Last Updated on April 29, 2021
I was completely immobile for two out of the five weeks we were in India (if you haven’t read about me being rammed by a cow, you can do that here).
Luckily, not only was the bed in my spacious pink $8 per night hotel room comfortable, but there was also a TV on a swivel stand for perfect viewing angles. So, I watched TV. And I mean a lot of TV.
As it turns out, India is a great place to get sucked in to the boob tube! Rather than incessant U.S. sitcom reruns like in many other countries, India is a media-saturated society, comparable (in my experience) only to the United States in terms of the variety of original programming.
Up in that room, having cable truly saved my sanity. I realized that I may have had an entirely different experience in India than my able-bodied, non-tragedy-magnet partner Dani, but I did get to see such an interesting account of Indian culture – the elusive middle class.
Much of the middle class, at least where and how we were traveling, was not to be seen during our time in Kerala and Goa. They drive their own cars, live in houses outside of city centers. We were traveling by bumpy local bus and the train, sometimes in ‘sleeper’ cars but other times in second class, rubbing shoulders with some of India’s less fortunate. There was much less experience with the middle class.
Almost everyone knows about Bollywood, and that is a huge part of Indian culture. In fact, the three weeks in India before I became immobilized, we saw two different film crews out in the streets in Fort Cochin and in Palolem. For Western travelers it is so easy to become a part of the Indian media-scape that they can end up as extras in a Bollywood film within hours of arriving in Mumbai, the Bollywood capital.
It was inside that little box that I discovered the established middle class you always hear about. I watched MTV India – which airs as many similarly inane reality shows as in the US, I watched soap operas, classic Bollywood films and breaking news. I don’t speak Hindi, so I was limited in that way to only English shows, which are everywhere. One observation is that shows in Hindi or local languages are more common, while shows in English are aimed at upper classes.
What I loved the most was seeing Hollywood actors on the English language chat shows. I watched Will Smith being interviewed on Front Row by Anumpama Chopra. I also watched Koffee with Karan, an interview-style show with the engaging director/producer Karan Johar, who interviews Bollywood celebs. It’s all very in the know, and fascinating to watch. Even if your fame is only in India, in a country of 1.2 billion people, you are a mega-celebrity.
No matter when you watch TV in India, you will see the most famous Indian in the world, Shahrukh Khan. We even knew his face, though not his name, before arriving in India. He is in almost every movie, music video, TV commercial, on every billboard, magazine cover, you name it, and his face appears somewhere in your view. He is also known as King Khan, and for good reason. His net worth is estimated at over $600 million dollars, and in 2008 was named by Newsweek magazine number 41 of the 50 most powerful people in the world.
In India, I even love the commercials. They reveal what’s on the market, and therefore what is accepted as mainstream, or ‘normal’. I learned that whitening products are massively popular, and I guess that so is domestic air travel, based on the number of commercials for airlines, plane tickets, and hotels. And then there are all the commercials for Indian weddings and the thousands of related products.
Neither of us are big TV fans, in fact we didn’t even have a TV until the last six months of the four years we lived in England. Dani is still pretty anti-TV, but as we travel, I like it even more. I feel embarrassed about it and a little conflicted, because I am supposed to be out experiencing the culture and living life to its fullest.
What I wonder is, do you like watching TV when you travel? Do you watch it more as a connection to home (vegetating in front of an old episode of Friends) or to the country you are traveling through? What TV shows have you discovered abroad that you love watching – guilty pleasures included!
Wednesday 24th of June 2015
India is all about Bollywood and TV where you will find people crazy about this. India is way awesome and the trend of Bollywood is growing with each time of span. Your experience was quite good and interesting as well. :)
Friday 10th of August 2012
Hey Jess, Thanks for the Like :) And definitely, I would love to meet up with you sometime in India or in London. In the meantime, keep doing the great work you girls are doing and I am sure I will stay excited and inspired :D
Tuesday 7th of August 2012
No problem Jess ! It's a pleasure to read your experiences about different destinations and cultures ! To be honest, the Globetrotter girls have inspired me to pursue my passion for travelling and travel film-making :) I would love to meet you if you happen to come to India again some day and treat you to Bollywood films, Indian food and magazines of course ;)
Would you like to check out my Facebook page for my company called Travelista Productions?
It will be really nice if you can Like my page and continue to inspire my adventures :)
Wednesday 8th of August 2012
Akshuna that's great! So excited that you have been inspired. When we get to India, we should definitely be in touch when we go to India again!
Friday 3rd of August 2012
Haha...yes I have watched all Bollywood films...especially Shahrukh's ! I love him too :) Every Indian does ! I grew up on ELLE and Vogue in Delhi....used to be all excited during my teens to read the style tips and all ;) What was your point of view when you read all our Indian fashion magazines...I would love to know !!! :D
Monday 6th of August 2012
Hey Akshuna thanks for commenting! To be honest, I didn't get to read a lot of fashion magazines. We were not in a lot of places where they even sold them, and most of the time when we were in a city, we were running around planning things like the houseboat or buses and trains to our onward journey. However, there is no doubt another month or two of my life that will be spent in India, so I will definitely pick up the paper every day and read magazines as well!
Sunday 22nd of July 2012
Wowow sorry to hear about your " Holy Cow" experience! But I have to say u r so lucky to have experienced Indian TV. I don't have a TV here in the UK but love tele in India. It's how I learnt some of my Hindi,because I used to watch the Hindi over dramatic soaps...the equivalent of Sunset Beach or Dynasty!! Lol I fell in love with Shah ruk years ago in 1998. When I watched one of my first Bollywood films in Hindi for about Rs 15 with all the locals in Bombay!! The film is Kuch Kuch Hota Hai...it is still one of my fav Bollywood movies and is still as popular today as it was back then when it came out. It stars Master Khan and Kajol,who I named my pup after....u must watch it!!! The songs are fantastic and it is how I bartered in all the markets,made friends with all the "classes" in India...just by singing this one song " Kuch kuch Hota hai" around India!!
Another classic came out same year but it was a flop purely because it does not have a classically formulaic Bollywood plot,because the ending is tragic. It is amazing and has the most amazing cinematography of Mr. Khan again and a dancer and many other dancers,singing " Chaya Chaya" on top of a train going thru THE most beautiful scenery...must be in the North I would imagine...or sometimes they film in Switzerland etc for the scenery. This film is called " Dil Se".... Please try and watch. At the time of cassette walk men hehe I used to play these songs over and over,which is probably why I know all the words but hardly any of the meaning!! Hehe!
And also check out the magazines....Indian Elle or Vogue or the Bollywood ones called Stardust etc.. Oh and my fav Femina! Lol wouldn't dream of reading these in the UK,well sometimes for a particular article but their tips and style is so amusing and informative into the Elite of Indian society..it's all quite funny...from a Westerner's view point.
I also like the spiritual channels...with Guru's chanting and worship of various deities. Oh Mother India...I love you!! Xxxx