Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Prime Family Time!

Last weekend I was in Kochi for a function. Normally we do not have functions during Lent, but this was an exception…a house blessing of a couple leaving for the US for their daughter’s confinement. In the evening we dropped into a family friend’s house at their insistence for dinner. What followed was a display of a new social system practiced in urban Kerala, one that I was not aware of. We reached their house around 7 p.m. We were to leave by that evening’s flight but postponed the same for the next day so that we could drop into these people’s home.

After the initial pleasantries and small talk, the family switched on the television. After that the whole family were engrossed in the TV programmes without a thought to the guests they had called home for dinner. The dinner invite was a reciprocation of the numerous times they have dropped in home when in Bangalore and even though we don’t believe in the formality of people having to invite us for return dinners, we accepted as we had never been to their house for a meal. We did not want them to feel like we did not want to eat at their house.

After the Television was switched on, the family ignored us till 10:30 p.m. So engrossed were they in the programmes. The whole family consisting of a Dad, Mom, Son and Daughter in law, Daughter and Son in Law and kids just sat glued to the T.V oblivious of their guests. It was downright demeaning. I held my cool because my Dad thought we might as well get over the obligation of having dinner in their place to avoid a repeat invitation. The thought of coming here again made me hold my fire or I would have walked out long time ago. I specially do not like anyone insulting my folks. And I am quite capable of walking out with pointed polite jibes as my tolerance level for such behavior is very very low no matter who the person is.

So we watched a collage of tears, avarice, sorrow, anger, pride, ill treatment and lust that make up a Malayalam serial till 10:30 p.m. Around 10:30 p.m the family gets up, switches off the television and the ladies lay the table. I was waiting for the chance. I bolted my food and told my Dad to do the same. The poor man who is just the opposite of his daughter agreed reluctantly because he knows that if he does not listen, the daughter would definitely haul him from the table into the car. I served myself seven and half grains of rice and a little more than that onto my Dad’s plate and got up. The family was aghast that we barely touched the food. I was hoping that it would be a hint. I saw the ladies exchanging glances. I wondered what they thinking! (a) What a horrible people, wasting food that we made with a lot of effort or (b) What horrible people, no manners or (c) What a horrible people- so rude. If they can invite people for dinner and ignore them for the rest of the evening then I can safely say that the answer to the above questions would be (d) All of the above.

And if you think this is an exception then think again. I have heard from so many people visiting relations in Kerala that people in Kerala do not like guests dropping in during Television Prime Time! Believe it or not!!! And many people I know visit relations after looking at the T.V guide. Like an Aunt innocently exclaimed to my mom the other day – Aiiyyo Leelamme, I went to Aliyamma's house at 7 p.m because she told me she doesn’t watch Sthree Janmam. But apparently she has started watching it recently! How embarrassing! tch tch!

Visiting Kerala? Dont forget the Malayala Manorama T.V Guide. It is Televisions Own Country now, down under!

Music - Remember 'The Rigga Ding Dong Song'?

30 comments:

amalbose said...

yeah.. its a sad truth..
but i never knew the whole family watch these serials... i thought just the women folk were interested, after all these serials are all about them, right?
nice revenge btw .. it was necessary to let them know what they have done.

thomman said...

People have become very rude these days, especially in cities. I very very rarely go to dinner parties and marriage functions. But when I go to my native places, things are very different. You should see the hospitality of my aunties there; we would just be dropping by to say a hello, and we'd be insisted to have dinner; our tummys would be filled till they burst, and then they wouldnt let us go w/o staying there for 1 or 2 days. Inviting someone to one's house and not having an iota of hospitality is one of the most rudest things. I usually don't want to piss off people, so if I were in your place, I'd have said there's some emergency and I've to leave and kiss them goodbye forever.

Nitram said...

Its depressing to see that whole families in Kerala are getting addicted to the idiot box. Quite often, I have visited (Courtesy visits: another phenomenon of Kerala) my relative's places, only to have had surreal conversations with single-syllable-uttering zombies glued to the T.V. However, I haven't had the misfortune of being through such an ordeal, at least not to date!
On the bright side, with the subtle hint that you gave, i guess you wont have to pay them any courtesy visit in the immediate future!
;-)

silverine said...

Amal: They kept alternating between channels to cover the whole family! :)

thomman: Its the same at my native place! :) Thank god!! At these places a guest is still revered and more then that people are so happy to see you!!

Nitram: I dont think the hint worked. Perhaps it is the culture and we were being insensitive by coming so early!

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

That is certainly most disrespectful! But perhaps it wasn't intentional. May be they are just naturally hooked to the TV and don't even realise they are being uncourteous. In my case, my dad's very own sister's family is like that! Sadly for me, they were just two blocks from my undergraduate campus so my dad's sister would insist on me going there as often as possible. But I dreaded the thought because their whole family (dad's sister, his BIL, and the nephew and niece) would after the initial pleasantries just sit down to watch TV. In their lives the TV was the best form of entertainment if I am to infer from the number of hours they watch that thing. So I think they thought they were entertaining me, because they did the same thing for the next 4 years! What made it worse was that my athai(dad's sister) measured my affection for her by the number of meals I would be present for. So she would always insist after one meal that I sit until the next before I go. Then she would request the same at the next meal! So what started off as an expectant friday evening visit in my first week of college deteriorated to 2 visits or so a semester by the second sem! And even those odd visits were so trying. But dad's side closest relative, so family politics demanded I go. *sigh*

I digress. My point was, may be they lead zombie lives revolving around the TV, and don't have much social activity, and what little there is revolves around inviting people to watch TV! So it is quite pitiable really. It may not have been meant to be disrespectful. Besides, when one is not stuck in that depressing situation it is even quite amusing to think that people have to schedule social visits based on the TV guide! :)

remabh said...

I totally agree!!! The same incident happened to me also once when i visited our relative's place in kerala. The sad part is that it was noon time and some "chalachithraganangal" or "paattupetty" was going on and the tv was still on. The aunty was nodding to whatever my mom was saying but her face was turned towards the tv. how rude...

Santhanu Nair said...

May be the dinner invite was just for dinner as that is what I felt many times whenever I go for a dinner in Kerala. So much less talking and so much less bondig between people.

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

A sad truth of today's times! Not just in Kerala, but here in Tamilnadu. People just don't realise that watching TV is an entertainment, to pass time.

We can't control others, but at home have a simple rule - the minute a guest walks in, announced, invited or unexpected, the TV is switched off.

I admire you for the way you reacted, hope your hosts understood the reason for it.

The saying that a guest is equal to God just has no meaning in today's context.

Aniruddha said...

Its the same case everywhere...Families are going crazy over these stupid serials...
At least I didn't had such a harrowing experience though...
That's the best thing you did there, may be I would have done the same...

Renu said...

very sad truth of our today's life.but its happening everywhere now, people have just lost the value of people, its all about self.

silverine said...

Karthik: You were family. You are supposed to make yourself at home! :) But when you call guests home you have to be hospitable.

Remabh: How rude!! I would have walked out!

Santhanu: Then they should have served dinner instead of keeping an elderly gentleman waiting till 10:30!!

Raji: I don't see this in Bangalore! Here every one switches off the TV or PC when they have guests!

Anirudha and Renu: I haven't come across this phenomenon anywhere else. And we socialize quite a bit having been here all our lives and having a wide network of friends here.

Meira said...

hmm..her royal highness Anjali was pissed off coz her folks back at Kerala did not giver her the 'well deserved' attention.
And she had her sweet revenge..

Silverine FORGIVING is not easy. ( well u proved u R not in any way a better person than the host)

silverine said...

Meira: I guess you would have forgiven and been a gracious guest right? Good for you! Well, I prefer to tell the truth here! ;) Got it?

p.s Even I can climb on a high perch and point fingers and act saintly dear. Very easy isn't it? And if I ever do that, I will Google for better quotes than the very lame "forgiving is not easy." :p

Kunjootty said...

As u said its now a normal behaviour at kerala now! at my hometown the max time a person is allowed to be out of the home or expected at a guest house is 6:00pm... becoz by then the prime time hit serials starts and nobody wants to 'waste' that time waiting for somebody who cant come before that!!
Every house in the neightbourhood, locks up the gates, leaves out the dogs and bolts and chains the front door!!.... in this case there is no chance of ever insulting anybody in the manner you were treated; just because the people will never be even let inside the house after that!!! :-P

Kunjootty said...

btw, i think the best and only quality spend between family members in kerala is during load-shedding!!!

~==[[[ Abhi ]]]==~ said...

Awesome revenge. I've never been in such a situation, but i've seen people sitting engrossed in front of TV's and doing nothing but watch the idiot box. Plus they have started having less of conversations and more of monologues. Sad state for the God's own country.

scorpiogenius said...

hahahaa same old story... This is now a very serious issue in many Kerala homes..:)

My aunt became so addicted to the TV serials that she slipped out to her neighbour's house to watch serial during her daughter's wedding reception! She was warned against switching on the television in her house by poor uncleji who sensed the danger of what happened to you in Cochin...

Now, isnt this the limit? :()

Deepti said...

Same story everywhere .. if not Soaps .. now its the reality shows ... :) Nice post

Bindhu Unny said...

So far I thought it's just an exaggerated joke going around. That a family could behave like this is unimaginable!
:-)

silverine said...

Kunjooty: Jesus!! Thats drastic!! :-O Load shedding should be increased then! :D

Abhi: Sad state indeed! It is pretty anti social and unhealthy.

Scorpio: LOL!!! You aunt takes the cake!! :p Maybe the TV channels should give her a dedicated viewership award! :))

Deepti: Thank you! :)

Bindhu: Yeah...I thought so too. We have learned our lessons now! :)

Sriram said...

Another one of the numerous instances where I drop in a comment just after you've finished a bath reply, and I'll have to wait long for another one!

Anyway, comment is as follows: I despair, hate (etc) these stupid tv serials from the very bottom of my heart... and I can't imagine A WHOLE FAMILY watches it everyday.. I thought it was only for old ladies!

silverine said...

Sriram: :) Well I hate the serials too. From what little I am glimpsed of them, it is a pot pourri of negative emotions. But then I am beginning to realize that perhaps this is the only form of entertainment in peoples lives. Wish their lives did not revolve around it so much that they forget to interact with other humans.

MC said...

After the Television was switched on, the family ignored us till 10:30 p.m.
ha ha ha..lol silverine..i just burst out laughing at that..i could feel the genuine and sincere tone of that statement. groan! i shudder when i hear the depressing tunes from violins and harmoniums in the evening shows..prime time only! but i guess the melodrama reflects the state of the mind in kerala quite accurately!!

Kartik said...

Its the sad truth yes ... I see that everywhere too, even Bangalore ...
I do not own a TV and do not regret it one bit!

Coming to my 2 cents of perspective:
I do not know if you have seen the movie "The Matrix" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_matrix) - in this movie, it is shown that the world is controlled by machines, and humans are programmed (in farms) to respond to "a world pulled over their eyes" and through their reactions serve as a source of "power supply" to the machines that comprise "the matrix".
The way that world was "pulled over their eyes" was using wires inserted in the bodies in pods in huge human "farms".
Now, my prediction is this - if ever there were to be a Matrix like situation (probably it already is here at some level or other) ... they would not really need to plug us up with wires ... simply use the programming on the TV sets to completely control the lives of unwary watchers ... to such an extent that they will not just forget the guests, they will forget their entire lives and live out what is shown to them on their TV screen ("a world pulled over their eyes" ... also called "Maya", illusion)
Perhaps I might sound too grim, I do not deny it ... at the same time, just look at any regular TV watcher and you will see how s/he goes completely goggle eyed and open mouthed when the programs are on. And if you note the discussions and arguments they make afterward, they are full of stuff what they are fed from the box, almost as if they have no mind/experiences of their own ...

We are choosing to be satisfied with being entertained as opposed to enriched...
Solutions/mitigation are needed else things are going to go out of hand sooner more than later. I am an optimist but I am not delusional and I sincerely hope things take a turn for enriching as opposed to entertaining, value as opposed to content and of course to at least being courteous to guests :-)

Dhanush said...

There is this program called "Akkarakazchakal" which is aired in Kairali TV @ Sundays 11PM. In one of its episodes, the guy installs Malayalam channel dish so that he thinks his kids will learn Malayalam and Malayali Culture. But what he sees is that his wife forgetting to make dinner, and crying. He is shocked once when his son asks him, whether he has a second wife. His son explains his question by saying that in serial everyone has a second wife :)

It is the truth that people are hooked onto this. But this is not just in Kerala, everywhere daily sops are becoming the order of the evening. And now its more with the reality shows too.

silverine said...

MC: This really happened! :p Left me boiling mad! I think you described it well when you said that the melodrama reflects the state of the mind in Kerala quite accurately!!

Kartik: Well I have to disagree a bit. Here in Blr TV is not such a craze. People do watch TV but it does not rule their lives to the extent that they resent guests. I failed to mention something here. Mallus generally are not a community oriented people. They prefer to keep to themselves. I guess thats why the TV has taken over their lives so much. Reg people being fed news, again I have to disagree...nowadays I see skepticism with "Breaking News" and a wait and watch policy when anything inflammatory is aired on TV. Even the Saas Bahu serials are coming in for lot of criticism from ladies for their negative portrayal of women. In Blr at least I can see the maturing of the TV viewers.


Dhanush; I have seen that episode! And dont forget George boasting of Indian culture and when he puts on the TV a very indecent dance sequence was going on and his son asks if this is Indian culture! :p

Pesto Sauce said...

Now that is bad behaviour....

Ranjtih Nair said...

Her royal highness silverine does not watch any serials and she hates mallu serials according to this post. However after lambasting some poor souls in Kerala for their behavior

1)Her highness replies to Kartick "Here in Blr TV is not such a craze. People do watch TV but it does not rule their lives to the extent that they resent guests. "

2)and then again her highness replies to Dhanush "I have seen that episode! And dont forget George boasting of Indian culture and when he puts on the TV a very indecent dance sequence was going on and his son asks if this is Indian culture! :p". - Her highness watches mallu serials at mid nite and isn't it ironic that someone who hates serials as per her post watches whatever crap is shown.

3)And one of her most revered views."Mallus generally are not a community oriented people. They prefer to keep to themselves. I guess thats why the TV has taken over their lives so much."- But according what she writes about her own family, "we (her family) socialize quite a bit having been here all our lives and having a wide network of friends here."

silverine said...

Pesto: Absolutely! :p

Ranjith: LOL!! Dude...it is always better to read a post with a cool head before commenting here! :p You obviously did not, in your hurry to denounce me! :)) If you see in my other blog, "Akkarakazhchakal" is displayed prominently in the links section, as I love the serial. It is made in the US and shows life of mallus in US very honestly. No drama, no tinsel! And my comment to Dhanush was about that serial wonly! :p Reg the rest of your comment, it doesn't warrant a reply because if you read my reply it has an explanation attached to it which you have overlooked in your hurry! :)) Look before you leap next time! Ciao!

hammy said...

The situation is quite ridiculous. When the idiot box dominates major aspects of our life, it will keep getting more and more ridiculous.

My folks used to watch a lot of serials, but thankfully, they never got to the point of ignoring other things in life. Eventually, they woke up to the pointlessness of it all and have in fact detoxified themselves of the TV series in their blood.

I remember a time when I was in the tenth standard and I was addicted to a lot of sitcoms (Well, I still am, but nowadays, I watch them on MY terms... I watch them on DVDs... wink wink)

I ACTUALLY approached my dad with a study strategy that proposed to exclude me from studies on Mon, Tue, and Wed on the premise that I would make up for that the next day. (God, I laugh everytime I think about it now. But dammit, I was serious back then)

I can't ever forget the look on dad's face. He couldn't figure out if I was joking or not for several minutes.

Well, in any case, my folks catch up on Idea Star Singer now and then, but they take care life, friends and family assumes priority.

I think they've got their priorities straight. Wish I could say the same for me, with my DVD collection and all :D