Reality TV


June 1

You know you have a problem when you spend the entire day in your PJs in front of the TV, and the only movement is the flick of your wrist to click “play next episode”. Or walk to the kitchen and get more food. But what a lovely problem to have when you have the luxury of time and empty to-do lists!

I’ve always had questionable taste in TV shows. I mean, considering I can’t stand trash novels and the only way you can get me to watch ‘rom-coms’ is a slumber party or a LOT of popcorn. The bright side (I am such an optimist) is that at least I know I’m watching really bad TV shows. Of course when the shows have names like Desperate Housewives and Cougar Town, it doesn’t take SPSS to figure that one out.

And true to my penchant for clichéd melodrama, I started watching this show called Switched at Birth. Yep, it is about two pretty, smooth-skinned 16-year-old girls who were – yes, you guessed it – switched at birth! It is filled with drama, and they definitely overdo it with fugitive fathers, star-crossed love, unrequited love, reunited love, falling in love with the same deaf boy, and so on. Every episode has at least five of the speechless “I can’t believe you said that” looks, followed by tears and shouts. It is quite fun. I’ve definitely reached the point when my actual life has slowed down to a stop and I’m living vicariously through the characters, rooting for some of them, getting really angry at others and taking sides. Shaking my head, tearing up and laughing affectionately. Even dreaming of the characters.

So yes, this is a different kind of reality TV!

***

He had an average moustache – it was not the thin and sharp neat look, nor was it a bushy old movie villain kind of masterpiece. It was mostly black, bristly and covered part of his upper lip. Sometimes it looked like his nose was a plant growing in a patch of moustache. He always wore vests, whether he was dressed in a shirt or a kameez, half a size smaller than his size so that he could keep note of his stomach, which was rotund but not alarmingly so – yet. His feet were strangely small for a man his size: 5’10 and 190 lbs. Like other Punjabi men, it wasn’t his height that made him seem so big. It was his loud personality. The word guffaw was invented to describe his laughter. He always slapped other people on the back, knocking wind out of their bodies when he was amused or impressed. Whispering meant speaking in a raspy voice still loud enough for people five tables away to turn and stare. And yes, he was tiptoeing the overweight category, dipping his stubby toes in every now and then but then hopping back to stay in the later areas of a normal BMI.

Jamil, with his average moustache and loud laugh, wakes up at 4:30 am every morning (has been doing so for the last six years). He spends the first hour praying and reading the Quran, and then he gets dressed for work. He pats his sleeping wife on the head and walks down into his kitchen, which opens into the restaurant he owns.

By now he doesn’t really have to start cooking at once. So he walks around, looking over the menu, the stock in the pantry and refrigerator. He mixes some sauces and tastes chutneys and achaars already prepared. Sometimes he starts working on pastry puffs and gol guppas. At 8:30 am his wife comes down and makes breakfast for both of them.

They sit down on one of the tables in the center of the restaurant and eat fried eggs with wheat toast. On Fridays and birthdays, Jamil gets to eat parathas. By the time they have finished, his staff is in the kitchen, awaiting instructions. He starts rattling off their duties and menus, the curries and rice, and meats and vegetables. His wife clears off the table and goes back up to the apartment, while Jamil stays long after. He is at the counter when the first customer walks in and that is where he stays, leaning forward and talking to the bhais, behans and baby jees that stroll in in groups. And when the last of them walk out, salam, Allah Hafiz, khayal rakheye ga! he takes out his leather journal and makes notes to himself. 9 pm he locks up and heads up, where his wife is already a few minutes into the drama.

He sits next to her and when the first ad pops up, she gets up to go and make green tea.   

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