The Forty-Third Chart

June 15, 2012

By Ekta R. Garg

Summer-vacation-itis has Three and Five in its firm grip.

Our family watches a particular television show on one of the South Asian channels through our satellite programming.  I wouldn’t call it a soap opera exactly; I’ve never watched an American soap, but I have enough of an idea to know the soaps in this country are most definitely not kid friendly.  And the particular show we watch is.  It’s called “Balika Vadhu” and follows the customs of rural India.  Regardless of the progress in the metropolitan centers in India, the thoughts and ideas in the villages haven’t changed much.  This show follows a young woman who has undergone a child marriage and how she deals with the challenges that arises from the situation.

I enjoy the show for its good writing and family values and although I watched it alone in the beginning, slowly my husband and father-in-law got involved with the show as well.  Now we sit down every evening and watch the newest episodes together.  Because the show is palatable for children, and also because I’m trying to help Five and Three understand that we do everything together, the kids watch with us.  They have the freedom to color or go play if they want, but they’re not allowed to go to the other television in the house and watch their own program.  It may sound somewhat harsh, but it’s a choice we employ with a long-term view of what they might be watching ten years from now.

The kids usually voice a mild complaint about having to watch “Balika Vadhu” but occasionally they’ll get interested in the show as they have been in the last week or so due to the dominant storyline of the moment.  Usually my husband is home from work in time to watch the show live, but if he isn’t home by 6 p.m. then I automatically hit “Record” on the DVR (which we love.  For those of you who haven’t discovered the benefits of a DVR, go out and get one right away!)

This past Tuesday my husband didn’t come home until after the show ended, and the girls were outside playing when it came on.  Later that evening after dinner the two of us closed our bedroom door and settled in front of the TV with our laptops, as we do every night.  After letting the TV warm up for a little while with some of our standby shows, my husband picked up the remote to find “Balika Vadhu” on the DVR Recordings list.  And just at that moment Five and Three opened our door and stood in front of the TV.

Since the start of summer vacation last Friday, the girls have had sleepovers every night and we’ve seen the hands on the clock creep later and later as the kids have become more relaxed.  They’ve stayed up late chatting and laughing and, occasionally, fighting.  They’ve started the night lying next to one another and sometimes even ended up that way in the morning.  And they’ve come to our room several times each night to complain about one another, to tell us last-minute jokes they’ve created on the spot, or to ask for help with the bathroom.

On Tuesday, though, they came in, stood in front of the TV, and watched as my husband started the show.

“Go back to bed,” I said mildly, fully expecting their compliance.  It only takes one or two times of reminding them it’s bedtime to send them scurrying back to their sheets.

This time, though, the girls looked at one another and began their own conversation.  After a minute or two of consulting each other, they climbed onto our bed and both lay on their stomachs.

“It’s time for bed, kids,” my husband said.

And the brazen ignoring continued.  The girls just kept chatting, discussing something in the show.

My husband and I looked at each other.  And we knew that because we’d built up summer vacation so much and because both girls are smart enough to know they don’t have to get up early the next day—we knew we’d been had.

By mutual unspoken consent we let the girls stay and watch, something they’d never done before.  My husband watched all of “Balika Vadhu,” as did the girls, and we finally had leverage to send them back to bed.  My husband deleted the program from the DVR, turned off the TV, and told them he was very tired and wanted to go to sleep.  Because they couldn’t argue with the logic of that, they reluctantly returned to their sleepover.

On Wednesday night Three fell asleep pretty quickly—she’d skipped her nap that afternoon as she had the previous day because of the summer-vacation-itis, so she was beat by the time Wednesday night rolled around.  Three went to sleep but Five was wide awake.  She came into our room and quietly closed the door just as our favorite show hosted by a former character actress began, a show that features old Hindi film songs.  Once again Five climbed on the bed and settled in to watch TV with us, this time for the entire hour of the show.  And once again we sent her to her bed after the program ended.

Last night the girls came in and with that same brazenness asked outright whether they could watch TV with us.  My husband, slightly irritated, said they needed to go straight back to bed.  After about 10 minutes Five came back into our room.

“Um, Daddy?  You didn’t give us a yes or no answer.  You just said to go to bed.  That’s not a yes or no.”

He gave her a Look.

“Right now it’s time to go to bed.  You don’t need a yes or no.”

I think Five sensed she’d reached the end of my husband’s patience because she just slipped back out of our room quietly and went back to bed.

Ah, summer-vacation-itis.  And we’ve only got nine weeks of vacation left.

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