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Washed away by hurricane TV
Is the idiot-box ruining your family life? It is time you cancelled the subscription.
Madan Dedhia's family has as many members as his remote control has cracks. Every time he picks up the broken device, now almost mummified with cellotape, it reminds him of turbulent times - his wife's incessant cries, the children's irritability, and the only game the family played: violent tug-of-war - with the remote control.
Television had seeped into their lives and sucked out any meaningful conversation they had enjoyed as a family living in Nairobi. It pained him to see his daughters, son and wife fast drifting away from each other, thanks to their varied channel preferences. To retrieve some togetherness, a desperate Dedhia cancelled his cable subscription. It worked like magic. Today, the family prays together, goes for a swim, watches movies on DVD and even plays board games such as Monopoly.
Not everyone, however, has figured a way out of this slow erosion of in-house communication. The time when channels used to enter living rooms like courteous guests is gone. These days they vie for the loudest dinner-time entertainer slot. As a result, in many households, the dining table is on the verge of extinction.
Increasingly, dinner is now marked by the sound effects of melodramatic bahus and antics of Dolly Bindra. Slowly, the television has started disintegrating families like its various conniving vamps. "We are now more curious about who fought with who and are more clued in to what's happening in the character's lives than one another's, " laments 27-year-old graphic analyst Preeti Krishnan from Thane.
"Even after dinner, people are so busy watching their favourite channel or soaps that the only time you get to spend together is when you are out, " says 27-year-old media professional Rashmi Nakaskar. She says her sister Aditi is in a perpetual small-screen trance. "She gets so engrossed while watching a movie that you realise she isn't even paying attention to what you are saying, " says Nakaskar, adding that her mother has to ask at least threefour times if she would like another helping before there's a reply.
The fact that television now, like God, is an omnipresent entity in many homes only catalyses this decay of family time. Some families have one TV set to each room. Sometimes there's one even in the bathroom. Not surprisingly, unprecedented islands have sprung up even within one-bedroom homes. Public relations professional Khushboo Gala from Mumbai returns home every evening to isolated family members watching TV in different rooms. The only time they bump into each other is while fetching dinner plates from the kitchen. "Life has really become too personal, " says the 21-year-old who watches English sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother on her laptop while eating dinner in her bedroom.
Some victims, however, have found their way around this sort of TV-induced distance. Twenty-three-year-old Aalok Aswani, for instance, recommends finding an activity that the entire family enjoys. Aswani goes out to an "expensive restaurant" with his family every Sunday as "we really bond well over food and drinks". Of course, cutting off cable subscription is an option which may seem a tad extreme, but Dedhi'a eldest daughter Binal, who only suffered minor withdrawal symptoms in the beginning, says, "I am happy I am not subjected to the nonsense that passes off as television now. " Besides, she says, she finds Pictionary more satisfying than family tug-of-war. More importantly, it lets the remote control rest in peace and in one piece.
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