The daily press frequently reports that the incidence of mental illness is increasing and discusses various possible reasons for this. The increasing rich-poor divide, the stresses of increasing prices, lack of civic amenities – the list of the causes are endless. Modern life is not easy, especially when 24 hour TV access is available to so many and allows the rapid spread of the ‘consumerist’ culture. The new age mantra is ‘You are, what you have’ – and the TV is constantly showing everyone what you don’t have, a sure prescription for frustration, leading to depression. And depression is probably the most common of the mental illnesses.
But there is another angle to the role of TV. I live alone and my TV time is usually 9 pm news and the occasional sporting events – Wimbledon, Tour de France and so on. However, these days my mother is visiting and since she recently had a hip surgery and is still not completely mobile, we have a full time maid to look after her. My mother watches a few morning Tamil serials. The Tamil speaking maid, probably spoilt by all the free color TVs distributed by the rival parties in Tamilnadu, can watch the tamil serials for hours on end. So, her i am reading, trying to work etc. in my room with the constant auditory background of tamil serials.
Each serial is, i think, 30′ long and so during the day 10-12 serials are running. The pitch and sound of every one is identical, high and hysterical. And none would be recognizable by anything but the theme tune/song. Also, a constant feature is the crying – of varying tone and frequency, both female and male, young and old and anything from 3 to 10 mins in a 30′ serial. Either the Tamil diaspora has a basically depressed personality that can tolerate this kind of emotional barrage or there is going to be an explosion of depressive illness in the tamil population!!