Channel No. 201


I am a punctual man. I reach my office when I am supposed to and leave my desk when it’s appropriate to. I have a wonderful team to work with and have also managed to make some good friends – few Indian-Indians, few American-Indians and then few New-Yorkers too. They are nice people, though they can be judgmental at times. But if I do not bring up topics of contention, they are usually nice and supportive.

They appreciate my subtle smile, my calm mannerism, my work and most importantly me. The only point of complaint – they think I am a bit too reserved and talk way too less.

But then they don’t have to live two parallel lives.

I have to.

I did my engineering from IIT, Delhi. And, then got my management degree from IIM, Ahmedabad. I was never an extrovert or a talkative lot. Straight out of Ahmedabad, I got an offer from a wall street giant and moved to New York.

It has been five years since. I live quite close by to my office. My boss often asks me to find something cheaper in Jersey City or around. But he hasn’t succeeded yet, in persuading me.

No doubt he is right. I spend almost half of my salary on accommodation, but that’s worth each and every penny.

I am a man of small needs. I live in a small studio apartment, I need just basic stuff when it comes to grocery and have a reasonably sized TV for watching my SIT-COM(s).

Well everybody loves their SIT-COM (S), but I live them.

They are my Life, my Second Life.

Do not get me wrong. I am not someone who stays hooked to his TV. I just watch, rather follow one (in particular) – ‘The Malibu Bachelors’.

It was the start of the 10th season of ‘The Malibu Bachelors’ when I came to states. And, since then I have been hooked on to it.

They are unbeatable and unmatchable. The cast, the sets, that beautiful beach house, that unbridled lifestyle and the twists & turns of the plot.

I reach my home by 6:30 or so and get into my pajamas and have my dinner by 7:30 or so. I then have a chilled beverage and browse through news channels till it is 7:59 p.m.

Then at sharp 8:00, I tune into Channel No. 201. Then for half an hour straight, I have my own universe to live an altogether life. No one interrupts me. When Mike, Harry and Raj laugh, so do I. When they are in distress, then so am I.

By the way, Raj is the latest addition to the show. He was not there until the 12th season. There was no mention of his, till then. He is an Indian-American. His backstory – He used to live two houses away from Mike and Harry and often used to visit them. Until his fortune turned south and he defaulted on his mortgage payments for months together. His house got repossessed. He was all depressed and sick. And, that is when Mike and Harry (both the brothers) took him in. Their friendship took off and now Raj has gelled in well into the show’s story and plot.

He has been on the show for two plus years now, and the show is still going strong.

I think deep down somewhere Raj not only shares his name with me but also walks and talks like me. And, heck on some days he even looks like me too. Maybe they are portraying a stereotype and being in states for five years, I too have become one.

So in today’s episode, Raj is relaxing on the house’s deck when Mike calls him. Karen has just dumped Mike, and Mike is quite upset about it. For past two episodes, Harry is on a trip to Vegas with his friends. So he is not around.

Raj knew that Karen meant a lot to Mike, and it must be hard on him. He sounded pretty perturbed too. Next week, Mike was even supposed to buy a ring for her. But she had some other plans.

Raj is quite concerned and calls Mike back. Its almost evening and he wants him to meet him at their local bar. This may keep his mind off Karen for a while.

So, Raj pulls his car out of the garage and is driving down to their local bar. He is driving down the street when he sees their neighbor Melisa standing beside her car. She has a flat. He stops by and asks if she needs any help. Melisa says that she has an old group of friends to catch up with and was to drive down to the bar when she found her car’s got a flat tire.

He offers her ride, and yes he has to – they both were going to the same bar. Raj always had a liking for Melisa but never got a chance to talk to her.

Today she was looking lovely and Raj could (finally) strike a conversation. They both are now talking, laughing and sharing some good time.

They reach the bar. Neither Mike nor Melisa’s friends are there yet.

They grab a booth and talk a little more. Ten minutes into the conversation, Raj gets up to get her a drink. The tending counter was at the other end of the bar.

He goes there and it was crowded. After some ten-fifteen good minutes, he finally gets what he ordered for.

As he turns, he sees someone sitting alongside Melisa. It was Mike.

They were having a good laugh and it seemed that they were hitting it off to.

Raj gulps down both the drink and leaves the bar.

If this is what he was supposed to do for his friend, so be it. Let Mike talk to Melisa, probably that would help him get Karen out of his mind.

Later, Mike comes home and tells Raj, how he got a date with Melisa. She was fun to talk to, he said.

Then Mike also gets a little mad at Raj for not making it to the bar. But also agreed that had Raj showed up, his chance date wouldn’t have happened.

Melisa probably didn’t know that they two lived in same house.

It was quite a touching episode. Now I think, if had I been in place of Raj what would have I done – probably the same. The person who took Raj in, when he had nowhere to go, at least deserved this much from Raj.

Now, I think I probably have a deeper connection with ‘The Malibu Bachelors’. I don’t just watch it for the sake of it. I think about it a lot too. Sometimes it does get weird. For one, I see a reflection of me in Raj. And also, sometimes I feel so indulged that I think I am that Raj inside that TV box and on top of it I can see myself (from inside the TV) sitting on that couch too.

Maybe it’s weird or maybe just a little Out-of-body experience. Who knows?

I think about it a lot, maybe because I do not get anybody to talk about the show.

I usually keep an inner world of mine. And, let a very few people into it. Reason – If you grow proximate to them, they grow judgmental.

It was season’s finale for the 14th season of the show. I tried discussing the finale with Venkat. A nice guy, but again he grew judgmental pretty soon.

He said that I am being a moron and a lunatic. That ‘The Malibu Bachelors’ had only twelve seasons and the show ended when the guy who played Mike fought with the whole crew and also picked up some serious fight with the director.

He says all the star cast has moved on, and so should I. There is no thirteenth or fourteenth season. The show’s Mike got some big Hollywood movie role; the person who played Harry now has a talk Show with a big cable network.

He even denies that there is any Raj on the show.

‘A person who is your namesake and also looks like you is on the show? And that too, on the show which was never produced. What are you smoking these days?’ he says.

I even asked him to tune into Channel No. 201 that night at eight. He says there is nothing on that channel ever. I mean come on, is it my problem if his cable is broken? What does he mean there is no Channel No. 201.

There is a Channel No. 201, just that he does not tune in the way I do.


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