There was a time when TV serials were not saas-bahu oriented, were aired once-a-week, and did not run into silver jubilee anniversaries with their macabre twists and turns.
If I remember correctly, “Bold and Beautiful” was one of the first daily soaps that introduced world (around 110 countries were addicted to this soap) and its future serial makers to the magic that scheming women and sleeping around could do to TRPs. Both concepts contributed greatly to the longevity and frequency of TV serials.
“Shanti” was India’s first daily soap I think.
Around the time Shanti was being telecast, I was in my first job with an NRI owned company that had frequent American visitors.
Young guns that we were, me and my colleagues used to sneak up to the fax machine, first thing in the morning, to read the letters these visitors received overnight.
One such fax went something like this, of course I don’t remember the exact words (the text of the fax is in Bold while our inline thoughts are in Italics):

…Margaret, be strict with Ramesh (the company’s president). India is his country so he doesn’t know how very different it is for us. Ask him to send you back soon.Hmm..??? So much for Margaret’s “l Love India” slogans

…anyway, many things have happened since you’ve been away. So here’s what you’ve missed:
Friends –
Okay we had by then only heard of “Friends”. Though we had watched “Bold and Beautiful” and “Young and Restless”, sitcoms (short for situation comedy) had not entered Indian living rooms or vocabulary yet. Naturally, we thought she meant her real “friends” and not the reel ones.

Friends – Chandler refused a date with a woman from work, claiming that it is because her nostrils are too big, but of course he is only trying to escape a potentially serious relationship. Mr. Heckles is dead and has left all his belongings to Monica and Rachel. Phoebe lost her Central Perk singing gig to a professional singer and she is now a street singer in front of the café. Monica is back with Bobby. Remenber he had problems with alcohol? She helped him give up drinking, but she thinks he is unhappy and not funny anymore. Joey starred in a porn film and Chandler has a third nipple.

Wow, quite an action-packed month it has been for Margaret’s friends and they seriously have SOME life!

Sarah (don’t remember the exact name) – Sarah told her boss that she is pregnant with his baby. He fires her from the job and she takes out a gun and shoots ….

Wait …surely, there’s something wrong here… we looked down the list of titles and …someone yelled – “hey these are TV serials!”

We skipped through rest of the TV serial updates, and reached the end where she bid her loving goodbyes and said:

“Oh by the way, I broke up with Dave! He called me two days back and said he wanted to give me a second chance. But I said I don’t want a second chance!”

After our chuckles died down, we dismissed this weird episode as yet another lunacy of west. I commented on how much priority this lady gave to the TV compared to her personal life and what a personal life! More like an extension of a TV script!

How soon we caught up with this lunacy!

Now I read reports of tortured TV bahu’s being stopped on streets in their real life by real old ladies with REAL tears in their eyes – sab teek ho jayega, tu chinta mat kar! (Everything will be alright, don’t you worry!)

A few days back SS talked about colleagues who break coconuts in temples for the speedy recovery (from reel life problems not real-life problems) of their favorite characters on TV.

Except for occasional talent shows, I have not watched TV since the last 15/16 years. And I am afraid that one of these days, I will get a rude shock like poor uncle Ravi got five years ago!

Uncle Ravi is a successful small-time businessman in Delhi. A self-made man, a bit too workaholic who  finds nothing more enjoyable in life than making deals from behind his desk, briefing up his factory supervisors, and seeing to it that his customers were satisfied.

One sunny Saturday afternoon, as he folded his files, his peon ushered in one of his valued customers and he extended his hand and said quite genially, “and how are things?”

Surprisingly, the customer returned a worried tired smile, “How well can things be when Mihir is no longer with us?”

Ravi uncle was taken aback. He did not know who Mihir was but a human life is human life and if he is related to any of his customers…well …his face sobered up appropriately.

“What happened to him?” he asked as softly as possible, just to be certain.

“Dead, haven’t you heard?” was the man’s outburst. “And so very unfairly too. He was so young. I agree he was in coma for some time but… I didn’t expect him to die. He didn’t deserve that kind of an end.”

“Ohh, how sad” said uncle very near tears himself.

“Such a good son, and such a good husband!” the man shook his head.

Ravi uncle too shook his head and turned a little to the garlanded Mata Sheranwali picture on his right, closed his eyes as if in prayer, “My condolences to the family, may his soul rest in peace.”

“There’s some hope, I hear… He may be brought back to life on Monday.” The man said consolingly.

Uncle’s eyes flew open. “Huh?”

“So I have heard.” The man continued, “Public is not happy with the turn of events in the serial. Ekta Kapoor is working on a change in script.”

Uncle Ravi never felt sillier in life.

This had to be the first time he had expressed genuine condolences and all for a TV character.

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