After a blah day at work or socialising with the in-laws or standing in line for nursery admissions for your princess, the old TV set back home may seem the only refuge in the world. It is just there, quietly in a corner where you last saw it, waiting patiently for you to pick the remote control and point. Asking nothing of you.
Switch it on and it's like it was never off. In a quiet unassuming way it picks up where it left off. There is news, there is sports, there is the serial. Movies in English, Hindi, mother tongue… Of course the internet and Netflix give the TV stiff competition – but those dull, down moments when you are not watching something just to brag at lunch with friends, your eyes seek comfort food. What you have already seen, characters from your teenage years. When you watched
Desperate Housewives and Will and Grace on the sly, when your parents forgot you were there.
To sink into a soft sofa with a packet of chips and feast your eyes on these retro serials will never go out of style. Like going back into your mother’s womb.
My own reruns to go to in moments of stress and insomnia, while chewing nails and going through a low, are that of
Friends. Like most of us, of course, I am biased but there is nothing in this particular serial I find out of step – not the haircuts, not the jeans, not the jokes… Even the punch lines feel fresh as I forget when they were said, in which episode, who said it to whom etc.
As we sit there watching the same old people do the same old things, there is a smile on our face. It is like coming back home, like meeting family members. Which also, by the way, makes me gape cruelly at present-day pictures of my favourite
Friends stars; God, how old they have become, I think uncharitably and unrealistically, not caring to look at how old I myself have become. It made me sad to watch Joey say he does not watch his own super-famous TV series because he feels old! Did I say Joey? I meant Matt LeBlanc.
A lot of what we learnt about coffee, cafes, friendships, pulling each other’s legs, crushes and life itself came from what we watched on the telly while growing up. After all those Krishi Darshans and Chitrahaars, our lives were saved when cable TV came in. And those everyday people came in with their banter and heartbreak, their love lives and fashion sense. It mattered not that we watched them a season or two later than the world, it was enough they were there for us when they could be there for us.
Many a late night, when the kids are tucked into bed, and the book I am reading turns out to be a dud, on comes the idiot box. I watch with an idiotic smile as a skinny Chandler makes those unintelligible flapping noises and Rachel breaks up with Ross yet again.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival. Read Shinie Antony's columns