tv on the radio

While flipping channels at one of the hotels, I asked Ganga what her favorite station was when she was a kid.

“There was only one station,” she told me. “We called it ‘television’. It was run by the government.”

From these dreary beginnings, India has developed a TV industry that is now top-notch. In Delhi you can get a wide range of English channels and a different wide range of Hindi channels. In Chennai you can get a wide range of English channels and a different wide range of Tamil Tamirrrrrr channels. In Bengaluru you can get English channels and Hindi channels and Tamirrrrr channels and channels in strange squiggly languages that don’t even exist!

As our traveling through the country was deliberately done at a relaxed pace (and as the TV at our first hotel had a second set of speakers in the bathroom), I had the opportunity to observe quite a bit of Indian TV. Here are some observations.

(1) HBO India

con: unlike regular HBO, plays commercials
pro: unlike regular HBO, plays No Retreat, No Surrender

Joel: Hey, isn’t this the guy from No Retreat, No Surrender?
Ganga: What’s that? [!]
Joel: Hey, this is No Retreat, No Surrender!
Ganga: I thought Bruce Lee was dead.

(2) Sports

India has (at least) 3 sports channels. One of them is devoted full-time to “cricket”, which is some vaguely-baseball-ish game in which people wear floppy hats. A second seems to show mostly soccer (“football”), volleyball, badminton, and something called the “Commonwealth Games” which was probably started by Ted Turner.

The third, however, is vaguely America-facing, and will show (live, at 7am) World Series games and (on Tuesday morning) Monday Night Football. When these events are not on, however, they show wrestling. Indians (or at least people who watch Indian TV) love wrestling. WWE? They’ve got it. ECW? They’ve got it. TNA (whatever the hell that is)? They’ve got it.

The most confusing part is that Sting is still wrestling. Isn’t he like 70 now?

(3) Infomercials

There are two kinds of infomercials in India. The first is American infomercials that are dubbed into local languages. They are (for the most part) stupid, mostly because they never contain Chef Tony, Ron Popeil, or Billy Mays.

The second (more entertaining) type is for only-in-India products like the “home jogger”, a device that wiggles fat people’s legs as a form of “exercise”:

(4) Commercials

There are several commercials in India:

a. The commercial for Airtel Digital TV. This one plays all day, every day. I saw it hundreds of times. I memorized it. I hear the stupid “oh oh oh” theme whenever I shut my eyes. It is beyond awesome, even though it is full of Indian-famous people I have no idea who they are:

b. The commercial for the Moto Yuva “sketchpad” cell phone. I actually find this one kind of funny:

c. Commercials in which Aamir Khan endorses things (but which I can’t remember what they are).

d. Commercials in which national heroes “chess dude” and “air pistol dude” endorse things that have nothing to do with chess or air pistol, like AMD processors and Dell computers.

e. Commercials where Shahrukh Khan tries to convince you that your skin isn’t light enough.

f. Commercials for American products with rhyming Hindi slogans (I don’t actually know Hindi, but the following gibberish is pretty much how they sound: “Kentucky Fried Chicken Batchia, Goobalabi Matchia!)

g. That’s it, there are no other commercials in India.

h. In particular, I didn’t see any political commercials, which is sort of funny in light of what you’ll read in my forthcoming post “Politics in India: Not just assassinations and Italian carpetbaggers!”

(5) Religion

There are a lot of religious programs in India, although I’ll save discussion for my forthcoming post “Religion in India: Not just dots on heads!”

(6) Bollywood / Kollywood / Tollywood / etc… movies

I can’t understand these, but they seem to be popular.

(7) POGO

This is a children’s channel. It plays “Tom and Jerry” dubbed into Hindi (unfortunately I didn’t manage to see any episodes featuring the awesomely stereotypical black maid, and so I am unable to report on how she might be translated) and “Harry Potter” dubbed into Hindi (where “Gryffindor” becomes “Garudadoir” and “Harry Potter” becomes “Laxman Balasundaravijaylakshmi”).

(8) Music

There is an MTV India.

pros: Unlike regular MTV, this one plays music.
cons: Completely unwatchable, on account of multiple scrolly things, irritating VJs, and terrible songs.

In the south there are also stations that play carnatic music, which is awesomer than awesome.

(9) News

There are many news channels, but they can’t decide what language they want to be in. For instance, one will print “BREAKING NEWS” across the top of the screen in English, then scroll the actual news across the bottom in Hindi, with a semi-literate announcer simultaneously reading the news in Joobly-Gibbly or whatever the language of the day is.

There is also a CNN, which plays Presidential debates and Larry King and occasionally gives stock market updates, but which mostly talks about things happening in India, which (of course) no one really cares about.

(10) The “Jaipur Monkeys” channel

Nominally this is the “National Geographic” channel, but they seem to spend 23 hours out of every day running the same program about monkeys in Jaipur (whom I met personally, and who are much nicer than their “thieving” reputation would suggest).

Of course, at home I don’t watch TV, only Hulu, which (runs on my blessed little Aspire One and) allows me to catch up on episodes of “Heroes” (which is terrible, good god, is it terrible, and since when did they start stealing all the cast members from “The Wire” anyway, and in that event why have they not added Clay Davis as a hero whose superpower is that he can say “shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit” longer than anyone thought humanly possible) and watch Japanimation shows about tentacles and space travel.


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back in the ussa

immigration officer: Were you around any livestock in India?
Juggdish: Not really, except for the cows sleeping in the middle of the road and hanging out on the beach, the goats milling around at the entrance to every national monument, the chickens running around in the streets, the donkeys helping to pick up trash (by eating it), and the elephant who blew his nose on my head. But those don’t count, right?

You may have noticed that updates have been less than forthcoming over the past couple of weeks. This is because with the capital markets’ recent destruction of the majority of my net worth, I was unable to afford the 600 rupees each hotel wanted to charge me for internet access (and was at the same time not trusting enough to type any passwords into the computers located in the small-town “internet cafes” that were constructed mostly out of banana leafs and discarded newspapers).

However, I have plenty to say, plenty of stories to tell, plenty of pictures to show, and plenty of opinions to share. And just as soon as I can figure out how to sleep past 2am and spend at least a couple of days digging through my work email, I will do so! Stay tuned.

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understanding the penal code

legal in india

* Walking down the street holding hands with your best same-sex bud.
* Three guys crotch-to-ass, crotch-to-ass on a motorcycle.
* Adjusting your junk in the middle of a conversation with the rickshaw driver
* “Bucket baths”

illegal in india

* Homosexuality

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fascist hotel

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India FAQ #45: what should I do with my trash?

As India is a land of many cultures and practices, you actually have four distinct options:

1. pile it on the side of the road and burn it
2. pile it on the side of the road (without burning it)
3. throw it onto the railway tracks before your train arrives
4. visit a historical site (preferably a UNESCO “Heritage Site” or one of the “Seven Wonders of the World”), climb to the highest point you can, and throw it off (preferably into a greenish cesspool that used to be a moat hundreds of years ago, but just onto the ground is fine too)

Many locations have large “cans” with “please use me” printed on the side. It is best to ignore these.

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things that are carried on the head in India but not so much in Amrika

* baskets of fruit
* milk jugs
* suitcases
* suitcases with shoes on top of them
* clay pots
* large bowls
* despair (Amrikans tend to carry it in their shoulders)

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the day in drivers ed in india when the horn is discussed

Good morning, class! Today we will talk about the horn.

Before you even think about getting behind the wheel, you must have mastered the proper use of the horn. The “steering wheel” on the desk in front of you is equipped with a state-of-the-art horn simulator. Go ahead, try it!

[classroom is filled with a cacophony of car-horn sounds]

OK, now let’s begin our lesson.

[horn sounds continue.]

Let’s begin our lesson, I said!

[horn sounds continue].


[horn sounds continue]

[instructor pulls out ultra-loud aerosol horn and blasts it, drowning out the simulated horns. the room returns to silence.]

Excellent persistence, everyone! Keep honking like that and you’ll pass your driving test with flying colours. Right, Ravi, I mean if we were ever to require driving tests.

OK, so we all know how to use the horn, but do we know when to use it? Who can tell me when it’s a good idea to use the horn?

Yes, Laxman, you could always use the horn, just to be safe, but it might then be difficult for the ten family members crammed into your backseat to inform each other when their extremities were beginning to get numb. In general you should strive to use the horn no more than 50 percent of the time! What if you only wanted to use the horn when absolutely necessary?

Right, Shankar, “whenever you’re going around a curve, in case there’s someone coming in the other direction driving on the wrong side of the road” is always an appropriate time to use your horn. Who else?

Good, Vijay, it’s always smart to honk “when there are animals in the middle of the road”, especially when they out-mass your automobile!

Yes, Mohan, “whenever the driver in front of you is driving too slowly” is definitely a good time to use the horn. Can anyone tell me if there’s a maximum duration to honk at these slow drivers? That’s right, Rahul, “as long as it takes for them to speed up or get out of the way, or until honking has depleted your car’s battery, whichever happens first”. Who has another one?

Exactly, Bala, “when the family piled onto the approaching motorcycle doesn’t realize that their infant is dangerously close to sliding off the seat and falling to the pavement or dirt.” And you have another? Great, “when you’re driving on the wrong side of a divided highway because it would take too long to enter the road in the ‘proper’ direction and make a U-turn” is definitely a good time for the horn. Any more?

Nice one, Sameer, “when you’re trying to attract the attention of one of the dudes loitering by the side of the road so you can ask him what street you’re on, since there are no street signs; or how to get your destination, which he will invariably tell you is ‘straight ahead’ no matter whether this is the case or not” is another great time for the horn.

One more? Right, Rajkumar, “whenever you’re driving on a two-way, one-lane road, to let the oncoming cars know you see them, then to let them know that you heard their honk acknowledging they know you see them, then to let them know that you heard the honk acknowledging that they know that you heard their honk acknowledging they know you see them, and so on, and so on, until you finally manage to pass each other without driving into a ditch” is definitely the right time for the horn.

Well, I think I’ve touched on all the high points, so I’ll let you go early today. For homework I want you to borrow some cattle from your parents and take them for a walk on the freeway and observe the different nuances of horn use.

I’ll see you kids tomorrow, when we’ll discuss “how to replace the incense stick on your dashboard without having to slow down”.

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