At first, I didn't believe it. But when I heard the sound more closely, I could distinguish it very well. It was definitely not my favourite Another Cinderella Story movie channel. Instead I could hear WWE champions wrestling. I went into the hall to check and indeed, my brother had changed the channel from HBO to Ten Sports. And worse, the remote was nowhere in sight.
On seeing me standing behind him, he jumped out of my reach and smirked. At the same time, The Undertaker grabbed his opponent's throat and threw him down on the floor of the ring. There was a tremendous applause from the crowd. When the referee announced him as the winner, an ear-shattering music started getting played in the background. My grandma apparently couldn't bear the volume. She came out of her bedroom and looked disapprovingly at both of us. I knew what would follow next. She demanded the remote and my brother surrendered it to her without any arguments. He quietly went into his study room and me, to my least favorite place on Earth, the kitchen. Wouldn't it have been easier if he had not changed the channel? I had just gone into the kitchen to help my mother during an advertisement, which I knew would take 10-15 mins to finish, when he had magically appeared and changed the channel. That too for a repeat telecast of his favorite match! I, at least had an excuse. I had not seen that movie before!
Few minutes later, I started hearing another sound. This was my grandma's favorite channel- Aastha. She had started watching a spiritual man in long white beard reciting Bhagwat Gita again. Soon my grandfather joined her. Our hall became a partially full spiritual theater. No tickets required. Entry free of cost. And now, nobody minded the volume of the Sony Bravia. Let the whole building hear it out! Excellent for mind, body and soul.
I heard a sigh from behind. Turning back, I saw my mother crying. I was horrified. Seriously, what had happened? Had all the bhajans and kirtans on the channel finally upset her so much? OK, fine. I didn't understand anything of it but I was sure it contained nothing to cry about, right? Right? And then I realized. Oh well, she wasn't crying. Not in the literal sense anyway. It was just the onions that she was chopping. I went back to my Kheer and started stirring it.
After a long time, because the clock hands felt to be moving very slowly, it was 9 pm. Time for Diya Aur Bati Hum. My mother's favorite serial on Star Plus. And mine too, I admit. On top of everything, it was going to be a special 1 hour episode. I went into the hall and asked grandma for the remote. She handed it to me immediately. She is a loyal fan of the serial too. My grandfather just looked on helplessly.
Sharp at 9.30pm, my father and a foul-mouthed uncle who is sweetly referred to as Mr. Besharam in our ladies clan, entered the room. It was our cue to go. Gents settled on the cushioned sofas and changed the channel to Aaj Tak. While the news anchors thundered 100 super-fast breaking news at top speed, we finished making dinner and served it on the dining table. Everybody joined and started eating. I ate at top speed and finished first. I wanted to catch Jodhaa Akbar on Zee TV. I went into the hall but to my disbelief, my brother was already lying flat across the sofa, watching some highlights of a Cricket match on Star Sports. And it wasn’t even India’s match.
“Where is the remote?” I snapped.
He didn’t reply. He was watching a cricket match that wasn’t even live with as much concentration as writing a board exam.
“Where is the remote?” Mr. Besharam emerged from the dining room and thundered at him.
My brother produced it from under the center table where he had hidden it and handed it to him. I went back to my mother and helped her in cleaning the mess in the kitchen. My brother went towards our desktop computer.
It was 11.15pm. Suddenly I heard my grandfather calling me. I went into the hall and saw the thing that had left him grinning broadly. It was Welcome To Sajjanpur on UTV movies. I don’t know how he had managed to retrieve the remote but he had successfully changed the channel to his favourite movie, which wasn’t vulgar and quite nostalgic for him. He likes the way the protagonist writes letters for his village folks. Everyone gathered in the room, abandoning their respective works. Some even sat on the floor to catch the action on the TV. But after 10 mins, when grandpa started feeling too sleepy, he took his medicines and went back into his room. Mr. Besharam got hold of the remote quickly and changed the channel to some old movie. We had never watched that movie before and didn’t have a single clue about its genre. My brother started feeling restless. He looked at him threateningly until my mother gave him a keep-your-mouth-shut look. Miraculously, Mr. Besharam had eaten too much that night. Unable to hold it in any longer, he went into the loo. My brother snatched the remote before me. But he changed the channel back to Welcome To Sajjanpur as I had wanted. We were enjoying the movie when it was time for a short break on the channel. But nobody moved.
Until a condom ad appeared on the screen.
My mother gave up first. Muttering about tiredness, she quickly vanished. Grandma followed her in the next second. There remained only me, my brother and my father. Eyes averted from both of them, I kept repeating in my mind- It’s educational, it’s educational, it’s educational…..
Mr. Besharam came back from the loo, busy with the zip of his loose pant, saw the condom ad on TV and then stopped in his tracks. After a few seconds, he bellowed in his aggravated voice,
“Abbey, who changed the channel, behencho-?"