Philips ka Dabba

I tried to work the TV today.

No, not rewire it or something. The TV has been switched off for some months now and trying to work it, is a bi-annual ritual we perform.

The process involves finding the end of the wire from under the table; disentangling it, trying to fit it in the socket which is a little big for the pins. Having done this, someone needs to go to the terrace and rotate, shake, uproot and fit back, or just play with the ancient antenna that is tied rather sheepishly to the railing. Once the television finally switches on with a blink of the red light, the next step is to press various buttons and turn certain knobs. In no pre decided definite pattern, of course. Finally, the room brightens up with the glare of a buzzing signal- less screen. Some more playing with the antenna on the terrace (“Are theek hua kya?”), rotating of knobs and banging of the TV set. The picture slowly becomes clearer (“Ho gaya. Neeche aaja!”) and you can make out the logo, some humans and muffled sounds.

The logo is always Doordarshan. We’ve always been eerily contended with Doordarshan and its antique shows. The cable connection, my mother tells me, was first removed, when my parents realized that the TV was taking a toll on my outdoor activities. And so it has been since then.

Unlike other people of my age, I’ve grown up watching Tarang and Meena. In the afternoons, there was Malgudi Days and Byomkesh Bakshi, Fauji and Circus. In the evenings, Ramananda Sagar’s Ramayana and Wagle ki Duniya. On Saturdays, there were cartoons- Sesame Street, Duck Tales and Hercules-back to back.  Sundays were always packed with Poha, Aloo ki Sabji, Rangoli and a Bollywood classic at noon. Occasionally, there were short movies on stories by Premchanda, children’s movies and some award winning shows.

It’s interesting to watch how the all new popular TV channels grew from DD1 and left it behind. When DD1 struggled to keep up and started telecasting daily soaps on popular demand, we stopped watching the TV altogether. The TV wire was removed and coiled around a foil paper roll.

Every Diwali and every Republic day, we uncoil the wire; spend hours working the TV and watch whatever is being telecasted as we sip tea. Once the tea is finished, the TV is switched off, the wire wound back and the poor thing lies forgotten for almost another year.

It’s not like we haven’t tried to sell it. No one is keen on buying it, except the raddi wala.

“Who will take this Philips ka dabba, sir? Give it to me.”

He is right. But no. It breaks our heart to think of giving it away as scrap. The switched off TV leaves memories too. Memories of trying to make it work, of wiping it clean every weekend, of pressing our noses against the cold screen to look at our ghostly selves and of watching the hair on our hands stand up when touched to the buzzing screen.

Once, I remember, the TV wire overhead somehow got connected to the neighbor’s DTH connection and when we returned from school, we had the Cartoon network! Not very clear, of course. We watched Snow White that day and kept everyone away from the TV and the wire, lest it should disappear. The connection did vanish he next day though, just as magically as it had come.

When I come to think of it now, I realize we will probably never sell it away. There are some things you grow up with- things which get old with you. Even when you try to move them to a different place, they leave a perimeter of dust and you just have to place them back because the emptiness is too much to bear.

After all that saints proclaim about materialism, some things, I guess, deserve to stay. Like Dadi’s saris or Papa’s old radio, which is much older than the TV and surprisingly, still works. After all the damage is done, and the new takes over the old, what do you think is going to keep us sane?

And old TV set.

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