Rural India and its Affair with The Idiot Box | Milaap

Rural India and its Affair with The Idiot Box

In today’s world, a world that is ruled by Memes & Millennials, television has been superseded by notebooks and the likes of the iPad. It’s now a device that is kept in the hall, just as a showpiece. With the emergence of Netflix (And now Amazon Prime) streaming stuff is the norm. Not to forget, all this, is on-demand. You no longer need to wait till 9 pm to watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. You can go online, select which season, which episode, and watch it right away. Broadband and the high-speed internet have enabled this service further to our phones as well. No longer are the people of the current generation interrupted by ads DURING their episodes.
TVs are getting thinner and bigger sure, but they’re being more and more used to stream stuff or for presentations and lesser for actually “watching” television like we all used to when we were growing up.
But the status of TV in Rural India is quite the opposite.

As a part of my fellowship, I go around parts of Odisha to do field visits. Language is a major concern for me, as I do not understand the local language, and the borrowers don’t always understand Hindi or English. On most occasions, I have my field officer translate my questions and queries. But on some occasions, the kids follow their mother when I’m talking to them. These kids are full of curiosity, be it being oddly fascinated with the shoes I’m wearing, or with the camera, I’m clicking pictures from. But where they become helpful, is in translations. During a field visit, if there is a kid around, almost all the time, he/she will end up translating my questions to his/her mother. I remember during my first field visit in Bhubaneshwar, I thought this was due to the fact that almost all of these kids went to school.

Picture courtesy: Getty Images

But over subsequent visits I realized, that was not the only reason, because no matter how poor the family I would visit, one thing stayed constant. They all had a TV at home. Be it a hut, shed, or a concrete house, every borrower I visited had a TV inside and a set-top box dish, on the roof. Without fail. And their mothers tell me that after school, all the kids would be glued to the TV up until their mothers would shut it off and tell the kids to study.Now, all these cartoons that kids watch, are either in English or Hindi. The same languages they’re being taught at, in school. Hence grasping for them is so much faster.

Picture courtesy: Getty Images

In fact, I remember visiting a chawl in Muniguda, and across the roof of everyone’s huts, you could see the Tata Sky / Airtel dish omnipresent. Despite the financial constraints of some of these families (some that don’t even live in concrete houses) TV is still an indispensable part of their lives. An object that is being treated as a mere showpiece in metro cities, given the rise of ultrathin notebooks and the likes of the iPad, the families of rural India, seem to be falling in love with the idiot box.  The realities of these two worlds are so different, it makes you wonder whether the idiot box is not just for the stupid audience but also for the less privileged.