Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Those 80s Things We grew Up With - Television Stands, Shutters, Antennae

It was in the late seventies or early eighties that televisions first appeared in India. Until then, we were vaguely aware of these magic boxes that showed moving pictures at home, thanks to Archie comics or some other western comics. The first tvs we saw were large boxes that bulged out from all sides. They came with huge knobs and yes, believe it or not, there were no remote controls. What? What?

I can see half the youngsters gaping in fright already. No remote control? Then how does one operate the television? I can imagine youngsters in a huddle, whipping out their phones and try to find an answer on google. Man, what is this, they'd think. But we had a simple answer to that. We'd walk up to the television and turn it on and off. We used our legs you see! But how do you flip channels, the youngsters would ask in wonder? Hehe. There was only one channel then so however you turned the knob, only one channel worked. The Doordarshan! It was state owned and thereby had several seriously boring programs compered by very old people. The content was well censored stuff that passed for entertainment. Movies that got national awards etc would be aired on prime time. Programs regarding agriculture and crop care would come up. The big draws for us were a half hour music hour called 'Chitrahaar' which played movie songs and a once a week movie that was played. Oh, in case you want to fall off your chair - the television programs would start at 7 p.m. only and end by some 11 p.m. or so. That's it! No satellite tv, no cable tv. Just Doordarshan. Take it or leave it.

Okay youngsters, if you've recovered, let's get on with it. The first televisions came with accessories which took up a large place at home. But then the television was as exalted as a minor god and it was given a place of prominence at a main part in the house. The bulky television was mounted on an aluminium stand that sometimes had wheels. On this stand was a polished wooden case with sliding shutters - almost like a mini theatre with a screen and all. Inside this wooden case was kept the television. Getting to the tv was not easy because the wooden case was kept shut. Some wooden boxes even had a key so no one but authorized persons could open the box that contained the television! The television had wires running all over from its backside but no one bothered. The television was a status symbol in the entire locality.

All televisions came with large insect like antennae that were installed on top of the house. - a vertical stick like thing with a horizontal stick on top that had several such sticks running across. The presence of an antennae gave the owners of the house away. Since many people did not have a television in their house, entire families in the locality would come over to sit in your sitting room and watch television. If you shooed them away it was bad manners. After all they were only watching and not eating your tv! Sometimes these numbers grew many times depending on the program - a movie, Chitrahaar, sports. All this despite the fact that it was all in Black and White. Oops I forgot to mention that but there was no colour television until much later. Black and white, get it.

Television, even in this version, brought much into our lives. We learned about agriculture, pesticides, cattle, common pests, watched Narottam Puri lead the discussion on sports and commentate on cricket dressed immaculately, watched classic Hindi and regional movies and even watched some specials like New Year specials.

But what brought us much joy were the newsreaders who looked as beautiful and out of reach as the air hostesses or the movie heroines. The newsreaders were a lethal combination of good looks and sophistication in terms of English speaking or even the information they were giving us. We'd gaze at them - Salma Sultana, Neeti Ravindran, Minu and among the men Tejeshwar Singh - come to mind. They'd come everyday and breathe some sophistication into our lives and go away and we'd all sigh and go to sleep. If they'd contested elections they would have surely won - that's how popular they were.

Life was as simple as that. One tv in the locality, one channel, two colours.


Rajendra said...

My friend was in love with Avinash Kaur- I think that was the anchor's name.

Harimohan said...

Need some research to brush up on the anchors. Minu was my favorite.

Anonymous said...

I can still remember how kids go out and play but now you can hardly see anyone outside with all the gadgets and stuff. Still, houses use custom home shutters but televisions nowadays are thin and there are no antennas anymore.