Just a few weeks ago me and my sister were talking about how we were certified nerds all throughout our childhood. I mean, think of it, our day used to start with All India Radio (if we heard the 8 am news it meant we were very, very late for school since by then we should have been on our way to the rickshaw which in turn took us to school!) and the only thing we did after coming back from school was learn Jyoti Sangeets and Rabha Sangeets from one of Dad’s students (who was pretty enthusiastic about the whole thing and wouldn’t even wait for us to change our uniforms and gobble down food) and then homework if there was any. That was when we were in primary school. Later it was classical music classes twice a week till we both completed our Bachelor of Music degree. While our friends would get pretty frilly frocks and flashy colorful toys on their birthdays, we would get novels. We didn’t know anything about cartoons or for that matter even that a Cartoon Network existed (we didn’t have cable), but we sure knew all there was to know about the four “Little Women”, and talked about them like we actually knew them. Our idea of family time was playing Scrabbles and (ahem) Screw (which in case people don’t know is a card game….and an intelligent one at that, more commonly known as the Six of Hearts) at which I would always have to win or else I would create a tantrum. That must have been entertainment of a different sort altogether, come to think of it.
And then, much later, we got cable, and that in turn, started a whole new era of arguments and a whole new level of family drama. That was the time when fifteen minutes of getting to sit in front of the TV flew away like it was fifteen seconds (and it was pretty sad too… I would have to spend more time looking at the watch than at the TV screen). And it also happened that Mamma would come and switch the TV off even though it was the last scene of a movie me and my sister were watching just because she had served lunch and we hadn’t moved an inch from where we were, even after her yelling at us for the last ten minutes. Correction here. We would move… from sitting we would first stand, and then from being like fifteen meters away from the TV we would come to five meters, and then my sister’s hand would hover over the switch. And would freeze right there. And woe betide us if we even mention the movie during lunch. Mamma would glare at us for a long time (believe me that worked much more than her screaming at us) until we noticed that she was glaring and then know better than to so much as open our mouth. Dining time conversation comprised of clearing doubts (yeah, ridiculous though it may sound, we would keep our doubts about studies away from Mom and Dad until absolutely required) and talking about the day. TV would be strictly turned off. Both from power and conversations.
Such were days. But to their credit, our parents, despite being teachers themselves never forced us to sit on the study table. We studied when we wanted to, and if we wanted to. I remember I would crawl over windows and keep running up and down the stairs while my mom would ask me questions from my class-work copy when I was in school. Grades mattered, but they were not the be all and end all of life. My mom had infact asked me to shut my books and go on a drive with them around the town to check out World Cup final festivities, just the day before my Class XII Chemistry exam. We were brought up to enjoy reading and studying more than anything else. And maybe that was the one reason both of us managed good grades all throughout. When asked to go out and play with friends, we would say we would rather curl up with a good book inside, thank you very much. Nerds? Definitely. Aware of that? Not until much much later.
And now, years later, even though cartoons still make me laugh, TV has lost its charm. Movies I watch such that I can pause them at will and also don’t have to bear the commercials. Radio is what Aita carries around with her all day long until all that remains is static. I-pod in. Sunday “Okonir Mel” out. Sleeping late into the day: in. Waking up just to watch Alice in Wonderland on Sundays, and hopefully “Rangoli” (if Mamma allowed that is) on Doordarshan before that: out. Things have changed. But I had never realized till what extent until I came home this time and I found out that all they (my Mom, my Dad, and for God’s sake my grandmother!) did when they were together was talk about one thing.
I mean, hullo! I was of the opinion that reality shows kind of sucked. To which, my Mom would look offended and say “This is not just a reality show. It is an insight into human behavior”. Go figure! I see my Dad (of all people, my dad, who used to sit in front of the TV only when he wanted to sleep in front of it, despite having hogged the remote from us, and making sure we all watched what he thought he wanted to!) gobble down his food just because he wanted to watch Big Boss. And that was only during the nights my Mom didn’t manage to wrap up dinner before 9pm (that’s when it started). Even then my Dad would get out from his seat (with me looking at him incredulously) in between dinner to turn the volume up. They talked Big Boss, ate Big Boss. Well, we would be sitting and nicely talking about relevant topics like life table and how probability of survival varies with age… and one of them would start with “Isn’t it Friday? Wonder which one of them goes out tonight”. And there you go, they start a discussion of which I am no part of and can in no way understand head or tail of. That fateful night when one of the finalists Pravesh Rana threw all the food in the swimming pool? God… all my grandmother could talk about what how he had insulted the goddess of food or whatever, and Mom would click her tongue and say yes, he would be punished alright. And then Dad goes on about how Poonam Dhillon has been such a steady person with a sane head on her shoulders and all. I don’t get it. I still don’t get how a reality show about people being cooped up inside one house with just each other’s company could provide such entertainment to my family…. The same family which made nerds of me and my sister! (God forbid what if we’d remained nerds?) And I don’t get how those people could become part of our dining table conversation. So when I point this out to Mamma, that not only are we talking about a TV show of all things during dinner, but the TV is on with the volume turned up, and so is the light switch, she sniffs and says that their age is different. The exact line was “Aamar boyox aru tohotor boyox ekei nohoi nohoi….”.
The ultimate (anti?)climax was that in the final day of “Big Boss” my Dad was away, and my Aita didn’t have company to watch it (Mom being dead beat from the Winter camp) and so she didn’t. The very next morning the first thing I hear is Mamma pestering Aita to tell her what happened and my Aita’s Hindi being limited and hence understanding slightly contorted, my dear darling mother ultimately turns on the TV because she was so sure the winner would be all over the morning news.
And while I am still digesting the fact that my family’s acting all weird on me, to make things more confusing I find my mom talking about things like “googling” the recipe for vegetable Manchurian and giving me a call to ask how to copy photos from the digital camera to the laptop. Dad on the other hand, wanted to get a super good music system for the car, and a handset with dual SIM facility which also had a camera and a music player and recorder. Not fair, I scream, when this is the same Dad who refused to give ME such a handset for the simple reason that a handset was meant to help me make calls and send messages and nothing else. If that were not enough, just a few minutes ago my Mamma asked me to teach her to upload photos in her Orkut profile. Oh, and that’s after she asks me to help her out with a power-point presentation. My world goes slightly out of focus when things like this just drop on me.
But let me just leave things at that… You know times are changing when Mom keeps saying “Chill….!” And Dad keeps humming “Ella…Ella….Eh Eh Eh… Under my umbrellaaaaaaa…” (albeit with a classical twist to it). And oh, did I mention my grandmother has been pestering me to put my sister’s new number on speed dial in HER phone? Well… I rest my case. And log off now. Mom needs the plug-and-serve to “google” more stuff.