A scream emanating from the TV forced me to peel my eyes away from my book. The hideous sight of a man hitting his wife with a stick welcomed me. It didn’t affect my children because that very morning they had heard me unleashing my choicest words at my help’s husband. I will file a police complaint. I had threatened. He had hit his wife on the head with a stone. The children questioned me at length but then gave up because I would not provide the juicy details. They needn’t have bothered. They learnt about it from a soap opera that very evening. They didn’t question it. Perhaps they thought shit happens to some people.

On most days, I am thinking on my feet and going by instinct. The first time I came across this trailer, my instincts protested.

I love songs. Every weekend, on the dot I watch a famous talent show on TV. The children are amazing. I always dreamt of shedding happy tears at music shows where my children would perform. But, alas. That is not to be. Then I see the six-year old wooing the pretty judge with big words and promises. For someone who has grown up on a steady diet of admonishments in the lines of; do not speak when elders are in conversation or children should be seen not heard; this ridiculous act of the little boy who in the first place should be focusing on studies, singing or other talent-building activities, irritates me to no end.

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To be honest, I am still reeling in shock at Balika Vadhu, the story of an 8-year-old bride aired on TV. However, this new serial, Pahredar Piya ki trumps everything else that has been shown on Indian television. I have seen two of the trailers. In one, a nine-year old boy walks with a suspiciously adult swagger to the bedecked 18-year old woman and applies sindoor on the parting of her hair. He proceeds to mouth a dialogue. I cringe. In another, the same woman breaks her karvachauth fast with a glass of water from the underage husband of hers. Ridiculous! He stands on a stool to reach up to her height and that makes it right and palatable!

Hello, what happened to responsible content? Let us face it. People watch these shows in their household. Children flit in and out of the area and sometimes stay rooted to their spot to watch the drama unfolding. Is this what they need to know? The below-the-line disclaimer says the show does not support child marriage. But who is reading that in the face of bling jewelry and lavish costumes that effectively detract?

Grow up people. Child marriage was abolished in 1929, under Indian law. Several states of India have introduced incentives to delay marriages and our government is struggling to reach this message across the country. However, Indian Television, which reaches the far corners of the country, has taken up the responsibility of studiously propagating the diametrically opposite message for gullible viewers who depend on mindless watching of soap operas for their daily gossip or knowledge or internalizing of views.

In one stroke, the makers of the serial have caused the viewers and the country to regress to the era from which we have barely recovered, going by the painstakingly slow manner in which child marriage rates are falling in India.

I have confessed in my book Double Trouble, Double Fun!: A Supermom’s Guide to Raising Twins that I am a blundering parent. On most days, I am thinking on my feet and going by instinct. The first time I came across this trailer, my instincts protested.

Give the serial a chance. Do not judge before it airs. I have been reading such views, which forces people to re-examine their instincts. In one stroke, the makers of the serial have caused the viewers and the country to regress to the era from which we have barely recovered, going by the painstakingly slow manner in which child marriage rates are falling in India.

Time will tell when the show will move on to generic romancing but until then, it has grabbed the eyeballs and has become a trending topic. Mischief managed.

Riti Prasad is the author of Double Trouble, Double Fun!: A Supermom’s Guide to Raising Twins, Wicked Temptations and Mathematics Fun, Fact and Fiction. She works in the Fragrance Industry as Creation Head.

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