We had great difficulty motivating ourselves to leave the house on Sundays. Not just on Delhi’s sweltering summer Sundays, when my shirt would be sticking to my back before I even made it out of the stairwell; but on rainy Sundays, on cold Sundays, and even, I’m sorry to say, on perfect fall Sundays with the birds chirping and the smell of carrot halwa simmering outside of Jama Masjid beckoning our noses from miles away.
Why couldn’t we leave? It wasn’t because of the frustrations that awaited us outside — the pointless bargaining, the endless traffic, the suspensionless rides, the oxygenless air — but rather because those frustrations provided just enough of an excuse that we didn’t have to admit our real reason for staying home: Friends was on.
To be fair, Friends was always on. Between the two different English-language channels it aired morning and night every single day; but on Sundays, we could spend something like five non-stop hours watching it along with another hour of Seinfeld as a bonus. We hadn’t been particularly ardent fans of the show since college, when we’d gathered in Thursday night dorm rooms to see if this was the week for poor ol’ Ross. But the show’s cultural imperative had faded as the seasons went on and we learned that a starter apartment in New York wasn’t quite as grand as the show made it seem.
We tried, we tried to broaden our media horizons. We watched as many Bollywood movies as we could, but we always got too frustrated by the labored plot twists that kept the movies plodding beyond the intermission. There was always that pivotal moment when the hero and heroine arrive at the family farm and need only politely correct Maaji’s erroneous assumption that they’re married; but for some reason they opt instead to stare gape-mouthed as Maaji initiates a spontaneous song-and-dance number that drags the duo around to dance with every family member even as they maintain their fish faces of surprise, leading to another hour of sobbing and singing before they finally decide to get married after all.
But living in Delhi, the show’s false New York suddenly spoke to us again. Was it homesickness? Nostalgia for college? Those establishing shots of the New York skyline? Whatever it was, Friends became our bedtime lullaby, our morning coffee.
And we weren’t the only ones. Scott and Sally told us that they got equally addicted. Which made us wonder if Friends was so ubiquitous because there were more expats nursing homesickness or hangovers in Delhi than we realized. We don’t think it had a very wide Delhiite audience — when discussing American TV with our coworkers, Friends rarely came up.
Although there were more than a few times when my boss Murali asked me to explain why Seinfeld was considered funny at all. I tried to explain, but ultimately I needed him to take it on faith: it’s funny, but it’s a New York thing. Maybe he’d get it if he watched more Friends.