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THE BALLOON VIGYA-PIN
Long time back, during the nostalgic days of Doordarshan when a certain Lalita ji used to preach to Houswives that the real ‘Samajdaari’ lay in buying ‘Surf’ only, another lady in yet another ad, out of frustration with her yellowing white Sari, used to ask her friend as to how come her Sari is whiter (Teri Sari Meri Sari se Safed Kaise?). The answer used to come out thundering with a signature bolt of lightning from a pack of Super RIN, with the ever popular tagline ‘Super RIN ki Chamkaar- Sabse Safed!’ Since Doordarshan was the only channel available at that time, all of us kids watched every programme with keen interest, from the song and dance extravaganza Chitrahaar to the insufferable Krishi-Darshan.
I and my friends had memorized every commercial or ‘Vigyapan’, as we called it then, by heart. We would repeat the taglines ahead of the ‘Vigyapans’ irritating the elders. I, with the colony kids used to come to Bedi uncle’s house to watch TV. On Sunday, the Hindi movie day, their drawing room resembled a movie hall where tickets had been sold in black. With the elders perched up on the sofas and cane chairs, we parked ourselves where ever we found space in the room- Some kids literally sat with their noses to the TV screen. We kids were an emotionally charged and heavily biased audience. We had our favourite heroes in Dharmender, Ameeta Bachchan (sic) and the likes and hated the sight of Pran, Prem Chopra & Ranjit. Each time the villain got a punch on the screen, the adrenalin rushed to our heads and there were emphatic oohs and aahs. Some shouted to warn the hero of Prem Chopra approaching from the rear. Others cursed the hero for talking too much and not shooting when he had the opportunity. Still others predicted what was going to happen next in the movie.
In the Interval, more than half of the immigrant children ran out to their houses for a quick dinner to be back in time. The hardened ones stayed back, postponing the ritual till the movie ended. Not one ‘Vigyapan’ was to be missed. Laxman Sylvania- ‘Saare Ghar Ke Badal Daalungaa’- We all chuckled and sang along in chorus. Asrani was our all time favourite since his Jailor act in Sholay. We all mimicked him & Jagdeep- The ‘Soorma Bhopali’ in our ‘Gali’ games. Tobu cycles, Dabar Chyawanprash, Bajaj Chetak, all ads were repeated word by word.
After this we promoted the Deluxe Nirodh ad. By this time most of the kids who had left in the interval had joined us back and our pitch was strong enough to reach the next house. Bedi uncle came in and asked us to shut up. When he went out we asked Bedi auntie what happened. She said that uncle was annoyed since we had been making a lot of noise. After that day, whenever that ad came, Bedi uncle would ask two or three of the most enthusiastic ad campaigners of us to get up & go check on the roof if the monkeys were swinging on the TV Antenna. When we found nothing after repeated trips to the roof we knew that there was some monkey in the ad only and we got determined to find an answer. But that turned out to be a more difficult job than Dev Anand’s in CID. Whoever we asked- Dad, Mom, Uncles, Aunties, Didi’s- everybody demanded to know who was teaching us that and sent us to buy things, do homework, clean motorcycles or check antennas.
When we were about to give up, one of my friends Jaggu, called me to his home saying he had cracked the puzzle. He had approached his cousin who had told him that Nirodh was nothing but a balloon. Not believing, he had taken out his pocket money, gone to the medical store and bought one. When the medical store owner had asked him what would he do with it, Jaggu said that he wanted to blow it. The store owner laughed and gave it to him. Not believing that the mention of a mere balloon can freak out so many people, I asked Jaggu to show it to me. He reached under his bed and took out a round hugely inflated balloon with the clear marking ‘Deluxe Nirodh’ across it. I had not expected such a let-down. “You were right,Jaggu,” I said, “but why should they fuss over such a minor thing.”
“Because elders are not stupid,” Jaggu said wisely, “It is an expensive balloon and they don’t want kids to find out about it.”