Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

Stealing Cable, the archaic ways

There are very few things which I can claim to have mastered through experience and rightful application of intellect. Ability to fly Kites tops the list but stealing cable is a specialty.

Back in the late 1980s someone with a VCR and a color TV got tired of charging people for watching films in his establishment. The business model was too ineffective. There had to be a better way. The way was cable. A single cable fixed to the VCR was laid out, branched, which basically meant cut up at places and joined back by faithful plastic tapes, cables tied to electric poles and to telephone pole, where available, stretched across the rooftops, over atop the window panes, and into the television sets of the subscribers. The backbone of cable business had been laid. It's humble origin. The model was flexible. For a monthly fee, watch what you want. In fact it was so flexible that Sharma Ji could pass a few bucks and the VHS of his wedding to the cablewalla and for Prime Time Show your could enjoy Manohar Lal Sharma weds Pinky Verma. Over the next couple of weeks, after a few re-runs everyone in the network could tell Sharma ji's Mamaji from Sharma Ji's Phupha Ji. Slowly the subscribers also got the hang of the business. Pappu would pass a few bucks and a VHS to the cablewalla and late at night you could get exposed to the 31 Nights of Pamela (for reference and context you would have to watch one of the last episodes of Rajni in which she saves young kids from Cable Exposure ). Over all, Cable was just too good. It got more organized. Bollywoodwalla's sensed the death bell ringing. They started sending out subtle yet strong messages, the most loved angry old man sang, 'TV video bandh karo!'. It was no use.

As piracy fueled cable revolution picked up steam, so did a new technological field. If people in India were not (and are not) afraid of stealing electricity form high power cables, they were certainly not going to be afraid of throwing hooks on the simple cable wire. But unlike stealing from electricity wire, cable theft required certain level of expertise in certain fields.Of course there were some crude methods, but some people had developed the techniques to the level of art.  Now that the Era of cable is over (at least in most parts of the country) I can safely share these techniques.The techniques are listed in the order of beauty. And the last technique one was discovered by me late one night in the early 1990s.

1. Tango Antenna Charlie.
The method is simple and finds its origin in the reception problems of Doordarshan. One person rotates the terrestrial antenna in all the direction while the other person sits in front of the TV skipping and tuning channels. The person of rooftop rotates the antenna until he comes across a signal area in which the signal loss from cables is maximum. On catching the signal from such an area the person in front of the TV will see grainy images and white noise of what could be called cable ka signal. Confirm by looking for any sort of nasty logos at the top right or top left of the screen. Signal your partner to stop rotating the antenna by screaming, 'AAGAYA!'. Now the long process of fine tuning the signal starts.

Pros: Cablewalla can't come over to your place and beat you up for stealing his signal from the air.

Cons: Need two persons. The further the vortex of Cables, the worse the signal.And on top of that the vortex keeps changing. Or maybe the antenna keeps changing direction.

2.Cut and Paste Job.
Simple enough. Just cut the Cable wire using a blade. Add your wire to the network. Seal it with tape and you are done. Application of this method frequently creates the vortex need for method 1. One more thing, instead of cutting at a fresh location, it's always advisable to find an already cut-up spot. In case you get caught, you can expect some leniency, like the cablewalla won't hit you in the face. Your self-esteem won't be badly damaged and you can still dream to make it to Bollywood one day.

Pros: Great reception. It's almost cable if you use the right wires. You only need to be good with blades.

Cons: Most easily detectable. Gives instant indigestion to cablewallas. And with everyone cutting in, overtime, the quality of signal degrades.

3. Needle work.
This one takes the 'cut-paste job' to the next level. Here instead of cutting the cable, you surgically insert paper pins into the cable. Insert one pin just enough to reach the inner co-axial copper core and insert the other pic to just puncture the outer copper layer You need just two pins for doing this job perfectly, but even one will suffice. Fix normal antenna wire to the other ends of the pins and feed the signal to your television

Pros: Leaves no easily detectable signs of theft. Signal as good as 'Cut-Paste Job'.

Cons: Maintenance. To avoid detection, you need to frequently insert and take out the needle. 

4 The Speaker
No matter how good the reception, the problem with last two methods is that you have to actually go out and touch the cable. You can leaves fingerprints or worse with blades and needles around you can leave your blood sample. The first method is best but the problem with that one is that the ability to capture signal is a function of distance. What we need is a signal amplifier. So break your father old radio and take out its speaker. The speaker should not be damaged in any way. Fix antenna wire to the speaker. And you have assembled yourself a mini-yet-powerful cable signal grabber. From the window, holding on to the attached wire, slow drop the speaker to the window of the 'cable' family living below your apartment. Turn on you TV and enjoy free cable.

Pros: It has everything going for it. Clarity of signal. Discreetness. Ingenuity. It's perfect.
Cons: If you get too greedy and swing the speaker too much, it is likely to end up on the dinner table of your friendly and unsuspecting neighbors. Not a catastrophe, but how often can you handle the situation by claiming it's all for a school project. And how many radios can a person destroy in one life.



  1. yeh reminded of the old days, i didnt knew the speaker wala trick thou

  2. It is a fluke discovery much like Edison's search for the right filament.

  3. Rajni :-) that show used to be on before Mogli on Sunday evenings on DD2. The only episode that stuck in my memory is the one you mention - where she leads a crusade against the corrupt cablewallahs.

  4. That's was indeed a memorable episode. The scenario was that a young boy and a girl, neighbours, were doing late night studies together. Getting bored, wanting a break, the boy switches on the TV, surfs and comes across the infamous cable Blues. Suddenly his (or maybe theirs) 'andar ka shaitan' wakes up and all hell breaks loose in Rajni's platonic neighbourhood. Rajni then gives an earful to the cablewalla, which naturally brings back the order to her republic.

  5. Good stuff... I'm not ashamed to admit I too did a lot of Cable stealing as school projects as well :) but the Speaker trick is too good. Hadn't known about that one. It is just so elegant.

    Do you get a clear enough signal through this method?

  6. Crystal clear. No other method offers a better signal.

  7. and in some models of black and white TVs, like bush TV etc. you could get an excellent reception without messing with the cable wire if any cable wire passed through that area ! You would not need to manipulate with the cable wire. It was just like wireless ! and this was possible only in some models of black and white, and not in the color ones ! So, many people who could not afford the cable (or did not want to pay )used to keep the black and white TV in working condition in spite
    of having a color TV just to watch
    "free cable" !


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