There was a time when the common man turned to the Govt for redress of grievance, a legacy of the British Raj. “Govt Saheb, help me”, they would address the District Collector in awe, clutching their parchment of grievances. The British, in my opinion, were by and large a fair lot, just and sagacious. A pity that we got rid of them and took onboard a bunch of dacoits as substitutes. The latest injustice that Govt Sahebs have bestowed on me is the saga of cable TV, the CAS/DTH.
There was a time when the Govt Saheb was a referee, who blew the whistle when someone went offside and tried to shoot goals unjustly. Due to globalisation, WTO and privatisation, the Govt Sahib is still the referee with the whistle, but the “he cum she” (HCS like IAS) has joined the game and blow the whistle just to ensure that the ball is always going in HCS’s favour. The govt sahib is also now a corporate person, the “Govt Company” (as in G Company) !!
The CAS/DTH is being touted as a big favour done to me and the public. We now live in a world where you can easily spin doctor Ravan as the good man and Ram as ‘Mogambo’, the side kick. Public opinion is a simple matter of dealing with morons. The average public like me swallow everything that is given to me as headlines or breaking news. Just in case I don’t get the punch line that they put out to me, they have panel discussions, where the spun stories are masticated by the spin doctors so that I can be made to effortlessly swallow the fare that they provide. No one bothers to think on his own these days.
I switch on my TV.
“We can now keep track of how many viewers watch which channels and predict the TRPs correctly”, says G Company.
“So what is in it for me ?”, I ask, echoing the often repeated words of T, my wife.
“The cable operator cannot cook up viewer data base and avoid tax”, says Chidambarm while Manmohan and Sonia smile condescendingly in the background.
I smile back at Sonia and growl at M Singh. I like Sonia’s dimples, though I like Rakhee Sawant’s, ……. whatever.
“So how does it bother me ?”, I ask Chids, cocking and eye brow.
Chids has no answer.
So he gets Priya Ranjan Das Munshi (PRDM), the info & broadcasting minister to bowl next over. He does the googly better than Chids, even though by the time he spells his name ‘priyaranjandasmunshi’, I am normally fast asleep.
“CAS is better than DTH”, says PRDM and goes into a monologue. He has Rajdeep Sardesai and Vir Sanghvi yodelling in the back ground so that no one can hear what he is saying.
“Advani is a badman”, yodels Sardesai, drawing my attention away from my TV woes. I miss Rakhee Sawant. “Eat black Truffles and vote congress, the future for secular India”, yodels Vir Sanghvi, specifically to divert my mind and to stop me from rational thinking.
I switch off the TV and go to sleep. Not worth keeping wake anymore to watch TV.
Next evening “Cable” Kohlee, my neighbour dropped in for a drink.
“The Hindujas are back”. Cable Kohlee doesn’t believe in starting the conversation with the weather. He doesn’t even ask about how I am doing, or about my health, silly conversation starters like that. He doesn’t need to.
“Same guy who spiked Rajeev Gandhi and shoved the Bofors gun up the Army’s a**?”, I ask incredulously. Major Cable Kohlee, with whom I spent better part of my NDA days, and with whom I share an evening peg or two once in a while, is an authority on Cable TV. He is after all the President of the ‘All India Cable Operators Association’.
“Yeh, they are the ones who are behind the CAS/DTH”, he says. “290 crores, to Shiela Dixit’, he said shoving his empty glass at me. “And that is just 10% of the money that they expect to make from set top boxes”, he says authoritatively. “Sidhath Basu is paying Sharukh Khan 250 Pethi. Shiela Dixit put the Ghoda on Basu’s head and said, ‘Mereko bhi dena like…. Kya ? Apan Gandhigiri mangta hai ….kya ?’. Cable Kohlee does an impersonation of ‘Circuit’ in ‘Munna Bhai MBBS’.
“I don’t like the box and I don’t want to pay for it”, I say.
“Neither do I”, says Cable Kohlee, drowning my good whisky. He doesn’t have to buy set top boxes, he sells them.
I am a dogmatically resilient and persevering man, especially when I am fortified with my routine evening pegs. That is because I have to live up to it. My father’s name was “PEG”.
Next morning I return to the ugly faces on TV.
“The issue is not about CAS & DTH”, I say to no one in particular.
“Why are you mumbling ?”, asked T, my wife. “Just pay and get the bloody boxes”. Since she is a HCS in the PMO, T usually issues gazette notifications to me even at home.
“I don’t mind paying for the set top box, Govt Sahiba”, I say meekly. “The trouble is with bouquets”.
“What bouquets ?”, she is peeved. ‘You never bought me flowers, or chocolates’.
My personal Govt Sahiba excels in obfuscation ever since she joined the G Company. I get very confused talking to Govt Sahiba. It is ‘like that only’, and ‘I am loving it’, specially my spats with Govt Sahiba. ‘Hinglish’ is screwing the British.
“Bouquet is a card, darling Govt Sahiba, like a credit card, honey”, I say as a confidence building measure. “The one which you have to insert into a set top box to make it work”.
“My foot, I don’t like insertions and I don’t like anything invasive” she says, and stomps out of my life for ten whole minutes.
“If we take the Star TV Bouquet, the card, you can watch the programme with laugh tracks”, I say to her retreating posterior which I would rather watch than Rakhee Sawant’s ……..whatever. A pity that Rakhee Sawant is more user friendly these days on invasive an penetrative technology than T who is men-o-pausing and has put me on pause, hold and full stop !!! Govt Sahiba needs stimulation these days to laugh or cry. The TV provides the laugh tracks for former and I provide male chauvinistic comments for the latter.
“So ?”. T comes bouncing back at me like Rakhee Sawant’s……, what ever.
“So I don’t get to watch Rakhee Sawant. She is on Sony TV channel that is in the Zee Bouquet”.
“So ?”. Govt Sahiba is fond of using mono syllables in our conversation. She says very wisely that it provokes less discussion and keeps me in control. I agree with her.
“To watch Rakhee Sawant, I have to pay Rs 960 extra bucks for the Zee bouquet, besides the Rs 4500 for the set top box and Rs 960 for your laugh tracks on Star bouquet”.
“Before the set top box came around, Cable Kohlee gave us all that for just 160 bucks a month”, I say with profound sadness.
T doesn’t bother to respond to my infra dig, “your laugh tracks”. I think she got confused. May be after 33 years of marriage, she has mastered the art of silence, like, “she who throws silence, lives to love another day”.
I turn to PRDM, Chids and Sonia Gandhi, with Rajdeep Sardesai and Vir Sanghvi yodelling in the back ground, so that no one can hear what any one is saying. It is very boring. I turn down the volume and start my own panel discussion, just by myself, with an imaginary panel of eminent “know it alls” .
“Till the CAS / DTH came around, I was happy paying 160 bucks to Cable Kohlee and I even got to drink his whisky. Besides, I got to see Rakhee Sawant’s …whatever, on my TV while Govt Sahiba watched her laugh tracks on her TV, in the other bed room, all at the same time just for 160 bucks”.
“No, no no”, I interjected, turning my head to impersonate the other panel judges.
“Yes yes yes, I agree”, I turn my head the other way, with a suitable response.
“So the point is, why do I need to pay Rs 6420 for watching some thing that I don’t want to watch.
“What don’t you want to watch ?”, asks one of the panel judges who keeps preening her long hair just to distract my sensible arguments. She has assets bigger than Rakhee Sawant, but they looks like a 2nd class railway compartment, rather stuffed.
“I am being made to watch 95% commercials and get to see only 5% of Rakhee Sawant’s ….whatever. It is a bloody cover up”, I say with great emotional stress.
“TERI is going to institute a Maha Commission”, says my worthy political opponent, the spin doctor on the panel of judges.
“The Mahajan Commission you mean ?”, I ask. “After they have finished doing the 1984 riots and “Water Sharing” between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, some time in 2045 ?”, I ask with disbelief.
“It will be taken up immediately after we have arrested Advani over Tehelka and Babri Masjit” says Chids with finality.
All the panellists stomp out in political protest, just like my wife after I provide irrefutable argument.
“Rakhee Sawant will be too old by then, and her…. what ever, will be down to her knees”, I mumble all to myself with despondency, refusing to get distracted by the big buxom panellist who is preening her hair to distract me.
“What is your crib ?”, Cable Kohlee asked me the next day.
“ Nothing, just this and that”, I said. He is pouring the whisky this time and so I have got to be nice to him.
“Have you decided on CAS or DTH ?’, he asks.
Cable Kohlee is a good businessman. He was a good soldier too and unlike me, a very respected person in Vasant Kunj. My name is on the rowdy list in the police station.
“I have decided to stop watching TV. I will also stop reading the newspaper”.
“What will you do to time pass ?”, he asked, raising his glass in toast.
“I am going to tune in 98.4 Radio “Mirchi”, listen to the song “Parde ke piche kya hai”, and meditate on Rakhee Sawant’s …..what ever. With out a cover up job on her ….whatever, by Hindujas”, I say drowning his Patiala peg whisky.
Between you and me, I am doing ‘Pranayam’ these days. Yogic deep breathing exercise, like the chugging of a steam engine, all the while meditating on Rakhee Sawant’s….. what ever. When radio Mirchi, plays ‘parde kepiche kya hai’, the Pranayam chugging rate increases automatically. Pranayam is helping me to keep my sugar and spice under control. Govt Sahiba happily watches her laugh tracks on DTH which Cable Kohlee sold to me over a drink. We are into the “Art Of Living” our old age. I wonder whether Govt Sahebs and my Sahiba would laugh, shout or cry, if they knew what I was thinking of during frequent bouts of Pranayam !!!! I think of Rakhee Sawant’s what ever ..... Manmohan is smiling on the front page of HT that I don’t read. He is a cheeky fellow, rather smug about everything including Sonia. Throw out the TV I tell you, do Pranayams like me. Think of Rakhee Sawant’s .....what ever. Best way to time pass retirement and old age.