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In a humorous take, a viewer describes what it takes to make the quintessential family in Indian television serials.
In the classic novel of a post literate future ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Ray Bradbury’s hero Montage shares, “I can’t talk to my wife, she listens to the walls.” The four walls of his parlour are expensive televisions. Montage had taken to calling the uncles, aunts, the cousins, the nieces, the nephews that live in those walls ‘relatives’. No matter when he came in, the walls were always talking to his wife Mildred. And Mildred too described them as ‘my family’. The walls call her Mrs. Montage and she participates in the ongoing programs also.
Well, things haven’t come this far, the books haven’t been yet burnt in our world (remember, they burn at Fahrenheit 451), but yes the characters of the TV serials today have almost become ‘family’ to the viewers. On scrutinizing this family of mine, the following quirks of these members who lurk in our homes irked me.
Women are dressed-to-the-nines with not a hair out of place. Life is just short of perfect happiness, perfect despair.
This family is too glamorized. Women are dressed-to-the-nines with not a hair out of place. Life is just short of perfect happiness, perfect despair. Falling in love is parmo dharma. Household chores are not repetitive drudgery for them. Housekeeping for them consists only of fluffing up pillows or changing pillow covers or blowing the smoke of incense from the pooja thali into all the rooms of their homes.
Their homes always have grand temples in which the ghee/oil lamps keep on burning all the hours of the day whereas, poor practical mortals because of the high cost of living have taken to using electric lamps that too only at the time of worshipping. Obviously, a working woman cannot leave the oil lamp burning when she locks the home to go to work.
While working in the kitchen most of the young female members keep their straightened hair open and flowing. Even the heavens won’t dare to let a strand of their hair get into the dishes being cooked. The professional chefs should stop wasting money on their caps. Cooking for them consists of cutting tomatoes or delicately stirring curries. They always have the latest state of the art kitchens whatever their income group be.
All the members are very fond of speaking. They all speak in lengthy learned sentences – nothing spontaneous.
All the members are very fond of speaking. They all speak in lengthy learned sentences – nothing spontaneous. Weddings are always celebrated on a grand scale. Shopping for lovely saris, clothes and jewelry never has any budgetary limitation. Sometimes the jewelers and sariwallahs bring their wares to the homes. Wealth demands to be displayed, or of what use is it if it can’t make the ordinary viewers dissatisfied with their lives!
Mehendi, sangeet and a dozen other functions are celebrated with everyone dancing like pros – nothing spontaneous like I said earlier. If a normal person tries to put the hook in the eye of a necklace they find it time consuming because in guiding their hands coordination and luck plays a role. But the young dashing bridegrooms of my TV family, during the wedding ceremony, are able to put the ‘mangalsutra‘ around the neck of the brides in one go. Their fingers have eyes.
Pregnancy for the young ladies of the family is just a small bulge in the middle which they have to cradle protectively, sweetly again and again with their hands. The dark circles under the eyes, the swollen look, and the gasping breath of ordinary expectant mothers are all unfamiliar to them. They just bloom. Ditto when they cry – no runny nose, no sniffles just gracefulness and drops of dewy tears. Whenever they are in a good mood or about to be lovey-dovey a nice breeze blows and gently teases their hair flatteringly. A kiss on the forehead is the ultimate ritual of caring.
Women of my family are experts at reading omens – a flower falls from God’s idol – something good is going to happen.
The women of my family are experts at reading omens – a flower falls from God’s idol – something good is going to happen. Wind blows, or a lamp is extinguished, or beads of a mangalsutra scatter, or a photograph crashes to the floor – something ill is going to happen. And they are inevitably right. Moreover, they are all highly telepathic. They have disturbed sleep, troubled dreams and a feeling of unease if any of their loved ones is in trouble.
Music easily clues you into the subtleties of the story, guides your response. Even with your eyes closed, by just listening to the background music you can make out whether it’s a comic or tragic moment. A slap is an important ingredient – much dramatic activity and intensity ensues from it; the music leaves you in no doubt. It does not matter who slaps whom but a slap per two or three episodes is the standard formula for ensuring high TRP.
Each room of their house always has a glass jug of water and a glass. We don’t have those many jugs in our home. I’ll like to count the jugs in an average telly-home. Offering a glass of water is an important ritual. This glass of water is the panacea for all the misfortunes and an important plot propeller – you know for those midnight haunts, meetings at the staircase landings or leaving the arena clear if you don’t want to be a witness to what is about to happen. The women always wear high heels, even in the middle of the night.
The kids are always super – whether in intelligence, dumbness, naughtiness. Mostly they are precocious and grasp things quickly.
The kids are always super – whether in intelligence, dumbness, naughtiness. Mostly they are precocious and grasp things quickly. Oldies are always kind, wise and fond of giving advice. Gray characters dress up gaudily, use heavy makeup, and keep on plotting and smirking. Heredity is unheard of – there is never any resemblance of height or complexion etc. in the families.
Most of the goings-on revolve round the female characters. Multiple relationships are the norm. Everyone is into the bigamy thing and at times you begin to wonder whether Indian law actually permits bigamy. (My young daughter asked me in all seriousness to confirm from my husband whether he has a second family hidden somewhere!) The fixation of this telly family on marriage, rituals, motherhood, and domesticity is incredible – regressively progressive? These undemanding and addictive soap operas are enough to make us, the viewers, delusional.
In short there is God’s plenty in this synthetic portrait gallery – enough to make your real family pale in interest, seem vapid and look ordinary.
Snapshots of Indian Television Shows via Facebook
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