The Doordarshan days – when NEWS was NEWS

The news of eminent Doordarshan  news anchor Gitanjali Aiyer’s demise suddenly brought back memories of the good old DD days. It was sometime in the mid-eighties (84 I think) when my father brought home a black & white EC TV, with a stand and shutter and all that. It became the centre of attraction in our drawing room with neighbours thronging to watch Chitrahaar or movies that were aired on Saturday and Sunday evenings. It was the most natural thing, and my parents always welcomed them no matter whatever the hour.

I was a little girl then. I remember rushing to the drawing room in the evening as my mother opened the shutters of the TV. For Doordarshan  was not 24×7  in those days, they played programs and news at certain stipulated hours. Once switched on the screen of the television would first turn blue, then there were rainbow bars followed by the DD logo rotating to the famous jingle. An anchor would come on screen and announce the programs for the evening – charming and elegant Sadhana Srivastav or Jyotsna. Their saris and hairdo were eagerly watched and followed by many women.

DD aired news at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. every evening that my father would watch intently. We would be shushed to pin drop silence so he wouldn’t miss a word. Classy Gitanjali Aiyer, Menu, Salma Sultana or Shammi Narang calmly narrating the happenings of the day – no drama, no excesses. News was just news then, not coloured by unnecessary analysis or conjectures. Gitanjali Aiyar and her ilk exuded sophistication as they presented the days news to us without tinting it with their emotions.

Doordarshan ruled for a decade or so. DD anchors and news presenters were household names, closely watched and followed. We were introduced to the world of soaps – Hum Log firsts followed by Buniyaad. They once aired The Lucy Show that I loved watching. Of course, my TV time was rationed, I was only allowed to watch certain shows. Waiting for the TV to come live, Doordarshan jingle, my favourite shows – those were the highlights of the evening.

Soon other networks took over – Star, ZEE, Sahara etc. to begin with. There were plethora of shows and news channels. There was more glamour and glitter and viewers were spoilt for choice. These networks became 24×7, cacophony of entertainment and news played through the day. Poor DD seemed pale in comparison and started losing viewers.

News changed. News became all about TRPs. From an elegant news anchor presenting the news, it changed to screaming, shrieking and drama. It was no longer a detached presentation of information, analysis was paramount. Sometimes it’s so coloured by views of the channels and the anchors that we are left wondering what the news is. From reporters, news anchors gradually turned to the judge and the jury.

During DD days I would sit with my father and watch the news every evening. I was encouraged to do so not only to stay up to date but also to follow the pronunciation and the language of the anchors. It became a habit and for a long time I would watch at least prime time news on one of the news channels. It was fine initially till the drama and analysis overshadowed the news. The screaming, shrieking and blaming became unbearable. I now rely on mobile apps for news, at least they are more factual.

I often miss the crisp Doordarshan news. In half an hour we were familiarized with the key developments of the day, sans drama. The image of Gitanjali Aiyer and her colleagues will be firmly etched in my mind as elegance personified. They belonged to an era when fact was important and poise appreciated!

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