Television And Public Space

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 PMNov (Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life)

I woke up and looked out of the window, out of habit, to check how far we had reached. All I saw was foam like clouds everywhere. Oh! I am not on the road I told myself and told myself how boring a journey on air was. While travelling on road or track one can look around at the beauty and ugliness of the world. But while on air all one can see is just the blue sky and foam like clouds.

As I stared at the foam like clouds I realized that the outside environ resembled certain sets of mythological cinema and television serials where either Narada or some other Gods and Goddesses walked and met and conversed. It was with such foam like clouds in the background that the arrows would travel and multiply in the mythological serials. I laughed as I recollected all those images of cinema and television serials. I went back in time and landed in my childhood recollecting these images of mythological cinema and television serials.

My nostalgic flight was interrupted by my neighbor who asked me for The Hindu which I had in my hand. As I passed on the paper I too felt like reading something and picked up the magazine (published by the Jet people themselves I guess) that was placed before me. I flipped through the pages finding nothing interesting till an article by one Charukeshi Ramadurai caught hold of my eyes. Coincidentally it was an article celebrating the golden jubilee of Doordarshan in India.

Speaking about how as a child he waited for the song ‘Miley Sur Mera Tumhaara’ and how religiously they watched ‘Raamayan’, ‘Mahabharath’, ‘Hum Log’, ‘Surabhi’, ‘Rangoli’ Charukeshi mentioned about how his neighbors would assemble at his place every Wednesday evening to watch ‘Chitrahaar’.

It was a common phenomenon during the early days of Doordarshan when not every house had a television set. Whichever house had a television set became a public space. People from the nearby houses came and watched television.

As I read about people from nearby houses coming to Charukeshi’s house to watch Chitrahaar I remembered the days when my sister and I would go to a nearby house in Manipal to watch ‘Mahabharath’. This continued till we got a television set at home. In that house only my sister and I were outsiders and hence it was not a public space in its real sense.

But when my sister and I used to be in Byndoor (grandparents place) we would go to the neighboring Muslim house to watch television. The nearby Muslim families, Hindu families and also Dalit families came to watch ‘Mahabharath.’ We mingled with everyone and made friends with everyone. This was not tolerated by grandfather’s younger brother who would ask us as to why we mingled with ‘other’ people. But we never listened to him and what broke the barrier was the television and the public space that it created.

A near by house was of a relative with whom our family in Byndoor was not in talking terms. It has been so from the time I have known Byndoor and my grandparents. The elders of the two houses would never talk to each other. The children of that family also came to watch television in the Muslim house where we went to watch television, for it was the only house in the immediate environment. They spoke to us and we spoke to them in the public space that the television had created. But we never dared to speak about this friendship back at home. When we interacted with them we realize that the so called enemy was also more or less like us who laughed and cried and also watched ‘Mahabharath’ like us. But we dint say ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ to them if we were to cross paths while with elders, in the village. Our friendship was created by and around the television set and the public space it created.

Soon our grandfather brought a television set at home and the even the enemy family had a television set at their home. The television set had started entering every house and was creating private space and no more public space. But still there were certain families which did not own television sets even after we got a television set in Byndoor. Most of them were the Dalit families. They either continued to go to the Muslim houses to watch television or would watch television in our house standing outside the door but never coming in. It appears like even technology couldn’t break the Brahminical hegemony. Technology had its own limitations. Or rather Brahminical hegemony had swallowed technology too.

Today almost every house has a television set. Some have more than one- one for every room. The public space that television once created has vanished. In many places, where every room has a television set, it creates just individual spaces and not even family spaces.

20 November 2009

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