Soppy soaps

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Arshid Malik

Womenfolk screaming at the highest pitch of their voices “Everybody, it is time for dinner” accompanied by clinking sounds of china, glass and metal utensils would mean that you had to be at the traditional “dastarkhan” at a very particular time every night and relish Kashmiri cuisine along with all members of the family. It used to a fun time and we as kids would sketch our homework and play timings around this heartwarming clinker of spoons, forks and crockery.

When everyone was seated, dinner would be served, steaming hot rice first to the elders and then to the kids and when all the dinner time eatables would have been arranged intuitively by the women in the house they would eventually settle down and the feast would commence. With kids pushing each other into rapturous laughter that would eventually invite a scolding from the male elders, and rest of the family members exchanging small talk and dishes, dinner time used to be an exclusive affair that bound the family together and not to mention the after-taste that would not leave your palate the next morning with toothpaste cleansing it out completely.

Dinnertime, as compared to lunchtime when most family members would be out for work or studies, was a cherished emblem of warmth and comfort and it would be decided as per the convenience of everyone. Nowadays, while the joint family system has almost hit the bunk, smaller family units which have gone hip over modern lifestyles have almost done away with the peculiar dinnertime activity.

What happens now is that women as well as men and children included prefer to have dinner at timings set around their favourite soap operas. Even if the whole family sits down together, after having mutually consented over the soap opera that everyone prefers watching and arranging dinner timings around the same, people usually do not even look at what they are eating for the mosaic of images that flicker on the idiot box are much more glamorous and inviting for them.

Everyone is somewhat stupefied with glares fixed on the television set. Now with the coming of the “direct to home” services there are absolutely no chances of meeting up with a blank television screen with a message that reads “Sorry for the Interruption”. As a matter of fact you might have chanced up on children doing their homework in small consecutive run-up’s while stealing a few seconds for the soap opera and another few for homework. Now, the young and old, women and men, children, house maids and drivers – whatever the strength of your house fraternity – share this passion for soaps and missing even a few minutes here spells “disaster”.

The numbers of soap operas that dominate primetime television are increasing staggeringly via media the boom of “cable” channels. Sometimes you would find people surfing for an hour at a stretch attempting to decide which soap to watch and eventually another cycle begins as most soap operas are of half hour duration.

But what is it about soaps that makes addicts people. When we talk about Indian soaps that were telecast over Doordarshan long time back, the era that marked the advent of soaps in India, say for instance some of the hot favourites like Hum Log, Rajni, Shanti, Circus, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, Banegi Apne Baath there was an element of social and political day-to-day culture or that of recent Indian history that weaved itself around people’s minds.

These were sensitively plotted and most often portrayed problems, issues and experiences of the common masses as people not individuals. These serials talked about overcoming social and psychological problems and sometimes, in case of “Tamas” and “Bunyaad”, about fiery political, communal and social issues that had rocked the country earlier and were supposed to equip people with secondary knowledge about real life events that could affect anyone of us any day.

Today we are under Ekta Kapoor’s “K” spell. You name it, Kkusum, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Thi, Kahanii Ghar Ghar Kii, Kasautii Zindagi Kii, Koi Apna Sa, Kahin Kisi Roz, Kkutumb, all of these have kept viewers glued to the TV while they were being aired and anticipating till the next telecast. Most of these revolve around the mother and daughter-in-law skirmishes with the women wearing loads of makeup and glittering sarees. The others are mainly about scheming women and unfaithful men. There is rat poison, well planned murders, road accidents that should never have happened, sudden disappearances and reappearances of characters, multiple same-shot zoom ins with cluttering music and top Bollywood numbers (these days) and loads and loads of intrigue, pointed hatred, jealousy and what not.

While soap operas are supposed to help the audiences connect with social, familial and political issues and focus on setting examples at resolving them, Indian soaps are only damaging people’s minds by kicking in all possible negativities. Besides Indian soaps stereotype women as either typical sacrificing housewives or slanderous schemers which is not healthy.

The boom is on and there is no stopping it but we as viewers should try to discern what is worth watching and what is actually disturbing and destroying the peace of our minds. And let us have some fun around dinnertime.

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