The 9 PM News Block!
My family is full of News junkies. Has always been.
My earliest memory of the television is the Samachar and News in English at 8pm on Doordarshan. A melancholic looking Sunil Tandon would read the day's top stories and leave within 15 minutes to make space for the even more melancholic looking Salma Sultan.
I distinctly remember a fine winter evening in 1994, when the 8 pm news was delayed by 4 minutes and my Dad commented that something big was up. We waited with bated breath as the anchor announced the demise of an ex-President of India. This was followed by a national holiday and 10 days of mourning and non stop Pandit Bismillah Khan's Shehnai on TV. For a 7 year old, the choice was quite simple - A day's holiday or 10 days without Shriman Shrimati. After that incident, every time the news got delayed even by a few seconds, I prayed fervently for the well-being of every President alive on earth. Wonder how many lives I saved!
And then gradually, as bedtime shifted, we moved to the 9pm news. The World This Week had made an entry into our lives and for the first time ever, we realized that news anchors need not necessarily look sad. The bearded Roys and Menons had registered their presence and it didn't help one bit that one of their wives was a hugely loved Geography teacher at our school.
Two years later, the unimaginable happened. We got Cable. Shudder.
Suddenly, there was an influx of news. A million news channels, with a gazillion news anchors, and infinite opinions. Who are we kidding? We enjoyed this. We lapped up the excess information and every tea-table conversation was marred by opinions thrust on us by these anchors. The war reporters were heroes. And heroines. For years, they enjoyed this privileged position of being, not news readers, but news makers.
Then they crossed the line. So much, that today, 9 pm holds no significance for me or my family. Because, today, news isn't about what just happened, but about why it happened, how it happened and most of all, what will happen next. It's about the war of channels, in out-shouting the other, in being the "first to break the news", in bringing "exclusives".
What if I don't want to know? What if, for some weird reasoning, all I want to know is the news? What if, I don't give a rat's ass, as to what the anchor considers his analysis? What if, I actually think I am smart enough to form my own opinion, and do not need hand holding by over-imposing loud men? What if, after a whole day's work, all I am looking for is 15 minutes of news?
Do you blame me if I switch to the good old Doordarshan every once in a while? Which is precisely what happened yesterday. I watched the good old Doordarshan, with a melancholic looking Manjari Joshi, reading the day's top news stories in precise 15 minutes and then moving on to the News for the Deaf and Dumb.
15 minutes of peace and quiet.
15 minutes of the 9 pm News.