Twenty men crowded against a grilled showroom window, peering inside as if they were seeing magic. In many ways they were, for television had just come to Bangalore, India's fifth largest city, and the men were watching an out-of-town cricket match on a set inside an appliance store.
As a new phenomenon here, television appears to be changing the lives of the 3 million residents in this city -- the fastest-growing in India and the seat of most of this country's embryonic space, electronics and defense industries.
It is the city in which most of the television tubes used in Indian sets are made, which makes the medium's late arrival here all the more surprising.
"Television is dominating the coffee-house discussions, party conversations and family dining tables these days," wrote the weekly paper City Tab shortly after the Nov. 1 introduction of TV here. "Bangalore can never hope to be the same again."
Yet the city gets only 14 1/2 hours of TV a week, beamed from either Bombay or Madras in languages that are not native to this section of the country.
The Post and Telegraph Department reports that it has issued only 6,215 licenses for TV sets here. Dealers report selling far more. Estimates vary from 10,000 to 40,000, indicating most owners are not bothering to buy the required licenses.
Each set, however, is watched by dozens of people. The Bangalore Press Club, for instance, has found a new popularity since it bought a set for its members.
As in the early days of U.S. television in the late 1940s, any family that owns a set is besieged with dozens of new friends and suddenly close relatives.
"When you have a television set in your home, the entire neighborhood becomes very social and friendly and decides to visit just when there is a good program coming on," wrote Beenu Sethi in the City Tab.
"So while you make tea and polite conversation with your guests, they watch Amitabh and Rekha leading film stars cavorting on the screen. And their baby messes up the carpet, the daughter makes free use of the phone, and when they finally leave you are left with the prospect of a spoiled evening and soiled dishes."
Those whose caste or class is too low to seek an invitation peek in doors and windows to catch a glimpse of a program. Common in India, these uninvited viewers have a name: watchie wallahs.
For all its claims of being a modern state, India has been slow in spreading television. Although the first broadcast was in 1959, less than 20 percent of the 680 million people are now able watch television.
All programs are broadcast in black and white, but Information Minister Vasant Sathe would like to convert to color. He told Parliament the decision is now before the Cabinet.
This move is seen by many in New Delhi as a waste of scarce resources for no other reason than to keep up with other countries in the region at a time when the funds could better be spent on spreading television throughout India.
Sathe acknowledged recently that up to 10 percent of the population has no access to radio, television or newspapers.
Television came to New Delhi in 1959 but 13 years passed before it came to another part of the country -- Bombay, India's second-largest city and its commercial capital.
International political considerations dictated the next two sites, Srinagar and Amritsar, which are close to the border of Pakistan and whose residents were able to see programs from that neighboring nation.
Pakistani television, which is in color and relies heavily on reruns from American TV, is still popular there. The Indian Express reported this month that 98 percent of the residents of Srinagar, in the Kashmir valley, watch Pakistani television, "whose programs are more interesting, livelier and technically superior" to Indian shows.
"A media expert told me," the Express correspondent continued, "that Pakistan TV is 10 years ahead of us in all respects."
The television rivalry on the Indo-Pakistan border may be an example of "the grass always greener on the other side."
Pakistanis on the border adjust their antennas to receive India's popular Hindi films, which are banned in their country. Indians enjoy the American-made Chips and Mary Tyler Moore shows shown nightly on Pakistani TV. Lahore television recently showed three Hollywood movies, which the Indian Express writer said were extremely popular in India.
The spread of TV came later to Calcutta and Madras, which are the other major metropolitan areas, and, two years ago, to Jullundur. Bangalore now has a microwave relay receiver, but will get its own center within three years so it can broadcast programs in its own language, Kannada.
There still is no real network,although six cities were linked via the French-launched Apple satellite in August to hear a speech by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Now microwave relays are being used to link all the cities in west India for sports events, and by next September Calcutta on the east will be included in the network. But a real network will not come until two American-made communications satellites are launched to beam programs to ground stations.
"In the next few years we will try to enlarge the television map of the country," said Shailendra Shanker, director general of Indian TV. He said new sites are picked on the basis of regional needs. "You can't just ignore certain parts of the country," he said.
But K.N. Hari Kumar, editor of the Deccan Herald here, blamed the late arrival of television in Bangalore on a prejudice against southern India in New Delhi. "It's quite outrageous that Bangalore should get TV so late," he said.
The idea that politics plays a part in the selection of cities was strengthened by Information Minister Sathe at the opening of the Bangalore relay center.
"The people of Karnataka the state of which Bangalore is the capital standing by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi through thick and thin was the main impelling factor for Bangalore getting a relay station so soon," he said.
Even the full production centers, though, viewers do not get much to watch. In Delhi, programs are broadcast 6 to 12 hours a day, with two of those in the morning aimed at schoolchildren.
Programming features a heavy dose of what in the United States would be considered non-prime-time public service to fulfill what the Indian government considers the prime mission of television: education.
"We want to open up the windows of peoples' minds," said Shanker. "We want to make them aware of the world around them and inculcate through television programs a scientific temper so they start looking at the problems they face and the country faces with today's attitudes."
But the most popular programs are a Wednesday night show called Chitra Haar, which features song-and-dance clips from Hindi movies, and feature films on Sunday.
These days, many watch the cricket matches with England that for the first time are being shown on all of India's outlets.
A television set was even installed in the Great Hall of Parliament, so members could take time off from the debate to watch the matches. One member complained that people would get the wrong idea of how legislators spend their time, but Speaker Balram Jakhar said he was taking the matter too seriously.