The idiot box, our in-house Education System: By Sumitra Sarkar

I am happy to introduce another writer who wished to share her article with us as part of my Anyone Can Blog! campaign.

Name: Sumitra Sarkar

Introduction: Currently working as an Advertising professional with 12 years of Experience. MBA in Marketing and had Graduation major in Economics. Currently residing in Mumbai and have Travelling and Reading as hobbies.

You can also find this article on her blog:

Without further wait lets read…


Well, as the name goes; our television sets have earned a dubious name of “The Idiot Box”. But is it really true?
Like they say, it is easier to qualify something as JUNK rather than look deeper till we find the right answers.
Television is always looked at as a source of entertainment, often crossing the line and entering the zone of ‘time waste’. Not true to the fullest but not false either. 109 channels to choose from; remote control for easy access; and the latest recording technology – all of these eventually boil down to spending more time in front of the television rather than doing something productive.

Yes, there are good programs as well!
Nat Geo, Discovery, History, News, et all; adding to our knowledge pool. Sports channels extend the on-field action right up to the living room.

Now, lets look at the not-so-good stuff… our very own Saas Bahu serials. The mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws love them. The fathers and sons detest them, but watch them nonetheless.
And the elite ‘English’ Indians gossip about “how can people even watch these!”
But surprise! Love them…hate them…you can’t ignore them.

The claim to fame of these soap operas does not stop here.

Every Indian festival, be it Holi, Diwali, Raksha Bandhan, Ramzaan or even Dahi Handi; is celebrated with utmost dedication and fanfare by the entire Khandaan.
A small incident in my life actually made me sit up and take notice of this phenomenon…
Like every year, my mother (music teacher at a school) asked me for some Raksha Bandhan songs. In my usual way, I had asked her to look at newer songs and avoid the oldies. When the question spun back to me, I realized that movies don’t celebrate festivals anymore! No Diwali; no bhai behen ka pyaar waala rakhi; and no dahi handi songs which can be played whilst actual celebrations!
Ganapati celebrations got a fresh breath of life thanks to KJo’s Agnipath.

However progressive we become, we always love the largeness and the colourfulness of these celebrations.
This realization hit me, making me wonder how will these traditions stay alive? At home, life has shifted from home-made faraal to ready make sweets & snacks; powder rangolis have been replaced by stencils and stick-ons; while oil diyas and akaash kandils have made way for electric lamps and Chinese lanterns! So, will we eventually lose our ethos to progress?
Gladly, no.
Because our very own saas bahu serials have taken care that our core values are reflected from time to time, to remind us about our cultural USPs, something that the world looks up to. Joint families, colors, festivities, celebrations and more.

Another factor, which makes me respect these saas bahu serials, or at least the minds behind them; is their determination to show progress, which surpasses even the most progressive Indian film.
Must agree, the mantle of showcasing the progressive India began with Balika Vadhu. But, this did not stop at that. Nowadays, our leading ladies are widows getting remarried (to good looking heroes and not a 45 year old man, with 2 marriageable kids. J)
Everyone’s favorite bahu, Anandi, is now all set to start a new life. Her in-laws have taken the step of getting her remarried after her failed marriage. Let’s not forget, these were the same in-laws who initiated the child marriage. This is progress, isn’t it?
And all this happening in non-metropolitan like Gwalior and Bhopal, trickling all the way to hinterlands like Jaitsar, a small village in Rajasthan.
Another serial introduced the concept of surrogacy for a couple, where the woman had a miscarriage and will not be able to conceive again.

Quoting Shabana Azmi from a talk show, “The development of India cannot and should not be bench marked on GDP only. The development of a country is seen where we see social development.”
Our very own Idiot box has paved way for this societal development, while keeping us grounded to our culture as well.
What I see, is a marvelous balance of two extremes, two worlds.

A research visit to an UP hinterland made me realize that women in these areas actually feel that television bahus are an ideal for them. While movie stars are a fantasy; TV stars or rather characters are real-life portrayals of what the hinterland bahus actually look up to and follow.

So, in this new light, we have no choice but agree that Parvati, Tulsi, Anandi, and all the bahus of the bandwagon, are not just characters; but torch bearers of true societal development.

Anybody still wondering “why do people watch these boring soap operas?”

And, above all, if TV is a source to serious moral education for 1.6 billion Indians, it surely cannot be called ‘The Idiot Box’.


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