Saturday, November 17, 2007

Without the idiot box
Amita Malik

Nothing is more difficult about writing a TV column than not having a TV set within reach. This is precisely what happened to me over the Divali week-end. I spent three days relaxing in the homes of friends who were gracious and caring but with only one TV set, which they kept in their bedroom. I would like to think that even the most conscientious TV columnist would stop at barging into someoneís bedroom to watch an item. Columnists, fortunately, are not as brash as TV reporters, who would not think twice before barging into peopleís houses, especially during a sting operation.

What made things more awkward was that there were no newspapers the day after Divali. TV was the only access to news, with which everyone likes to keep in touch during these turbulent times. So I had to tread a wary path between not being rude and somehow getting on with my column.

Luckily, my hosts had a relaxing cocktail session before lunch. So I snatched that short interval to ask for permission to miss cocktails and watch TV when no one was in the bedroom. I just had enough time to watch Afridi and Yusuf getting out in the ODI, and to know the PM was off to Moscow, and Nandigram was on fire, as usual. I also saw Aparna Sen and Gautam Ghose leading the protests, together with Neha Patkar, in what was an impressive show of unity by Bengalís intellectuals, including noted writer Maheshwata Devi, who, in case readers donít remember, is the sister of famous film-maker, the late Ritwik Ghatak.

So, having seen a little bit of cricket and a little bit of news, I thought it was time to sit back and decide what I had missed not watching TV.

I might mention at this stage that I have long since discarded my cable operator for Tata Sky. Since childhood most of us have believed that what Tata does, it does well. But I am afraid Tata Sky is not up to its standards. To register complaints one has to go from Delhi via a long-distance call to Chandigarh. There are long alterative numbers in Delhi but they never work. My complaints are two: Firstly, the reception goes off when it rains. This is incredible in this high-tech modern age. Secondly, they do not give you Neo Sports unless you pay for it. This reduces one to Doordarshan. Tata Sky has no business to choose channels for the customer. The customer should have the choice after paying a decent amount per month. Lastly, after a long rigmarole about pressing this button or endless buttons to register a complaint, you get a lot of suave voices being very polite, but complaints take long to register and even longer to get redressed, if at all, particularly when it rains. Not worthy of Tata. Come on Ratan Tata, pull up your staff who are poor at telecommunications although they might be famous for steel and cars.