Switching channels

Posted on July 10, 2014


Baradwaj Rangan gets used to the idea of life without TV.

I am amazed at myself. The last time I was so amazed at myself was when I discovered that I could touch my toes without bending my knees. Okay, so I bent my knees a little. But that doesn’t count as cheating. We are city people, after all, squatting on non-ergonomic chairs all day. Heck, I’d give myself an Oscar if I could touch my knees. Anyway, I digress. Let’s return to the scene of my recent amazement. What do you call thirty days of something? A monthiversary? I just celebrated my monthiversary of being without television. I still have a television set. What I don’t have is the bouquet of channels that is supposed to help me unwind after work. It’s scary, I know. Will my life be the same without Aastha TV and Zee-Punjabi?

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It all began when I wanted to tune into the French Open this year and found that my DTH service provider didn’t have that particular channel. Now that was really not on. You give me 250 channels I don’t want and hold back the dozen or so that I do? The only things I watch, every year, are the tennis majors, some cricket here and there, the Oscars, and… I think that’s it. (I stopped watching the Grammys once I discovered that rap wasn’t just something you did on the knuckles.) Less than a week of TV, all put together. Now that all movies and general-entertainment programmes are on YouTube, without ads, there’s no need to watch any of the Tamil or Hindi channels. (Every year, as I renew my subscription, I am told I can watch 12 new films free of cost, while they’re still on the pay channels. I have never once availed of this offer. It sounds wonderful in theory, like those complimentary sessions with a personal trainer on joining your local gym – and then you realise you have to get to the gym in the first place.) As for the English-movie channels, I stopped watching them long ago –  right about the time Turner Classic Movies dropped off the list of available channels. It’s just action mayhem elsewhere, and despite my profound love for The Terminator, which is as close as I’ve come to a religious experience, I draw the line at having to genuflect before it for the 856th time.

Anyway, I digress. So when I didn’t get to watch any of the French Open matches, and when my current subscription expired, I decided to switch to another service provider. I did my due diligence – translated, I asked a colleague at work if she got all the channels I was missing, and if she was happy with her service provider. She said yes. And so I called them up and was told that starting July 1, I’d have the new service up and running. Only, July 1 has come and gone. There’s no service. It’s been hell to reach them after that, and I find myself wondering if I really need these channels. After all, it’s been 30 days and it’s not as if I’m waking up in a cold sweat, rummaging through trashcans for the remote. What am I missing, really? Live breaking news, maybe. But don’t we get that on news feeds? Remember what it was like when we didn’t have all these 24×7 channels? We’d read about what happened in the papers the next day, and life, surprisingly, didn’t come to an end. And with the Internet, we don’t even have to wait that long.

This is not one of those articles where I say, “Ever since I gave up TV, my life has changed. I just have so much more time. I’ve taken up scrapbooking and macramé and I’ve begun to volunteer with an organisation that helps abandoned puppies find homes.” This is about how a month without something you don’t really need can reinforce your conviction that you don’t really need it. The eternal fear, the prime motivator for my renewing my subscription, has always been this: What if, one day, I feel like vegging out by channel-surfing? That day will come, surely – when I retire, when I have all the time in the world. Till then, taking a line from all those Terminator screenings I’ll be missing, Hasta la vista, baby!

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