March 3, 2022
A recent video post of the folks born in the golden era 1970’s through the 1990’s stirred me up and got me jogging my memory bank and all excited. The adrenalin pumping and taking a roller coaster ride through the decades. This got me reminiscing over the four decades. Slowly but surely the golden glorious era dipping yonder into the horizon just like the setting sun with its glow giving way to the era of the late 90’s which ushered in the electronic age that was hitting fever pitch in the close of 2000’s.
Businesses taking on a new life, new business cropping up like mushrooms to prepare the I.T. World for the crash of legacy application systems built way back in the 70’s. A majority of them still mercifully hangs in there for dear life to get past the 2000’s mark.
Let me get back before I go off galloping into the sunset with the electronic age. Let me get you back to where I intended to start without much ado. Back to the glorious late 70’s that’s where the majority of our generation found themselves. The title culled from the Christmas story we learnt in school of Mr.Scrooge – the Ghost of Christmas Past, so that settles the title.
School days were a magical world in itself. Walking to school all tightly wrapped up in the steel grey raincoats that strained at the paunch. Not so much because we had big bellies at that age, but the khaki school bag loaded with school books straining the raincoat at the belly buttons threatened to split. The D’uck back gumboots blissfully gave out its stench from the environs inside. The damp weather refusing to dry them boots.
The walk to school trudging through the puddles doing the splash along the way, we finally got into our seats. We hurriedly got into our benches, just in time to catch the Principal singing the National Anthem. The School Prayer over the intercom. We settled down into our seats, wiping off the damp books from the splashing around in the monsoons on the way to school. Each loud shrill of the jarring bell that marked a period only brought us closer to reality that would unfurl after school hours.
Our presence in the class was only physical, though we took a virtual tour of the outdoors, beckoned by the magical monsoons that had so much to offer. The last jarring sound of the bell that was set off by the mali and the one minute closing prayer again over the intercom seemed like an age.
Rushing out but in a line, down the stairs and to the iron gates of the school, the Pandora’s box was open with all them vendors across the gates selling their wares kacchi kairi laced with red colour, bimbli, aam ki roti, boras, black karvandas, as the vendors vied for their share of sale.
From our meagre collections of the silver coloured 5, 10, 20 paisa coins but coins could buy you stuff in those days and still get back home with loose change to spare for the next day. Walking back home was fun targeting the bora seeds on friends. Doing the umbrella twirl to get someone wet with the spiral spray, wiping our stained lips from the kairi laced in red with the sleeves of our uniform shirt, unaware that the telltale signs would bring down fire and brimstone when we reach home.
Washing uniforms in the rains was only twice a week, so there were constraints with just a pair to see us through the whole week. But we managed – management skills we learnt early on in life though it was never taught in schools. (Shhhhh- the secret – Our parents used the Rod – or a cane just to be diplomatic – was easily available at general stores for a rupee or two. Ahh so much for that management gab.
Reaching home for a quick lunch, the school bag thrown in a corner, lunch with the damp uniform still on our backs, it was time to rush out again to get drenched in the rain that lashed the city, only to sneak back home while the folks were still having their noon siesta, for tea and biscuits and if the mood was good, mom would conjure up some bhajias.
The next hour or so spent catching up with homework then scampering over to the neighbour’s house for recovering notes not taken down from the black board, as we were kept out of class for launching paper rockets during class. We learnt about aerodynamics though not part of the syllabus. Alternatively if the teacher had other techniques of getting us back from the dream world, it would be dusters whizzing past with its trail of chalk powder if it landed on target. A bump on the head would result in impromptu communication skills to deliver an explanation at home.
Evenings opened up even more opportunities for making the best of the season, games were low tech and mostly DIY – We learnt how to make balls from old torn socks using a wooden peg for the inner filling and then the game was modified to suit the ball – One tappa out – under arm cricket with a smaller pitch and a pillar to represent the wickets. For the unfortunate few who did not have a playground but a tar road a made to order wooden block with three cone shaped holes to secure the wickets in place.
Necessity is the mother of invention – Games were modified at will to suit the equipment at hand. Hiring a cycle for a rupee an hour was cool in those days – though rickety and rusted us got value for the buck. If you rented it for the night it was Rs.5/- as the cycle guy would not have to bother about keeping it with him all night and safe in our hands. We did not have a hand pump but went down to the cycle shop to fill the footballs with air for free.
Cricket matches were organised with the neighbouring building or other societies, with the prise money at Rs.16/- for the winning team and the famous pink rubber ball. Then finally whether we lost or won, would make a beeline to the Cold drinks shop for Kashmir soda in huge glasses to accommodate all the fizz. We shared two guys to a glass –and no hiccups. From these we learnt event management and team building skills without even a hint of such things in our syllabus.
Years were flying at breakneck speed, moustaches slowly lining the space below our nostrils. We were getting ready for the big day. The anticipation of awaiting the SSC Board examination results had its own high. Scanning the newspapers for the date of the results, finally jostling over the crowd to get a peek at the list stuck on the display black board. Some would emerge from the crowd with jubilation on their faces and a few slinking away from the crowd to avoid the embarrassment.
Sitting and discussing career options with the buddies who were themselves lost at sea. Then scampering to different colleges with multiple forms filled in just to be on the safe side. With shoestring budgets travelling by second class locals jam packed offered its own set of joys.
We caught the same local so that we could tune in to the free music service streaming live from the Sarvajanik teams coming all the way from Ambernath or even further. Complete with little musical instruments and their very own singer. They occupied the prized window seats offering local folk songs to the jankar beat and throwing in some bhajans for good measure. This offered some respite to the journey while in the background the local thieves relieving you of your wallet and leaving you to survive on the much sought after vegetable sandwich for the rest of the week.
For those hangouts trying to catch the train while still on the run and getting the prized position of the corner of the door, and enjoy the outdoors though dangerous but it had a charm of its own. The joy of travelling would override the rest of the pain. We were happy.
Evenings in those days had a different charm now that we had hardened throats; the Bar offered a watering hole, settling down in the dim lights, the Tambi guy slapping the bottom of the Old Monk quarter, as though it had an impact on the monk. Then doling it into the glasses with ultra-precision making sure it was equally distributed to the drop. Till today never figured out the reason for the slap on the bottom.
Landlines were the landscape for communication and having a care-off number on our visiting cards was considered passé. Having two care-off numbers was executive category. Waiting patiently at the landline if you had one, or waiting for care-off number guy for the employer to call after being told politely – We will let you know was normal in those days and we took it in our stride – no ego scratches and no love lost along the way.
When we left home in the morning whereabouts and updates were uploaded only when we reached home at night – nothing in between and all went well. Channels were just two DD1 and DD-2 Take it or leave it – with the program list for the whole week – we learnt punctuality and to be content with what was aired.
A few houses having the television allowed us to gather and huddle together to view the only movie that was aired in Black and White on a Sunday. The hall got converted into a mini theatre, it was a community viewing. The radio with the valves and push buttons MW, SW1, SW2, FM – and a red ruler panning the length of the glass facade as we tuned in keeping our ears pinned to the speakers on both sides of the radio. At times screeching in with unwelcome sounds – sending someone to the balcony to adjust the makeshift Ariel to get pristine reception which lasted mercifully for a couple of minutes.
The same was with the Television the Black and Whites with every balcony having an Antenna, which was always mobile, never had a fixed position. The more affluent had a video player the VHS was the order of the day, and for the have- not’s, the local video parlour was there to the rescue doling out Video Cassettes for hire and for a few bucks more even the colour Television, both of which had seen better days from excess use.
We ended up spending more time salvaging the Video Tape getting jammed into the player – we learnt patience and passion and technical skills. The audio cassettes of time produced en masse by the T-Series king- playing through the stereo set that adorned every living room. The brown carbon finding a resting place on the playing head and we would find ourselves using Nail polish remover to clean the head now thick with the residue.
Not forgetting the spool tapes for movies and waiting as the operator would switch the next reel waiting for the movie to resume, giving us time for leg stretch.
By the Mid 90’s mobile phones were making its entry into India and we saw such gizmos only in adverts and being flaunted by the likes of Hafeez Contractor, sporting these gizmos. Chat rooms were the local pubs, where we brushed shoulders with friends and guzzled tea and drinks and chakna, we shared jokes and heard the sound of laughter for real. There were handshakes that we could touch and feel, smiles, faces, hugs, eyes that we could see, in real time. Little did we know the turn of the decade would usher in an era that would slowly, subtly but surely creep into our lifestyles like the sun setting on the horizon moving from dusk to darkness- leaving us with only memories of the ghost of the golden era – the lost world now bidding farewell.
The electronic era dominated by swanky gizmos and applications shrunk the world into a little tablet sitting snug into your palm – the warm blue glow lighting up the faces of the young generation deep into the night. Life styles shifted gears from Burning the midnight candle for our night studies to under the blue glow of the Midnight Kindle. Reminds one of the movie ‘Honey I shrunk the kids world. The lowly candle in the wind has seen the winds of change. Ironically our physical world has shrunk in the looming virtual shadow of Big Data. The Lost world now is only a far cry away from reality.