Leisure Time in India used to be so simple. Pick up a good book to read, or put the radio on and tune in to Vividh Bharati, Radio Ceylon or BBC, or watch Doordarshan, the only option available on television (remember Magic Lamp, Kilbil, Santakukdi, Chhaya Geet). In just half a generation, life’s leisure activities have changed so much. There are so many more options competing for ever shortening free time. A mix of digital technology combined with distribution via the Internet and delivery to the computer (or a gaming console) promises even more change in the coming years.
Leisure has always been an integral part of our life. (Remember: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.) What has changed in the past 10-20 years as we have grown up (the author is 35 years old so that helps set context), the notion of leisure-time and what we can do with it has changed dramatically.
Leisure and entertainment today is complicated. The choice of available books has gone up dramatically (thanks to online bookstores and courier services). Radio has gone from shortwave to FM to Satellite, offering amazing quality and options. TV offers over 50 channels of round-the-clock programming. For a cricket-crazy nation, this has meant live coverage of every international match played anywhere in the world. Perhaps the biggest breakthrough in television
has come with the increasing live coverage of many global events on both CNN and BBC: news packaged as entertainment.
The computer has also become a gaming platform. Then, there are the gaming consoles which now hope to become hubs for digital entertainment in the living room. New multiplexes coming up are making movie-going a much more elaborate experience. VCDs and DVDs are creating home theatres. Better roads, fancier cars, 5-day work weeks and increasing salaries are enticing more people outdoors for weekend getaways. Cellphones double as time-killers with inbuilt games and the ability to SMS family and friends at all times. Above all, the Internet has opened up vistas of information and entertainment seemingly unimaginable even a decade ago.
Better communications and more devices have ensured that work follows us wherever we go. So, take a few days off, and face the prospect of coming back to hundreds of emails and voice mails. Also, attention span has become a lot shorter and activities more multiplexed. When was the last time we spent a lazy (!) Sunday afternoon doing just one thing?