How many of you remember the first time you watched TV?
For the kids the 90’s and the new millennium, this maybe a stupid question to ask, but for the 80’s babies like me, this would be not so dim-witted. Most of my generation would’ve seen it only once they’ve reached their school days or later.
But as per the narration goes, today has to be the 30th anniversary of my first interaction with what we call now the Idiot Box.
I don’t exactly remember the way things shaped up on that day, because I was just One year and ten months old. But, every time the topic of out late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi comes up on TV or news, my mother would run into a flashback and come up with this story. It goes like this…
October 31, 1984.
It was the last day of the Thulam Maasam (a month in the Malayalam calendar) of 1984. The sky was grey, cloudy and gloomy, true to the nature of that time of the year, which receives the most tumultuous and fierce rains. There was a sense of gloom in the atmosphere, like it is always during Thulam Maasam.
Like most of the households of those days, the most prized possession was the radio. Tuning into All India Radio or Aakashawani as it was known among the common man was the one major source of news and entertainment for all of us. The radio was our best friend.
It was this best friend that broke the news that our Prime Minister was shot at by her bodyguards on that date. The poignant news came late in the afternoon, and was in perfect sync with the atmosphere of the day – morose and ominous.
Soon, there was a poignant mood swings among all of us. Being a woman leader, all the ladies of the house had a special attachment to her. She was a role model for many.
Those days, there was only one television in the whole locality. It belonged to one of the richer persons in our neighborhood. The TV in those days was a valued possession, and he just did not like people visiting him to catch a glimpse of this wonderful box of wonders, talk could talk and show pictures that were happening in a far off land.
But this day was different.
The news spread that the big shot who owned the TV had opened the gates of his house, and people were flocking to see the final images of the Prime Minister on screen.
Soon, all of us from home, rushed out to his home. I carried you in my hands, and were running towards his home like there was no tomorrow. Being just about 2 years old, you were just murmuring and mumbling seeing the never seen before expressions of trepidation and excitement on all our faces.
We reached there, and there in front of the 14 inch screen, black and white Keltron TV, were almost more than a hundred people, sitting glued to the news. We could see a beautiful lady (later I came to know it was Salma Sultan) announcing in a somber, solemn and emotional pitch that the details of assassination of Indira Gandhi.
There were people, who on hearing this, were literally crying.
Soon, the transmission ended, and we were all on the way back home, walking soberly, both in awe of the thing called TV that could show us moving pictures in a small box of what was happening in a far off place.
I have heard the above anecdote quite often. And every time my mother says it, you could feel and see the melancholy in her voice and eyes.
I may have been too small a baby to have seen and understood the significance of that event, Doordarshan and TV at that point of time, but each time this incident is repeated to me, I could feel the connotation in my heart. I could picture myself sitting in a living room in the 80’s with my mother, among a crowd of another hundred people, watching the television for the first time in my life.
The television of that day would have been what the iPad is to today’s kids.
A screen capture of Salma Sultan reading the news on DD – 31st October 1984, and below a video of the same from the archives
Technology lives to grow. We had radio, then came television, after that the tape recorder, the VCR, Satellite Dish, DTH and not even YouTube on our mobiles. Some become obsolete, some outmoded, some old fashioned and most of them superseded by better expertise.
Life goes on, change happens, and when the change is intertwined with events of significance, we remember them till perpetuity.
My interaction with the magic box of visuals had just begun on a damp evening in October, exactly 30 years ago, and it continues.