Given that some of our channels prefer to show a bit of cricket between the ads rather than some ads between the cricket, I watch the cricket at home with the TV on mute.
Sometimes, just sometimes (and this takes a lot of practice, but then, I have had a lifetime of practice of watching cricket), at moments of great excitement and high drama, I turn the volume on for the duration of the over, mute the sound as soon as the last ball is about to be bowled, and turn it back on when the following over starts.
Our nine-year-old daughter merely keeps an eye on the cricket. For her, the chief allure of the game seems to be the ads. She has enough to be going on with: ads between and during overs, ads no sooner than a wicket has fallen, ads that pop up, ones that scroll down, ones that crawl across — all the stuff that annoys me and tests the loyalty of any fan has her riveted.
“Why do you watch those silly ads?” I asked Oishi.
“No, I want an answer. What is it about those ads?”
She realised that she wasn’t going to get away by merely shrugging, and that I was genuinely curious.
“Well,” she said. I could see her trying to articulate what she really thought it was about those ads.
“I get a lot of information from them.”
I snorted. “?”
“Information about new cars and laptops and mobile phones and washing machines.”
“But you aren’t buying any of them. Why would you want to know?”
“You or Ma might want to buy them. I could help you choose.”
“Unless they are for Hindustan Times, ads are disingenuous.”
“They are misleading,” I said, wringing my hands in exasperation. “They tell you things about things which aren’t true and make you want to buy them. They lie.”
“I don’t think so,” she said.
A week or so after this conversation, Oishi spotted an ad for a toothbrush that seemed to be able to rotate on its handle. Yes, it was on during the cricket, and I was made to watch it too. Truth to tell, it did seem as though it could be bent and twisted (at the flick of a switch, perhaps?), and she asked us to buy one for her.
When the thing turned up, Oishi discovered that it was no more than a regular toothbrush.
My moment had come, and with a fiendish sense of triumph, I said: “See? What did I tell you? They lie…”
“It’s only for this,” she said, with quiet emphasis. “Not for all the stuff. Can’t be.”
A few days later, my wife was railing at our girl. “Now that you have grown your hair, you’ll have to take proper care of it yourself. Otherwise, you’ll get dandruff.”
“I know of a shampoo that will cure it,” Oishi said. “I saw an ad on TV.”
My wife sputtered. I don’t know why we even try when we know we can’t win.