Small town joys and a TV set

When I was 12 years old, we almost bought a television set. It wasn't ours, sadly. Our neighbours had bought a TV and the delivery guys mistakenly delivered it home.

I was so giddy with excitement, I couldn't sit still. Then the delivery guys said, sorry and went away. I still remember that awful disappointment, that sickening lurch I felt. Of course, my father bought a TV set too, how could he not, when the neighbours had one? So, eventually we were proud owners of an Uptron colour television set. Those days various state government agencies made quality gadgets. In Kerala, we had Keltron TV sets, though I have no idea why we bought an Uptron TV. Anyway, it lasted us years.

Naturally, the TV had pride of place in our living room--my parents actually converted an unused window space into a little wooden cabinet (complete with two doors), for this contraption of wires and picture tube.

Soon my evenings were filled with Didi Drives me Crazy and Spiderman Cartoons. As I grew older, I watched Katha Sagar, Ek Kahaani and Bharat Ek Khoj. Sundays were for Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett (the best Holmes ever, at least for me) and of course, Sunday mornings were devoted to our family viewing sessions of Ramayan and Mahabharath. Then adding contemporary colour, not to mention, song was Chitrahaar, with Surabhi (and who can forget Renuka Shahane's dazzling smile?) adding a dash of culture.

In my teens, hating my body and it's changing shape, trying to make sense of the new awareness I had of boys, I surreptitiously watched wildly inappropriate foreign language films (where teachers seduced their students and, young adolescents "became men" after a visit to a local whore). Oh yes, I also saw brilliant films like Ek Doctor ki Mauth starring 'karamchand' Kapoor, so it was not just about watching arty A-rated stuff. I watched those movies, way past midnight, almost every week. No parental controls applied then. I guess parents trusted their children more. Or maybe, it's that there was no internet or Youtube constantly streaming porn.

Yes, the television set was a huge presence in my life. Probably because I really didn't have too many friends, growing up. I was alone a lot, but I really wasn't lonely. Because, TV for me wasn't the 'idiot box'. It involved intelligent viewing. It broadened my world.

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