Only a genius can operate the idiot box

How do you know when it’s going to rain?

Those who claim to be clairvoyant know because they can feel the rise of the winds of change. Those who have rheumatism know because their joints start hurting. Those who have windows know because they can see the dark clouds gathering. Those who don’t have windows know it’s going to rain because the weather department says that it’s not going to rain.

But I have a special device that tells me exactly when it’s going to rain. I don’t need to look out of my window, I don’t need to read optimistic weather forecasts and I don’t need to have rheumatism. All I need to do is turn it on.

This special device is called dish TV.

Our provider is Tata Sky: The name is ironic, because whenever the clouds gather in the sky, we have to bid ta-ta to the television. It’s a standing joke in my house. In fact, I say clouds, but I’m being a bit too generous. The tiniest cloud drifts into view, and our TV retreats into its shell out of fear and loathing, displaying the tenuous message, ‘Your set top box is not receiving signal.’ In fact, it goes far enough to say, ‘If it is cloudy, please wait until the sky becomes clear to resume the signal.’ Not even so much as an apology.

For my family, this is the momentous event that marks the beginning of the monsoon season.

The first time this happened was the monsoon in the year we first installed our set top box. After years of enjoying trouble-free cable television, we were shocked and alarmed to see that modern television was sensitive to change of weather as well. We immediately dialled a helpline number, and the man instructed us to press some buttons until we got to a screen that had a bar graph depicting signal strength, which, at that moment, was zero. Then he advised us to stare at the screen until the signal strength became a hundred per cent, at which point, he said sagely, we would be able to watch television again.

To tell you the truth, this turned out to be rather fun. Occasionally, the signal strength would inch upwards to two per cent. “It’s two per cent!” I would yell excitedly. Then it would fall to zero once again. For one lucky minute it would creep up to five, and then fall again. It was like watching Formula One racing. Nothing happens for a very long time, but when something does happen, you don’t want to miss it.

That year was a year of heavy rainfall, so we didn’t expect this to happen next year as well. But it did. This time we were really annoyed. I even resorted to taking photographs of the screen depicting zero signal strength at various times of the day, in the vague hope that we might be able to sue our provider in some sort of consumer court with this evidence. A man did come over once. He stared intently at some wires, turned off the television, waited ten seconds (because eight seconds just won’t do), and then turned it on again. But when nothing happened he just told us, resignedly, that unless we were Bruce Almighty, there was nothing we could do about it.

Since then we’ve grown smarter. Now when the rains bar us from enjoying television, we simply caress the set top box, trying to cajole it back out of its shell. Or we will it to work again. Both of these methods are better than what the company advises us to do, which is nothing.

I’ve never understood why television has had to become so complicated, what with harnessing the sky and some force I will refer to as black magic because I have no idea what it’s all about. Recently, my grandmother was out of town for two months, and she returned to find that her television had shut down completely and was refusing to operate until she called some people, sent some text messages and pressed several buttons to prove that she still existed. Had I not been there to help, she would still be without television, haplessly stabbing at buttons. Why all the security?  It’s a television, not a nuclear facility. It doesn’t need to go into complete lockdown mode when it isn’t used for a while. And even a nuclear facility doesn’t need complex codes and an ability to deduce patterns.

So what should we do with our television in the monsoon season? What do we do with dish TV when it locks itself up in its room refusing to come out until we make the rains go away? I say, just give it to the Met department. At least it’ll get the weather right for a change.

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2 comments on “Only a genius can operate the idiot box

  1. I just laughed out loud for almost ten minutes I believe. You are hilarious! thank you!

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