friends and other obsessions

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.

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18 responses to “friends and other obsessions

  1. I dont know about living in New York, but Seinfield was fun. I havent seen an episode in ages, but loved it when it used to air.
    Friends was fun during college as well. Then I completely stopped and never understood the Adult Indian’s obsession with it. But the fact is, it was airing the other day on TV and I sat through two back to back episodes, having fun.
    I didnt repeat the event but wont mind if it gets repeated.
    I have grown back into liking Friends. Wont be surprised about Seinfield.

    PS – watch some better Hindi movies! 😛

  2. Interesting. All my friends are Friends fanatics. Which is, a lot of friends. I’m not, though. I am more “Big Bang Theory” and “24”. Maybe you got the wrong age group? 😉 (Uncle/Aunty lol)

  3. People of young generation who’ve spent time in college when computer ownership was not looked in awe (in short, who’ve been students after ~1995) are very much familiar with FRIENDS and those who like it almost always love it. I am myself big FRIENDS fanatic.

    By the way, you’ve got amazing blog here. Have been following it for over a year now.

  4. Completely agree with you on the NYC starter apt thing. I’ve always thought that was the most unrealistic part of the series- with those wide windows and the view, that apt must rent for several thousand dollars. The only thing that makes it somewhat believable is that it’s supposed to be Monica’s grandmom’s rent-controlled apt. (but even then..) There is, however, that episode where Rachel goes apt-hunting and finds only a depressingly small studio within her budget – much more realistic.

    As you can see, I’m a fellow Friends fanatic, but one who doesn’t even have your excuse 🙂

  5. Yikes! Who have you been speaking to? Everyone LOVES that show (Friends, not Seinfeld, I never got around to watching that one regularly.) Maybe you were talking to, err, a slightly mature audience 😛

    I always wondered what it’d be like to live in NYC after watching that show, but after having shifted to America, I know that if I ever got to NYC, it’s going to be nothing like what’s on Friends. Oh yeah.

  6. Totally understand! I lived in Vietnam for a year and was addicted to American Idol…just because it was in English.
    Were any of the episodes censored? I remember watching Pretty Woman once in Delhi and they censored the using a condom…crazy.

  7. the reason why you dont hear much abt friends is because it’s been beaten to death by all channels. It’s been airing on these english channels not only repeatedly but also since many years to boot!

    there’s hardly any episode ppl havent seen.. but yes, one occasionally catches the odd episode here & there if there’s nothing else to watch. Some are still funny even if u’ve seen them enuff already.

    Also, Seinfeld has some great unadulterated clean humour & wit.. those who have short attention spans wont get it 🙂

  8. Not just heard of Friends, been there, done that!
    I and my husband moved to the UK from India 1.5 years ago. The only thing that kept us connected to our roots(India not NY) was the regular airing of Friends here. We found nothing else worthy of our attention on the British television, besides the occasional BBC documentaries. To this date, I any engagements between 8 and 9PM weekdays.

  9. Yes! the Sienfeld show… oh i forgot to mention over the FB … wait 🙂 let me post it back over there too… 🙂 CHEERS DAVE … good post.

  10. Ahhh… Friends. They tried to get us hooked on King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond this year, but Zee TV & Star World will never be able to replace Friends for me!

  11. About the labored plots in Hindi movies that ensure the story just about plods along, i think i got the answer – in an episode of Friends (of all the places!!)

    Rachel is pregnant with Ross’s child. he is taking care of her, does everything for her, takes her to the hospital, stays with her till the time of delivery. everyone asks him why he won’t marry her since both of them are so obviously in love and all of that. but he won’t give a definite answer. he keeps stalling, saying he doesn’t want to rush into it. and then joey accidentally drops Ross’s engagement ring (which Ross had brought for Rachel but won’t give it to her!!!) and when he is picking it up, Rachel thinks he is proposing to her which in fact he is not. and Rachel starts believing that she is now engaged to Joey which she is not! But does anyone of them clear the confusion straightway? NO!! It takes a full 30 minutes before things are cleared.

    but why would they do something like that – drag on the confusion needlessly? they as in the scriptwriters and the producers. I think its
    about spinning a yarn, filling up the screen time (in a very interesting manner, i must say – for all their dragging and stalling, i really enjoyed their antics!) and making some money along the way.

    that’s why they don’t tell maaji that they are not married!!

  12. Seinfeld is an acquired taste – but has many followers in Delhi too. Friends is an all-time favourite with the young crowd – who have you people been talking too. Personal opinion: Seinfeld = Best Show Ever.

  13. OK, the consensus is that we blew this one: Friends is far more popular than we realized (how did we miss that???), and I can find no rebuttal for Anurag’s argument except a weak one of taste. You win this round, Internet.

  14. Hey discovered your website through some links and it is an interesting website. Its interesting to know what expats think about India..Friends has been done to death by the TV channels here and is insanely popular with most of the people. But I have always beeen a HUGE Seinfeld fan and I do not think it is “New York Thing”..The show is just hilarious..

  15. wow.. friends has been airing on Indian channels since I was in 6th grade! and we wouldn’t understand then but since 1998 everyone I know is a friends fanatic! In fact in college everyone shared friends over DC++ and everyone had all seasons of friends. Me included 🙂 (Just info: I am a creative commons believer not a copyright believer, except books of course! sorry im a lil complicated :P)

    I too watched friends ALL day on Sundays and ensured that my parents got hooked which in turn ensured that sundays were always spent at home 🙂 .. and how can you NOT be addicted to friends?? They’re hilarious! A friend of mine goes to the extent of quoting friends every now and then. Like “the raccoon” as a form of excuse .. if you know what I’m talking about!

    Even though friends is an all time favorite! (can watch the re-runs over and over again and laugh every time, we have progressed to worshipping Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. And, even though I got most of the Seinfeld jokes never found it .. funny .. 😦

  16. I think anyone with a sense of humor would love friends, no matter which culture you hail from…

    I always had my friends talk about it..but laid my hands on it only this May.. I got all the 10 seasons transferred on my hard drive from my friend.. and finished them in a fortnight. It was so good.. I spent most of my free time watching it incessantly…

    I like other sitcoms as well (am waiting eagerly for the 5th season of BBT), but FRIENDS will be remain FRIENDS and there wouldn’t be any show as funny as that…

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