Thursday, January 6, 2011

Get real !!

There used to be a show on Discovery TLC some time back named “Wife Swap”. I have to admit that when I first heard the title I was a bit scandalized and eagerly waited for the first helping. My one dimensional brain could not fathom that it could mean anything else. As it turned out it was more or less clean programming (since the expletives were beeped out) and I ended up disappointed. The series ended up sending one message very clearly – If you hate your spouse and can’t figure out how to live under the same roof, get someone worse. Most episodes ended with the couples reduced to tears and embracing each other with a look that said “I thought nothing could be worse than you”

While ‘poke your nose’ television is not new to India, our producers took surprisingly long to bring this particular format home. Finally we are privileged to see our own uncles and aunties slugging it out. As respect towards the very high moral values of Indians, the subject being swapped is not a ‘wife’ but a ‘mom’. Which is quite ok since most moms are also wives. However, since we believe in adding that ‘extra’ to all things imported, our version also has nudges, pushes, fist fights and the odd frying pan turning into a flying pan.

I have always been curious about how these “Reality” TV participants cope up with real life after they have been pasted all over national television. Do people in their college say “Hey look, she’s the one who shoved a hockey stick up her cheating boyfriend’s ass. Let’s steer clear of her’. Or does a colleague who is used to sharing lunch with you say “I am not eating anything that has been cooked on your frying pan. I saw it being employed for giving a good spanking”. Or does a matrimonial meeting turn into an “oh, have I seen you somewhere” affair? Tough, I say.

Though personally I have always believed that most of these shows - real, semi-real or unreal, are scripted, I don’t have the heart to puncture the happiness balloon of the millions who enjoy them. So when these shows are on air and I am watching with a loyalist, I myself put on a show of believing everything that goes on there and throw in oohs and aahs for good measure. An occasional tear doesn’t hurt either. Sometimes that is not enough. When you have a loyalist whom you need to keep in your good books, you better subscribe to her opinion on the participants. I learnt it the hard way when I demonstrated solidarity with one “two-timer” on a reality show. My offence was uttering 2 harmless words- “Lucky guy” in a room full of right wing feminists. As you will appreciate, if suffering from envy was not enough, I had to contend with a black eye and torn sleeves. It hurt. It was new shirt.

Of course there are some who watch these shows to give themselves a stamp of approval – “Hah. We are not like them”. When I watch them alone, that’s what I like to believe. So after a bad day in office when I have been humiliated by my boss, shunned by women and taken a dent on my car, I switch on to see people suffering more than me. Or creating situations for themselves that will make them suffer in the future. Gulp down two glasses of whisky and soon you have lost interest in the latest scam or a bomb blast in your neighbor’s house. You hate the commercials that make you blink just when your eyes were wide open waiting for the cover to be blown on the cheater.

There are some who are appalled by these shows and show their displeasure by remaining silent. There are also the snooty ones who have created a new class barrier – ‘Watch’ and ‘Do not watch’. I heard there was a company that has an employment form which asks you tick one of these boxes. I applied for a job and ticked “Watch”. I was shortlisted for the interview, only to realize that the interviewer was a sadist and had shortlisted me only to tell me what he thinks of people like me. That experience has strengthened my resolve to continue patronizing such shows. I might even consider sponsoring one in the future. It will be called “Morals Swap”. Participants will become ministers for a week while ministers can go to hell.

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