1980s…. That was the time when TV (alias Idiot Box) was entering our homes. We had a Keltron TV in my grandparents place. It was small and cute. My grandfather taught me how to swicth on the TV. You had to first put in the plug and "on" the main switch. And then, those days, we had a small machine called the booster on top of the TV which we had to swicth on before switching on the TV. It was one of the first colour, remote controlled TVs that had a market in India. It works to this day without any complaints whatsoever.
Anyways, we had only one channel – Doordarshan and that also would be telecasted only for sometime in a day. No non stop 24*7 channels to bore us to death. Most often we would find the colored vertical lines and the big "geeeeeeen" sound. There were only a few programs but it was very entertaining. We were not allowed to watch TV everyday morning in the weekdays. Only in the evenings after school, we would sit in front of it. We would play a lot in the village; so by the time we came back and finished homework, it used to be time for news. It used to be telecast at 7:30. That was the time when news was only reported and not created. Those newsreaders still remain very fresh in my mind. Shobana Ravi, Fathima Babu and later Sandhya Rajagopalan. There used to be an English newsreader called Sunit Tandon. They were cool really! Shobana Ravi used to put her saree over even on the right side; only recently she has shifted to salwars. So much for becoming commercial!! They could speak good tamil unlike people today.
Then on Wednesday nights, Chithrahar used to hold the whole village sway for half an hour. Then Oliyum Oliyum telecasted on Friday nights would have full audience. Apart from that we never watched much on weekdays. Then on Sunday, we would get the tamil movie in the evening. Many neighbours used to come to our home to watch it and we would have snacks and savories and chat away while watching it. If it was boring, you would find people moving out to play. On Sunday mornings, we would get Ramayana for one hour. Those days it used to come in hindi only. Even though many of us did not know hindi, we never found it difficult to understand because we knew the story and expressions mattered more than words. After Ramayana serial was over, Sunday mornings were for Mahabharatha. It used to be telecast at 10 in the morning and you wouldnt find a soul in the street. We had to conduct a rebellion in our homes to let us watch the Sunday morning programs while eating in front of the TV. Elders at home used to say "Saappadu deivam maadhiri; adha kandadhu munnadiyum vechu saapada pdadhu." Then we would fight and say in Anusha’s home they allowed, in Appalam maami’s home they allowed and all. Actually they didnt. It was just so they would let us do it. They partly allowed that only because it was Ramayana and partly because they wanted to see it. For many years hence, how we rebelled to got rights became a great story.
Another entertainment used to be the deaf and dumb news at 1 PM on Saturday afternoons. Some times, people used to make notes from Vayalum Vaazhvum (they were farmers). All the little ones would gather to watch Kanmani Poonga. Wonder Balloon came much later. If you wanted to know what would come next week, there was Munnottam. And one more boring review program called Edhiroli which no one watched.
When cricket matches were there, only that came. When there was nothing or DD had any technical problems, they would play some of the best songs. I still remember my hair used to stand on end for "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara". They used to play (they still play) some old carnatic renditions by MS or others or play some really good sitar, veena or something (all by meastros).
Not to mention the fact that we watched more jingles than programs. Kids 1 – 4 used to eat only when the jingles were played. There were only a very few, so I remember all of them – Vicco Turmeric, Dinesh (Take the world into your stride!!), Dyanora, Vimal suitings, 14-31 payoria palpodi, Closeup, Orient fans, Goldspot, Rasna (that I love you Rasna is just too good), Bajaj ("Umang Bharat kee nayee tasweer!! Hamara Bajaj"), Velvette shampoo, Anjal aluppu marundhu, nijaam paaku, Amul, Frooti (Mango Friuty, Fresh and Juicy!!), Lime n’ Lemony Limca, Boost and all. We used to take turns to recite the maximum number of ads including the sounds and I used to really enjoy saying it along with the TV ads.
Good programs came in celebration time. We would watch the Independence Day parade and my grandfather watched the (still watches) the President’s and PM’s message to the people. I still remember how DD held us sway. My great grand mother used to put her hands to her cheeks when Arun Govil (Rama) or Nitish Bharadwaj (Krishna) came on screen.
When we were a little older, Chandrakantha came (yakkuuuu by Kroor Singh was damn famous) and in came more ads and serials (Shanthi and Swaabhimaan) for the older people. Sidhartha Basu’s quiz program was good and Junoon used to play at night. The Top 10s came in an Anthaksharis were also included. Rangoli started coming on Sunday mornings.
Other channels and newer programs came in. Computers took over and the world became more commercial than ever was. Now, we get to see programs in between ads!! The DD days were gone!! Those times will never come again but they were the best. These days, even with hundreds of channels and thousands of programs, I hardly watch anything worthwhile. Even if there isnt anything to watch, I just keep surfing the channels. What a waste of time!!