People in soap operas are hard of hearing. Don't blame them. All the jarring background music must do that to them. Therefore, everything of vital importance has to be said or asked thrice, along with the customary tossing of the head. Remember the famous Nahin! Nahin! nahin!

The actors have to be well-dressed and fully made-up at all times. Every morning, when regular people such as us, wake up with messy hair and groggy eyes, these people must wake up with perfectly blow-dried hair and eye make-up, coloured lenses and lipstick intact. Saris and bindis must be glued to their bodies in order to avoid creases and displacement. Good people are always incapable of being subtle. They always have to think aloud no matter how confidential something is. And their nemeses (mostly the mothers-in-law) are always around to eavesdrop.

The story line cannot be simple, happy and sweet. It has to be convoluted and scandalous. A a man/woman, at any given time, has to have two spouses and a daughter/son whom he/she has no clue about. And, the series has to run for long. So, by the time you and I get married, have kids and grandchildren who are married and expecting their children, the protagonist (who's got a face lift for the nth time) is still mulling over his/her wedding. (Oh, and if viewers want to be part of the celebrations, all they have to do is SMS their names followed by name of the serial — for instance, KKSNBSPK (“Kya Kabhi Saas Ne Bahu Se Pyaar Kiya?”)

Makers of such programmes are great believers in the reincarnation theory. Hence, people who die in one episode must resurface many episodes later, still looking the same. The purpose of this ‘twist in the plot' is to add to the existing confusion and extend the slow-paced serial by a few more months. Stereotypes are a must. For example, all NRIs visiting India have to cover their noses as soon as they land here, be on a diet, refuse to drink anything but mineral water and talk with an accent even if they've been abroad for just seven months. Most importantly, they must fall for a simple, desi girl or boy .

Murphy's Law has a big role to play. Ensure the protagonist never gets to be with the one he/she is in love with. And even if he/she does, it's only a matter of time before earthquakes, accidents, evil spirits and illnesses part them for the next five years. After which, they do get back together, but only to go their own ways again. And, as long as this continues, so does your soap opera.