Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stupid Indian Soaps

Each evening after the day’s labors, I used to get back home and indulge in my daily dose of crap reality shows where absolutely idiotic men and women get drunk and go about competing for money, the love of dubious B-grade celebrities and so on. I was thoroughly embarrassed by my guilty hour of mindless entertainment, but since coming to India and watching Indian TV for five days, I have developed a strange sense of pride in my enjoyment of American reality TV. Indian television, which I used to love for the quality of its televised serials, has lost all its erstwhile glory. Most shows on Indian TV these days appear to be soap operas or melodrama-filled game shows.

The soap operas are so insufferably stupid, that I feel sick. In addition to having absolutely no plot whatsoever, they are infuriatingly sexist and unashamedly promote ridiculously conventional ideals. Ironically most of the characters are women, but each one of them is either diabolically evil and malicious, or unbearably conventional and good. All of them wear several kilograms of bangles that sheath their hands from wrist to elbow in a sickeningly gaudy display. Every other part of their bodies that can possibly be, is adorned with other similarly outlandish jewelry. And the ‘good’ women are defined entirely in terms of the men in their lives – as daughters, wives, sisters and mothers – not a single independent personality amongst the lot of them. None of them have an occupation – none of the wives anyway. The sisters might be something completely gender-biased such as a fashion-designer or a school teacher. The men on the other hand are mostly businesspersons and keep out of the way of the women’s machinations – is it any wonder that many Indian men think that women are not to be trusted and are underhand and devious? Furthermore, all these ‘good’ women are painstakingly devout – every second sentence that they speak is either a prayer or an affirmation of faith. At least one segment of each half-hour episode is devoted to a melodramatic prayer with the woman beseeching her deity that her mentally challenged husband (a fact she did not know when she was tricked into marrying him, but now she believes that taking care of him and lovingly feeding him his food and so on is her supreme duty) be spared the pain of losing a cricket match to his brother who is married to the wicked and scheming sister-in-law. I bet Indian television would never dare to portray an atheist spinster scientist as a good woman, or a man subscribing to feminist principles as an ideal man. I am so angry I want to punch a hole through the television screen. At least in the idiotic reality television, women are afforded the choice to be able to make utter fools of themselves. I am told that these soap operas are highly celebrated television serials. To each his own, and those that watch them are welcome to them. As for me, I would much rather watch drunken degradation than have conventionality stuffed down my throat.

P.S. Disillusioned with television, I have turned to my ever faithful entertainers – books. When mummy and daddy are off at work, knowing nothing of this strange new city, I find that I have nothing else to do but read. I’m polishing them off at the wonderful rate of one book every couple of days. I’m done with two Agatha Christie-s (one of which – “Passenger to Frankfurt” – surprisingly reads less like Christie and more like John le Carre), have finally finished “The Thin Man” (which despite Sinclair Lewis’ assertion that it is a book you cannot possibly put down once begun, I have been inching through for almost a whole year now), and am almost done with the “Vicar of Wakefield” which I am finding enormously entertaining. I hope to be done with at least five more before I return to the US.