Saturday, January 24, 2009

Retro roadtrip

Long time, i know.

So, tell me, have you ever found yourself stuck in an elevator between floors labelled ‘their times’ and ‘our times’? Let me give you a hint. It happens when people begin sentences like “In our days….”, and you end by saying “But that is so retro!”, or whatever is the expression these days. As I inch towards the real grown-up-hood, I am horrified to find myself in unfamiliar terrain. A year ago, I had gone back to my school for our half century of existence. While visiting my old dorm, I discovered that it had become a holding house for the new kids. So, when I said hello to one of them sitting on the bed that used to be mine, she asked me what batch I was from. 1993, I replied. "Oh (she giggled) Ma'am, I wasn't even born then!" Uh, oh....

Suddenly, terrifyingly, after years of making fun of someone else's purana zamana I am smack dab in the middle of a triangle: two sets of yesteryears (shockingly, one of them is my own!) and the here and now. And for the first time I realise that “their” world couldn’t have been so bad. Because mine rocked!

The other day, while watching the promos of Chandni Chowk to China (shudder! shudder!!) where Deepika Padukone in her Chinese avatar as Miss Meow or something goes flying over the heads of a few dozen extras, I felt I could relate with some of my parents’ nostalgia for the good ol' days. In an age where most action movies are shot in the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style, with action sequences involving invisible suspensions, I must confess that sometimes I miss the sound of the loud dhishoom dhishoom of Bollywood, which often came a few seconds before the punch or a wee bit after, and is now hopelessly lost in the glamour of gaudy gizmos and surreal special effects.

Well, thanks to dear old Doordarshan, my earliest memories are pretty much a jumble of bi-weekly Chitrahaar (kind of like half an hour of Channel [V] Zabardast Hits of today but only twice in a week and with no repeats); the original Mahabharata in which an arrow took an entire episode to reach its target; ad breaks that were actually more fun than the actual programme (really!), the melancholic DD tune instead of the dhinchak ....

This was what we called "popular entertainment" (though I wouldn't go so far as to count krishi darshan, which is when my educator-turned-son-of-the-soil grandpa hogged the TV!), till Atari video games came along and I lost my measly popularity due to extremely poor hand-eye coordination. Unable to make a snivelling chicken cross the road in one of the popular versions, I quickly becoming semi-famous as the ‘chicken killer’, baptised thus by mean neighbourhood car crashing champions. But then what seemed to me a most violent game in “those days” now seems almost like the Gandhian avatar of some of the more bloodthirsty digital games that are popular “these days”.

Here’s the thing. The familiar images have been switched and there’s change all around me, and I am terrified of losing the old impressions. Microwave cake-mixes are in, but I miss the messy, tedious and infinitely long process of baking one in the oven, along with my super baker sister (who has grown up to shun all culinary activities!) and tasting it all the way from the raw, eggy muddle till the gooey mid-bake version.

In fact, I can't fathom some recent phenomena. So, while reading about Barack Obama’s aversion to low-slung jeans, I wasn't not too sure whether to rejoice that I have something in common with the groovy US President, or feel sad for the poor dad who’s heading for a somewhere-in-the-future couture clash with his young daughters!

But I guess as far as fashion is concerned, “their” times continue to visit “ours”, what with wedge heels, tight churidaars and big shades flitting in and out of fashion. Pictures of my mother in bell-bottoms, and dark glasses larger than the flare in her pants, come to mind and then so does another thought. How, when I was growing up and arguing with the parents about dating and such like, I would try and imagine them on one. Yes, they did date in those days, but I guess it’s kind of difficult to imagine people who were once iffy about your dates going out on one of their own.

So, in my mind, it went something like this: it would begin with a Coca Cola (now better known as Coke) worth a few annas (which came in quaintly shaped baby bottles and not shiny little "my" cans), and zip around town on fuel worth… hold your breath… a single digit. This was followed by a movie in the “balcony”, or the “upper stall” if tickets were tight, and a quick lunch (dinner was perhaps off-limits), and probably rounded off with a hand-in-hand stroll in Lodi Gardens or any other not-in-the-neighbourhood green patch.

Now you may wonder why I would foist such a dull outing upon my parents. But that’s just it! All that surrounds us tints our reality, making it difficult to imagine another world, a world that can only exist on celluloid or in the fading images of a past we insist was just a teensy bit colourless than our own. So when young nieces and nephews ask me about growing up, they are often left stunned. What??!! No cable TV? No Internet? No emails? No malls? No PSP? No CCD or Barista? You’ve got to be kidding me! No mobiles either???!!!! And I say that some of this was a bonus really: no mobiles, plus landlines that seldom worked in the homes of a select few - not anyone I wanted to know - where we could be found by the hounds....So what exactly did you guys do those days?

Uhh... ummm.... we got along... well, kinda ;)

PS: How else do you think I have those great stories for the grandkids?!

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