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Couch Potatoes and Cozy Twosomes

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couch potatoesLet’s face it - the only time you see a couple sitting really close together on a sofa gazing at a TV are in TV commercials. And even in some of these, you are shown a woman getting fed up, trying to entice her husband to bed, with him unable to take his eyes off the flat screen, billion channel marvel that the particular TV is supposed to be.

The truth is, TV definitely represents one of the big challenges that have to be negotiated together by a couple, and in more ways than one. For instance, the classic addiction that a man has to sports viewing puts a strain on couples worldwide. While baseball or ice hockey, American football or wrestling could be the American woman’s nemesis, in India it has mainly been cricket. Thankfully, our present pathetic showing on the cricket field could have a lot of husbands choosing to take their wives out for dinner and a movie rather than sit at home watching the blue team lose. However, having differing levels of interest in major sports events does lead to very different amounts of time spent opposite the small screen by men and women.

TV in India did not begin as a threat to the Indian family. In fact, to those of us who were around to witness its beginning, TV has been the source of some fond family memories. When we got our first set in 1974, the weekly film song programme ‘Chhayageet’, later ’Chitrahaar’ on Doordarshan was the source of much family fun. We all sat around and watched it together, and my sister and I had a great time giggling over a particularly weird costume, or a strange mannerism, or an absurd situation. The entire family continued to watch TV in unison during the days of ‘Buniyaad’ and ‘Hum Log’, ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabhaarat’.

The first sign that TV could become very disruptive to family peace came with the satellite channels in the early nineties, when our children began getting up to watch their favourite cartoons at five o clock, so that they could have a few hours of fun before school! For the first time, truly adult content began to be seen on TV at any time of the day or night in the form of music videos. The Indian family was now getting divided - into different viewing segments, with differing interests. What made grandfather happy could not be the same as what made his teenage grandson happy. 

Today, we are past all that and into a time when we could be surfing past a cookery programme in Kannada or a James Bond film, a fiery sermon on God, or a raunchy music video. The wealth (or poverty) of present day TV programming is threatening to rob the Indian family of time honoured qualities like conversation and companionship. What can couples do to ensure some quality time when TV is making such strong inroads? Here are some suggestions:

* When your partner is engrossed in TV, don’t retreat to another corner of the house. Try sharing the same space in an unobtrusive, but companionable way. For instance, reading, sewing, working on a lap top, can all be done around a person watching TV - provided the volume is not turned on high. This makes it easy for the TV watcher to turn to you every now and then for approval or sharing, and then eventually want to hold you close…

* Observe your partner’s likes and dislikes on TV and choose the programmes you can watch together with equal enjoyment. This may mean going through the TV guide rather carefully, or sacrificing your own desire for ’saas-bahu’ soaps or cricket overload. But the end result is worth it. It is like going together to watch a movie in your own home.

* Think of ways to improve the TV watching experience. Microwave popcorn? Or Bhelpuri? More cushions? Or a footstool? Let snuggling up in front of the TV be re-inforced by some welcome luxuries.

* Have definite ’switch off’ hours, particularly when children are involved. Always act as if you are the master of the TV, rather than the other way around. This will set a healthy attitude all around. No point cribbing about someone else’s TV addiction if you are similarly glued for hours to your own favourite programs.

* Make up funny punishments and strategies for family situations like fighting for the remote. Anybody caught snatching the remote will have to walk the dog for a week…anybody caught doing it again will have to wipe the dinner table clean forever…and so on.

Don’t let TV disturb your peace of mind and sanity. While some images we see on TV are truly beautiful and stay with us, others are such an intrusion on our time and space. After all, when you are dead and gone, you want to be remembered by all the things you did and said, not by all the programmes you watched! 



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