Tuesday, July 28, 2015



TV in my house is a domain exclusively under control of my wife. Never felt challenged as I am not a TV buff in the first instance. I get my own limited access to remote during cricket season. Musicals like ‘Sa-Re-Gama’, ‘Indian Idol’ are the programs we share common interest for. So, we are in complete harmony when it comes to TV viewing.

Indian TV scene, both in terms of hardware and software has appreciably evolved in the decades that have passed by.

Here is my take on it.

Advent of TV in its black & white avatar brought families together. Excitement of owning a TV and novelty value gave rise to a wave of cohesion not only amongst family members but even ‘have not’ neighbours who were welcome. A government entity, Door-Darshan enjoyed state-sponsored monopoly and churned out sarkari stuff. Its repertoire included entertainment elements along with special programs for farmers and labourers. ‘Chhayageet’ was most popular entertainer followed by Sunday evening movies. Very soon, serials came on screens. Each one had specifically allotted life-span in multiples of 13 weeks. Around this time, Colour TV piggy-backed on Asian Games and to become instant hit.

Even with its ‘first born’ advantage, Door-Darshan, failed to keep pace with time. Government liberalised its policy to allow private channels. They came in hordes and quickly dug their heels in.  Invasion of TV space by private players augured well for audience as it brought variety, class and quality. Ever so ambitious, channels went on to explore possibilities of foreign collaborations. Advent of reality shows on Indian TV screens was the outcome of these efforts. Now, family dramas had reality shows for company, striking a balance. Thanks to Bollywood, music based programs enjoyed special patronage.

Production houses were conscious of ‘soon-to build up’ competition arising out of open skies policies. They wasted no time attracting creative talent to generate a steady flow of entertainment. Now, advertisers came knocking on the doors of popular channels. Raking in precious revenue, the channels braced to fight the wars of TRPs. Purse strings were loosened for higher spends on actors, costumes and sets. Lavish mounting, opulent settings and gorgeous costumes became the norms.

However, generating fresh ideas for new programs every 13/26/52 weeks was becoming too much of bother. Every new program needed its own sets, props and costumes. Recovering costs was becoming tricky.  This prompted the channels to seek other options. They found their salvation in daily soaps which was an established tradition in the West.

Daily soap started mainly in the form of family dramas. A story-line that could stretch to a few months at least, was needed. Capital costs could be amortized over daily episodes lasting months. A bunch of writers would be commissioned to take the story forward week after week adding twists, turns and even jumps. In their desperation to extend lives of serials, channels allowed illogical and irrational turns in the stories. They even brought dead characters back to life. 

Content, in this rat-race started losing out to frivolities. Saner elements amongst viewers were appalled but then their numbers were too small compared to overall tally that included uneducated and rural folks. Channels continued stretching their serials to unimaginative and even senseless levels. An organised tohubohu ruled the stage.

A new twist in the tale came in with the arrival of Zindagi channel. Gradually but surely it made in-roads in most house-holds. I was dismissive of the hype attributing it to its Pakistani origin. My wife decided to explore the channel. Before I could even yawn, she was singing paeans for it. She loved the ‘freshness’ of the serials beamed on the channel.  Her persuasion worked and I joined her in viewing some programs.  I was pleasantly surprised. This channel follows old door-darshan pattern of ‘limited episode’ stories. These exude captivating charm with its freshness and clean presentation. Opulence and ostentations are very much there but content with its honesty of narration comes out winner. Tameez and Tehzeeb oozes out of their style of story-telling.

This channel has achieved phenomenal success and endeared itself to Indian viewers. Key to its success is freshness, supported by clean and unpretentious narration. It is time our Indian channels too, give a thought to this phenomenon. Let their writers unleash creativity with fresh stories rather than flog dead horses.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013


It’s Valentine Day today.  An E-mail has just popped in my Inbox. I get goose-pimples as I read the title of attachment with the mail. It reads, ‘Bombay 100 years ago’. As I open the attachment, I fall in love all over again.

I have found my Valentine- my Bombay.

Memories of 69 years that I have spent here since birth are well preserved though the tone has turned sepia. But pictures are clear. World Luxury Council (India) has come up with a series of canvasses that display icons of Bombay landmarks as they were 100 years back. A friend thought it appropriate to forward these to me. It is a priceless ‘forward’ that will rest on ‘desktop’ till I last. As I browse through the attachment the images become sharper. I am reliving my childhood as view these pictures. I cannot help admire what appears on the screen. Frame after frame tickle my sense of pride and glory about Bombay. Having grown with the city I am able to identify and relate to most of these landmarks dotting the Beautiful Bombay.

Resplendent in architectural splendor, blending English and French styles with native and Islamic architecture the city symbolizes a vision that transcends borders across the world. Little wonder it is also a demographers’ delight. It is a city with a Lion’s heart that accommodates everyone seeking a toe-hold. All are welcome in this city, irrespective of their color, caste, creed community or place of origin. In its womb are nestled diverse shades of humanity. This is the city that defines ‘cosmopolitanism’ in true sense. Its cultural diversity sets standards a few cities in the world can match.

Bombay breathes ‘opportunities’. Take it and it takes you where you wish to reach, no matter how high.  From micro-mini to multinational, all kinds of enterprise thrive in Bombay. Yet, it is not a city where only money matters. It is a city that lives life in all its facets. Here, art keeps company with architecture, commerce is complimented by charity, intellect competes with erudition and culture defines class.

Bombay of the yore had good fortune to be nursed and nurtured by men (and women) with broad minds and larger than life persona. Always eager to give more to the city than what they got from it, these magnificent women and men gave Bombay its character.

Romancing Bombay has been an old habit of incorrigible flirt in me.  As if sharing my feeling, even the Arabian Sea keeps caressing the shores of the city.

Love you Bombay (now Mumbai) at all times.  

Monday, November 5, 2012



It was Sunday morning. We received a call from one of the agents in Goregaon. He talked about a fully furnished, well appointed apartment that would meet our needs and was well within budget.

Wasting no time, we headed towards agent’s office. Our excitement kicked up further on knowing the offered price. It did sound bit low for comfort but before we could nurse any doubts the agent started singing paeans of the property. Now, I am not one of those ‘lucky’ guys who get rewarded without any efforts. But, today I felt different. Avarice had set in my mind. Soon, we were on way to our utopian dream. Short drive to the apartment was spent listening agent’s discourse on merits of the apartment. Going by his recitations, it was a ‘jackpot’ waiting only to be picked up.

The building appeared new and had impressive façade. A well manicured garden with meandering walkway greeted us as we eased our car into a vacant parking slot. Backside had fairly large children’s play area with rides. Entrance lobby was even more impressive with double height, a crystal chandelier hanging from the roof and a large mural of the side walls. Our ‘jackpot’ was on 1st floor and we did not have to wait for the elevator. Name plate outside the flat bore the name of a lady. Ringing of bell was greeted with a sweet sounding response. Soon, we came face to face with a pretty young lady in early thirties. She greeted us with a disarming smile, leading us to a spacious sitting room. By the time we sank into plush leather sofa, a servant appeared with soft drinks. Sipping coke, we peered around trying to take the tastefully done interiors in.

Meanwhile, the pretty woman was closeted with the agent. They seemed to be pretty ‘close’ and even occupied seats almost touching each other. Their unabashed flirting disturbed our concentration and soon we could not take it any longer. Quickly we finished the drink and demanded to be shown around the flat. The agent took it upon himself to lead us, pointing out every notable detail. Inspection over, we felt elated. It was a tempting proposition considering the price.

Back in our seats, we talked about details. I could not help inquire reasons for selling the flat. My quarry was anticipated and prompt came the reply that the lady needed funds. Next question was pre-empted by offering explanation that there was a certain amount of urgency and hence the property was being under-quoted. An expression of sadness punctuated this statement by the lady. As if on cue, the agent nodded his head in agreement. The pretty woman went on to narrate a story how she had to raise lot of money to fight legal battle. Continuing she said, her husband was falsely implicated in a case and she had to get him out on bail. Sensing the feeling of shock on our faces, she lamented how in this country innocents fall prey and poor wives like her had to bear the brunt.

Overcoming first tremors, we asked as to what kind of case it was. Instantly she responded, “Oh! It’s no big deal. The narcotics department has falsely alleged that my husband is involved in selling drugs. I can swear by God that he is ‘clean’ and I will certainly get him out of jail”. A pre-scripted drama was on and at this point the agent stepped in. He sprang to his feet and said, “Sir! Let me explain. I am not one of those agents who would close a deal by deceiving a client. I will reveal everything” I thanked him for his ethics and waited for his next move. He then called for previous day’s Times of India.

Those days, last page of TOI carried public announcement ads, mostly lawyers’ notices about proposed property deals, government tenders etc. Presently, the lady shoved a newspaper in my hand. It had, at the bottom of last page, a ‘Notice’ by a firm of solicitors. It informed public of High Court judgment by which it had released a particular apartment that was ‘attached’ by the police. Keeping my cool, I went on to read the notice carefully. It was clear that the flat belonged to the ‘pretty lady’ who happened to be wife of the alleged drug peddler, currently in custody. It further added that the said flat was wrongfully ‘attached’ and ordered the narcotics bureau to release it. In fact, the lady had taken possession of the flat two days before and had immediately put it on the block.

A perfect frame of deception, she shed more tears and pleaded with my wife to take a quick decision because this flat was her only source for money.  My wife was baffled and wondered why we had not walked out by then. Meanwhile, the agent brandished flat purchase documents to prove that she was the sole owner. He even showed society bills in her name. He assured us that this was once in a lifetime opportunity that we can ill afford to miss.

My mind went into a spin, unable to choose between common sense and greed. But, I was not ready to give up, as yet. I stayed put listening to a well orchestrated drama. I argued that as a housewife the lady had no income. It implied that the purchase was actually done by husband. It also meant that tomorrow he could come out of the jail and stake a claim to the flat. It would make us vulnerable to bullying by him.

Amidst fresh round of sobs, the lady offered that we speak to her husband on phone. Seeing our look of surprise the agent butted in saying that she talks to her husband every Sunday. He can avail of a facility of phone in one of the jail officer’s cabin. 

Finally, to remove all our misgivings, lady made us a fresh offer. She suggested, we accompany her to Nashik Jail to meet the husband in person. We could then seek his written consent on a stamp paper.

This was the last straw. My wife jumped, pulled my arm, screaming, “We are not going anywhere and I don’t want this flat.” 

We were out within seconds. Thereafter, we never ventured in that direction. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Two months back my younger brother died of cardiac arrest at Delhi airport. He was 64. His post mortem report revealed 90% blockage in one artery. Since we have a strong family history of heart disease, invariably, we would suggest a thorough checkup. But, he always brushed it aside.

He had his own philosophy and detested the very idea change in lifestyle that may be may be warranted. He had no symptoms nor was he indulgent type. His only aberration was need for extra sugar in his tea and was unabashedly assertive about it. His life was a saga of all round satisfaction. A happy marriage, worthy children, well-educated, married into good families, a granddaughter and unassailable financial security constituted his life. A contended person, he was perfectly at peace with himself and his surroundings. No regrets, no unfulfilled desires. Unwittingly, we the family, fell prey to his logic. Now, in the hindsight, we live with the guilt pangs which will not be forgotten easily.

I am trying to figure out whether it was a case of misplaced chivalry that took his life OR a game played by chromosomes. A close look points the finger towards the latter. It appears that men tend to be more casual in their approach to life as compared to women. In fact, it is considered to be a ‘macho’ instinct. Even when men become proactive, invariably it would have been caused by sustained spousal prodding.

In contrast women are more pragmatic. Life preservation comes to them naturally. It could be because only they are endowed with capabilities of giving birth. Physical discomforts as well as hormonal upheavals during pregnancy, delivery and post-natal periods build a formidable reserve of strength and resolve in them to protect life. It reflects in their attitude for their lifetime.

Am I right if I attribute it to chromosomes?

Let’s consider another game that chromosomes play.

There have been in my extended family, several examples of women surviving for many long years after demise of their spouses. Loneliness, at times neglect, notwithstanding. Men, in contrast do not last more than a few years. once their spouses depart. Do look around and you will agree.

Can we still call women, a ‘weaker sex’?

In the end, lets’ all agree that Mars and Venus definitely play their own magic which we call chromosome effect.

Friday, October 26, 2012



In a week’s time from now, Tomy Abhilash, will be setting the sail for a voyage round the world. He will be embarking on a solo venture, riding the waves for six long months. It certainly is not first ‘round the world’ solo voyage by an Indian. But Tomy’s mission is first of its kind by an Indian. His voyage named Sagar Parikrama II will not be making any stops during the protracted period at sea.

A 33 year old, Dornier Pilot with Indian Navy, Tomy is aware of the formidable challenges that lie ahead. He plans to counter these with indomitable courage, resolute spirit and unflagging faith in himself. His cheerful willingness to explore uncharted course is backed by endless optimism as he prepares for the task ahead. Besides, Tomy loves Solitude and intends to make most of it.

Meanwhile, ‘Mhadei’, his boat has been flagged off from Goa after, thorough check to ensure its sea-worthiness for the arduous journey head. Tomy’s source of inspiration, encouragement and guidance is none other than Commander Dilip Donde. Cdr Donde happens to be the first Indian to have achieved the rare feat of solo circumnavigation, albeit with stops.

As a part of efforts to restore the maritime glory, Indian Navy is supporting Lt Cdr Tomy Abhilash’s venture.

Let’s salute Tomy’s grit, determination and fortitude and Wish him Success.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


In a recent interview Nandita Das & Hubby Subodh Maskara come up with candid details of their lives which became the basis of their play, ‘Between the Lines’. It revolves around lives of protagonists who are as different as chalk & cheese which they attribute to diverse family backgrounds.  
At one stage Subodh talks about his family which like most Indian ones was a patriarchal set up. He then goes on to tell us about an amusing practice of Roti Roll Call during dinner times. They followed an unwritten protocol to serve Rotis first to the father, then to elder brother followed by younger one, then to sisters and so on. Women and kids were the last on the list. Surprisingly, I did not find it amusing because I had witnessed similar practices.

In fact Roti service has a special place in all households. Most homes follow the hierarchy. Men, especially family heads insist on being served hot-rotis straight from tawa. Pampered hubbies would even throw the roti away if it is not as per his liking. Throwing their plate of food by hubbies was even considered macho reflex. Strangely, their wives would extol these misdemeanors like virtues. Was it a privilege extended to the bread-winner?
What is the scene today? For one, kitchens have become smart and swanky spaces which cost loads of money. Best of gadgets and comfortable environs are the hallmarks of these kitchens. But the tragedy is that the owner lady hardly enters the area. She has abdicated it to the ubiquitous bai who quickly picks up tricks to cook in the hi-tech kitchen. A few years earlier, it was only the working women who took recourse to this arrangement. Today, even women who are only home-makers, shun kitchen chores.  

And what happens to the roll-call for rotis? That protocol is gone for a toss. And so is the craving for hot rotis. These households have become the fiefdom of cooks who come at their convenience, prepare food and go. You can consume it in ‘as is where is’ condition or ‘microwave’ it if you like it hot. Most families comprise members flitting in and out with no fixed schedules. Seldom do they dine together. Hierarchy is passé in these.

Another interesting fallout of the situation is that all family members learn to like whatever fare is served. No complaints, no arguments, no throwing of plates. Understandably, restaurant excursions become frequent for them.