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Indian television is amazing. Of the ninety or so channels we get, several are in English, several show Hindi dubbed versions of old American shows, and several play non-stop Bollywood dance hits. There’s always something utterly fascinating on when we want to unwind.

Sarah and I are lucky: we’ve had TV in every place that we have stayed. Even our cell in Ajay Guest House has a little box up on the wall—although we have to unplug it if we want to plug the computer in, as the other outlet is hanging awkwardly out of the wall.

The television helps us to feel connected, both to India, and to our country and family half way around the world. A lot more news happens in India than percolates over to the American syndicates. Did the temple stampede in Jaipur that killed more than 200 people even get reported in the US? We hadn’t heard about the August flooding of the Kusi channel before we got to India, and that has wiped out hundreds of villages and killed thousands of people.

There are probably seven or eight news channels here. Most of them are Hindi only, some broadcast in a combination of Hindi and English, and one is exclusively English. All of them have the words “BREAKING NEWS” written on the bottom of the screen in huge, urgent letters, regardless of how insignificant the “breaking news” is.

It kind of frightened us when we first arrived. “Breaking News?! What happened!” We searched frantically for an English speaking news channel. Every one of the Hindi news stations proclaimed that news was breaking. The BBC was talking about some insignificant matter, with typical British calm. CNN didn’t have anything particularly important. Finally we found the English speaking Indian channel, only to find that the “breaking news” was the fact that a famous Bollywood actor had been arrested for getting in a brawl on a train.

We also get an international version of CNN here, which has some of the typical American news fare, but then (thankfully) a round of shows with a more global perspective in place of the endless banter of pundits. I am glad the channel is palatable. We’ve become news junkies since we’ve been in India: I’ve probably watched more news in the past two weeks than I have in the last two years.

We also get a Hindi version of the Disney channel, Hindi Cartoon Network (which plays a lot of the old classic Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry cartoons), Hindi Discovery and Hindi National Geographic, and “Bindass movies,” which plays American films with Hindi dubbing. My favorite Hindi programs are the ones written for kids: good for practicing language skills. Some old American programs are also fun to watch: the other day I watched Captain Planet in Hindi. (“Shakti sirf tumhara hai!” The power is yours!)

When channel surfing, there are plenty of interesting images to dwell on for a moment. Every religious interest has a news channel, and a worship channel. We’ve seen a half naked man waxing prolific in a language we can’t understand, beturbanded men playing the harmonium, and a Muslim woman broadcasting the news in a full burqua, with only her eyes and hands visible. What a fascinating series of contradictions!

Most of the global media that has found its way onto Indian television is American, but not exclusively. The other day I watched part of an old Chinese kung-fu flick poorly dubbed in English. A man dressed in a chicken outfit heroically defeated fifteen men collectively wearing what appeared to be a giant earwig costume (I think it was supposed to be a centipede.)

I don’t know how we’ll be able to go back to American television. This sort of global variety is simply unavailable in the States. Then again, we don’t really watch TV in America. Problem solved.

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