Technology has brought the Television to each and every room of our houses but once it was a rarity, a luxury afforded only by those who could, it is only a matter of evolution of how what once used to be something to invite your friends to watch is now called the poor idiot box. Now in the 80’s the only channel that used to come on the television in India was Doordarshan or better known as DD, with it’s two spiral arms surrounding a circular dot between them. The tune that was played when the channel started transmission hasn’t changed till date but of course the channel used to air just for a few hours back then.
Now owning a TV meant that you were to cater to a huge crowd at your place, some of them even unknown to you. Newborns, kids, adults and even senior citizens could be found in the throng that would be at the place for watching that thing start up and then suddenly the picture on it coming to life and bringing joy to all siting there. Te crowds would start from near the TV and go on till the entry gate of your house and you could see piles and piles of shoes. The best part was, as and when the voltage dropped, the picture became a bit blurry and then people would use the famous Indian Jugaad technology, and hit the TV hard on the side and picture would become clear again.
But yes, one cannot ignore the fact that the craze of the television was brought on by two television shows, Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and the Chitrahaar. If you owned a TV and you were seen going out of your house on a Saturday or Sunday, you would be asked about your return, so that people could make sure you would return and they will be able to enjoy the movie and Ramayan. The Feature Film programme Chitahaar, aired the movie for two days, half and half. Ramayan was aired on Sunday at 10 a.m.. The ladies of the house used to finish their household chores before hand so that they could be free in the evening or woke up early in the morning to make the breakfast so that they could watch the Ramayan. And the elder ladies used to actually bow their heads to the TV when the show started, for them the artists on the TV were real life avatars of the gods themselves.
But at that time, the worst enemy of people at that time was to be the electricity department. As I said the show started at 10, the electricity would go sharp at 9:58 a.m.. But such was the following of the show that Muslims kids would make a force and pelt stones at transformers or the power station itself. It used to be a curfew like situation for that one hour that Ramayan would air. Muslims would also join the crowd that watched the show and cried with the Hindus ‘Jai Shri Ram’. When the power problem did not resolve itself, people especially bought portable TVs that ran both on battery and electricity. People used to charge the batteries on Saturday itself. When during Chitrahaar, the power failed, those batteries were not used but people took the TV and the entire crowd moved on to another locality where power would still be and watch the film there, at a relative of the TV owner’s place.
Later, colleges and schools installed TV’s to cater to the masses, special windows were made to view the TV. But the transmission itself was itself riddled with problems. After some minutes of viewing, there used to be suddenly a skull with crossed bones beneath it and a message “Rukavat ke liye khed hai”, or ‘Sorry for the inconvenience’. But even looking at that had it’s own fun. The design and colour of the skull and bones was duly noted, discussed and debated. But even all of that was great fun wit lots of silly joys of it’s own.