railway stations, airports…there’s no place without a TV.

A slum dweller in Dharavi may not have a sturdy roof to withstand the Mumbai rains, but a TV and cable connection, well, that’s a given. More than half of all Indian households own a television set today. My granny does all her household chores with the TV noise in the background. “I know all the serials are useless, but I still watch them…I need it to spend my time,” she says. “As a companion, a babysitter, a boredom killer, this box comes in handy, especially when the mind seeks diversion from worldly maladies,” adds a dear friend.

But with a sink that is overflowing with dishes, a mountain of laundry and a fridge reeking of rotting tomatoes and dosa batter, who in the world has the time to sit and watch TV?  Homemakers, say the TRP ratings. Yes, many of them finish their daily chores just in time to watch their favourite sitcom. And god forbid, if the TV decides to go kaput…life comes to a standstill. However, there’s a growing bunch of people today who are willing to endure the emptiness. They are saying ‘No’ to TV. But why?

No, thanks!

“Few months ago, I read an advertisement on 10 tips for healthy living; the first tip was ‘zero hours of television’. It was thought-provoking. I realised that watching TV is a waste of time,” says Karthika. Without TV viewing, today, she has a lot more time to explore new interests and lead a more meaningful life.

“We end up procrastinating simple housework like cooking, cleaning, or putting the clothes to wash. There’s always an excuse to finish watching that serial and then do the chores. It makes one feel lazy and look for shortcuts to somehow finish the work,” avers
Karthika. By not watching TV, she says, she feels more energetic and manages to devote time to reading and connecting with friends. “From the health point of view too, sitting for long durations in front of the screen can be a problem. It can lead to weight gain and subsequent health issues. So, moving around the house is a healthier bet,” she adds.
For Rupa, the key lies in moderation. When all the work for the day is done, she likes to unwind watching Comedy Nights with Kapil or Indian Idol Junior. “We all sit down and watch TV as a family. It’s something we enjoy doing,” she says. 

Sadly, in many Indian households, the reality is a bit different. “My temper rises to mercurial levels when I see my husband watching the TV while I am sweating it out in the kitchen. It translates to being indifferent and inconsiderate in many ways,” confesses Revathy, who believes that TV is for family entertainment. But when each family member is sitting in front of a TV set in his/her own room, the whole idea of a family is lost!
Even those who have grown up watching TV serials, rue about the deteriorating
standard of onscreen content over the years. More often than not, the serials
today look like ads for saris, jewellery, furniture and even holiday destinations. “Gone are the days where one actually looked forward to watching the soaps which enthralled the audiences and kept them glued to the box, like Buniyaad, Circus, or Udaan. Those were some of the realistic serials I really enjoyed,” says Ashwini. “Once I started working and settled down, priorities and responsibilities changed. Today, I prefer doing things that interest me, like calligraphy or sketching, instead of watching TV,” she adds.

Interesting or uninteresting, for some TV has never been a form of entertainment or a route to escape the daily woes. Though the box sits in the living room, many a times it is switched on only for the guests. Like in the case of Shalini. “Not watching TV is not a conscious decision. All the news is available on the Internet. Social media has made sure that everyone is updated whether or not s/he likes it,” she says candidly. “TV shows mainly communicate negativity. Not watching TV gives me time to do something more productive. And yes, the dreaded couch potato syndrome stays far away,” she avers.

Switching off is an integral part of any detox plan. To lead a healthy life, you need to live in the real world and not among the fictional characters you see onscreen. Life is more meaningful when you are not glued to the idiot box. No TV means spending more time with family and having scope for real conversations at home.

It finally boils down to setting your priorities right. With 24 hours on hand, how much time do you have to spare for the TV? If you are among those who need to dedicate a few precious hours everyday to the telly drama, then you have no reason to complain about not having time to do things that you truly love. The choice is yours. And it’s just a button away.


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