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Friday, July 09, 2004

TV and Indian Society

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I have always been a loyal viewer.Ever since we got TV back in 1988,I have been a regualr TV watcher.Fortunatley for me mom and dad never asked me to curb that habit :)

Prior to advent of Cable connections my TV and Movie diet was confined to our beloved national channel DD 1 . Movies were shown once a week and perhaps a movie or two were shown by our disc wala. Daddy was in JK cement those days and our town and colony was out of the reach of nearest TV tower, located 100 kms away. So we relied solely on the disc wala . We shifted in that colony in 1987 as far as I remember and after that my dad purchased our first ever TV and that too a coloured one directly (normally pepple those days used to buy a black and white tv initially and then used to upgrade to a coloured one, but in our case we jumped a level high perhaps because we were lagging behind a bit, everybody else seems to have the TV by the time we got it :D ). TV was a great source of entertainment that time. Preparing for school early in the morning we used to wait for the transmission to start (yes, no 24 hour channels those days), with this famous signature tune.

Well as a kid, I never realized that time but later came to know that TV is also a mass communication source, a source of information and a medium for spreading awareness.

DD used to telecast several classy ads, especially on Sundays, like my all time favourite ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara….’

Most of my friends used to start the play when the not so famous program by 'Spirit of Unity Concert for National Integration' was telecast. I actually memorized this whole name without understanding the meaning of all/any of the words (yes studying in a almost Hindi medium school which later instructed to teach Hindi in English was fun :D)). The 'Mile Sur' ad and 'Spirit of Unity...' programs on Sunday mornings exposed me to several legends such as Pt.Bhim Sen Joshi, Ustad Alla Rakha, to bigB, Lata Mangeshkar and several other masteros of that era (news channels or news papers or TV programs were not much focused on Bollywood artists those days).

For me these were my first rendezvous with many things like the concept of culture, the idea of diversity and different languages and people living in our country, everything was amazing. It was kind of entertainment too but unknowingly we were learning things slowly and steadily things which would have been much difficult to be taught in class I guess. It was for the first time I saw people actually speaking different language except Hindi and English (though that time even the English was more of bla bla bla boo boo for me).

I first learnt about South India through TV as I saw them speaking Hindi in a particular fashion, Bengali speaking in different accent and so everything was fun and entertainment for a kid like me staying in a tiny town. Those shows by National Geographic which DD1 cared to telecast on late nights, the amazing wild life of Africa the desert of Sahara and various kinds of animals simply left us awestruck. The background commentary in thick English accent was incomprehensible for us but what amazed us was the whole setting, the jungles the colors the animals flora and fauna in its full richness.

Then started the great epic of ‘Ramayana’. The whole city used to come to stand still on those Sunday mornings. Sunday was a special day a very special day those days not only because of school holiday but also for the fun and frolic it brought for us via TV shows in the morning and a movie to end the day. We used to wait for the whole week to watch the next episode of Ramayana ……and soon after it finished the biggest TV block buster of those times …the biggest epic of Indian history ‘Mahabharata’ was on air. Anywhere in India you go, you can see people glued to their TV sets with curfew like empty roads and shops. The whole Sunday morning was kind of festival as most of the times the neighbours and friends used to come to our place for Chai and Samosa.

I first learnt about the Boarding Schools and hostel life because of another famous program (at least amongst the school going kids) "Neev" shot in the famous Scindia School. The first Cartoon shows I remember were Bugs Bunny ( a 10 minute show in the evening) and 'He-Man' ( the master of the universe :), a rare sentence I completely understood those time).

After this the cable TV era started in early 90s and so started the soap operas and talk shows and what nots.In the beginning it started with showing high society life in metro with daily soaps like 'Shanti' and 'Swabhiman' followd numerous such shows on the notorious Zee tv in our small town. Complex relationships and blind copy paste from American soaps. Initially all this was like a fantasy for the masses with the characters in black coats and shoes all the times. Then started 'Tara' and several other shows which first bough the mini skirts to the small towns. All these serials faced criticism but went on and slowly society adjusted itself as always. And so started the diversification with talk shows,game shows n number of shows and all type and kind of serials.Very recently (say 4 years or so)started this trend of family shows which tried to capture the essence of Indian culture and joint family thing with chacha chachee ..mama mamee and hero heroine dada dadee all in one.Everybody is hadnsome and wear latest fashion things,shoes in house full time...every thing so neat and clean and tidy that it will never give you the feel of a real house.But emotions sell in India and this time even the packing was attractive so everbody liked it.But it seems people are getting bored of this also,the simple reasong being 'N' number of channels telecasting 'N' number of serials on similar lines.

Sometimes I wonder what is the role of TV in a society,where it is there to entertain people..or something more then that also.Wheter it should act as a document of what was happening in that era or whether it should help in deciding the future and affect what is happening in that particular era.In India it has always taken a passive role and is considered a source of entertainment.Perhaps nobody takes it seriously or perhaps we still are waiting for quality serials or series or shows which can be taken seriously.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

INDIA – ages and life cycle !!

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Well every nation goes through cycles,cycles of change like human being from childhood to youth and then adulthood …..sometimes I wonder where are we…as a nation perhaps childhood.We were blessed enough to had leaders before independence who had vision and dreams of independent India and what not, but perhaps they didn’t had the idea what we will do after we get independent….What will be the shape and face of nation India.Some times because of it I wonder (lotta wondering :D) that whether the idea of putting up separate states and unifying them as single nation,ws good or bad…because the diversity was tremendous be it language or culture (to some extent) eating habits,the only unifying factor was religion.So what, even in Europe they have a common religion but different countries. Well as of now I think it has become more complex due to intermingling,everything is all mixed and homogenous that the idea sounds stupid. Unity in diversity they say…is it forced upon the nation or were our leaders trying to prove something…whtever they were trying to achieve I doubt to what extent they were able to achieve the same.(well I was planning to write about something else but it ended up this so lets continue with this). The other day Mr Jairam Ramesh an elite congress leader and an alumnus of IIT Bombay that it may happen in few years that some states might want autonomy or independence…say Maharashtra or Gujrat can say that we don’t want to be a part of it. Its true that some parts of India are carrying the burden for a hell lot of parts of India, be it in terms of migrated inhabitants or redistribution of revenues amongst states. Well besides it I see some other fundamental differences too. For example eating habits- people in north specially in Rajasthan,Punjab,MP,UP,Bihar (and ok chattisgarh,uttranchal ,haryana etc) have this tendency of consuming lot of ghee and spicy food. Again this north region canbe sub divided into parts say Punjab on one hand and rajasthan and MP on other and Gujrat on may be third. The people from Punjab were farmers mainly,land of 5 rivers farming was the obvious choice. These people are genetically strong and hard workers,and so even if they eat lot of ghee or oil probably they can digest it and plus the climate is not too hot or too cold while in contrast Raj and MP are not very famous for their farming practices and as compared to other parts are hot and euqtorial climate in true sense. Because of this working conditions becomes hostile and to add to it ghee and oily stuff makes them inherently lazy or may be we can say less industrious as compared to people frm Punjab or Haryana. Similarly in south coconut oil is used with minimal use of ghee and milk products with staple food being rice and fish at times and places.I don’t know much about history but these guys don’t have tendency to accumulate, if you compare the houses of ppl frm north and tht frm south you will surely find tht south Indian houses are comparatively vacant and empty. North Indians have this knack of saving it for future generations and perhaps this hereditary system makes them more lazy…may be due to historical reasons not much of South Indians were into business…but were definitey educated and informed.Of course things are changing now due to external reasons.Perhaps command over language and its articulate use is a gift for ppl from MP raj Guj…and thts where the money is…and thts where they do the climatic conditions governs food which in turn govern certain common traits in personality and behaviour…to some basic fundamental level…so the binding force seem to be religion in this country.

The logic may sound little weak but I think that evolution of society and culture always depended upon the geographical region,climatic constraints (I am talking about ancient times)which in terms governed eating habits(assuming that survival and hunger were two guiding forces for human behaviour)which over the period of time modified and governed the way in which people interact with each other and so the norms and guidelines were decided which constitute the foundation of culture and religion.

Nation ages and life cycle – advent of English – identity ?
Read an article from a bureaucrat in England working in Nehru center about his concern over declining and extinction of Indian culture and practises.Well I fond that article highly superficial and redundant....I remember reading such things as essays in class 7th or 8th where it was told that we in India over in post independence era has developed this image of our self as weak poor and backward as compared to international levels and so about culture and heritage too....we wanted to adapt western things..if an India get award outside India he becomes hero over here overnight otherwise nobody cares....and similar things...but I guess over last decade or so things have changed and will change more in the coming decade...I guess in India due to diversity of language and legacy of 200 years of British Raj of producing baboos...White Collar people were looked upon in the society and speaking English is considered 'cool'.. but I think its sort of necessity now...and I guess same thing applies to western society as well...there ppl doing Yoga or following other cultures were considered 'cool'...and may be there are a few exceptions to this who learn about India out of genuine in India too ....ppl listening to rock or reading English literature or any other form or art or cultural form few of them might be shams but not all are same...

Now talking about sanskrit or hindi as our national language or unifying language ...younger generation being indifferent towards it...I think that it all started 100 years back....modern science and technology was evolving in Europe and America in early 1900s when we were busy with 'satyagrah' and other immediate and local concerns ...we had very few universities offering technical or scientific education to masses (in any language for that matter) and though I don’t have stats but I can surely say that internal migration of people from one state to other or even within the states shud have been very minimal...and so with time when this started increasing....interaction became difficult because in north, science was taught in Hindi in south in some other language and there were chosen few in all parts of India who received education in English....(well this can be related to early 80s and onwards)development of metros and educated and rich (from English speaking background) got opportunity to go to US or UK for higher eduation and whole different avenues...and perhaps over that period english crept in as a national language forget sanskrit even hindi was loosing importance from the curriculum..and started becoming outdated...and now with BPO boom and India emerging as worlds outsourcing center....we dont have a choice left but to realise importance of English and with which the culture(English or western or khichadi whtever) will obviously creep in as a freebie......and here comes the role of education..our current education system don’t let us think or ponder about various aspects of life and develop some view point …but rather due to cut throat competition getting marks becomes the prime motive and there lies the problem…when I was in Germany last year I remember going to Halle with Millana and her friend Patricia and how proud she was about her town and showing us small things and there history and how much care government and people have taken for preserving their monuments and even restoring them to original condition …..I guess the difference is of education ….not literacy…its different. With the advent of English we may expect to lose our identity and it may happen that our coming generations will ask us who they are what is their history and roots and with our generation following this western culture madly may not be able to answer them..and with current state of our national monuments we might not have much things left to show them (future generation) about our glorified past and how our generation was not able to handle it properly and carry forward the legacy to next generation …advent of English is not bad but with it if what follows is loss of identity cultural or social its certainly not a healthy omen for the nation as a whole.But the advantage India has is of population and diversity.Some one correctly said that we in India are living centuries simultaneously.While some parts have this luxury to taste the fruits modernization and globalization while few regions are still struggling with basic needs of food,water,electricity.So any change no matter how poerful it might have been proven somewhere else in the world is not able to reproduce the same effect.The religious and cultural diversity along with geographical diversity (I mean how far or near you are to Bombay or Delhi or Bangalore)makes it difficult for any movement or revolution kind of thing to produce same effect everywhere in India,so by the time the effect or movement percolate down to some parts of India it dies down elsewhere.So, we can safely assume that while we will be loosing our national or cultural identity in one part of India we will retain it in another part and in the mean time its repurcussions will be seen elsewhere and some steps will be taken to prevent the same.But for the sure we are diluting ourself.

1000s of years of history and survivial against all odds and invaders gives some reassurance that perhaps its a phase and like all other previous phases it will pass and we will survive still and so will our culture !!