Doordarshan may have lost its magic along the way but no amount of time spent on Netflix or Hotstar can replace the nostalgia for Buniyaad, Udaan, The Jungle Book, Fauji and, of course, Mahabharat and Ramayana.
Edged in grainy black and white and blurry colours with a rough-cut feel, they were the wonder years of television when content was king -- and queen -- with themes ranging from societal divisions and gender struggles to office intrigue and stories from history and literature.
As Doordarshan turned 60 this month, it was time to unspool memories of an era gone by when television took on the challenge of making audiences introspect, laugh out loud and get informed, without FX, zoom-in, zoom-outs and other stratagems that come with technology.
"Doordarshan had its heart in the right place," said veteran actor Farida Jalal, who starred in Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, a fun show about a madcap family. That was when there was just one channel, black and white till the early 1980s when colour television first made its advent, and entire families gathered around the screen to watch a televised stage play, a film every Sunday evening and catch up on their favourite serials, rationed at one episode a week.
The government-run channel may have lost its magic along the way but no amount of time spent on Netflix or Hotstar can replace the nostalgia for Buniyaad, a lavish Partition saga, Udaan, about a young woman's struggle to become a police officer, The Jungle Book, an animated Hindi version of the Rudyard Kipling classic, Fauji, which saw Shah Rukh Khan make his debut, and, of course, Mahabharat and Ramayana.
There was also Bhisham Sahni's Tamas, adapted for television by Govind Nihalani, R K Narayan's Malgudi Days that brought to life the small fictional town of Malgudi, and Bharat Ek Khoj, Shyam Benegal's 53-episode show based on Jawaharlal Nehru's The Discovery of India.
People timed their work according to show schedules, children were encouraged to complete their homework with a bribe of watching their favourite show, and at a time when not every home had a television, neighbours made sure to keep their doors open.