The other day, the 1980s Bollywood classic ‘Mr. India’ was being shown on TV and my entire family was glued to the set. The scene where the protagonist finds the bracelet which could make him invisible brought out squeals of delight from my kid. All through the movie, whenever Mr. India, the invisible messiah ran out to help the oppressed, my son cheered for him. He laughed uncontrollably every time the unseen hero performed his antics and pounded his enemies and made them scream “Jai Bajarang Bali!”
My five-year old, who saw the movie for the first time enjoyed it so much that I felt really proud. Proud to be of a generation that made simple films like Mr. India, which impress children even today when they are exposed to all sorts of super-hero flicks. I was proud to belong to the generation that knew the simple joys of being children, to be born at the time when Google was not an answer to all the questions in the world!
Unlike today’s children, for us playtime meant fresh air and getting drenched in the rain; playing for hours soaking wet and then returning home to be scolded by our moms; only to be rewarded with a hot steaming cup of Horlicks or Bournvita. Our favourite games were not the destructive and very addictive Xbox games or the Angry Birds; but ‘land and water’, ‘hide and seek’, ‘lock and key’, Gilli Danda, Lagori, skipping, Kite flying, etc. Today’s games on the computers, game consoles and tablets are no match to any these outdoor games. Playground rules were simple, ‘finders keepers, losers weepers!’
Galli cricket, with our own indigenous rules was another highlight. If you hit the ball till the building compound wall you scored four runs and a six if the ball went out on the road. You got out for breaking a glass and had to be the one facing the music when the uncle or the auntie would come out screaming and threatening to never ever return the ball. The disappearing act that we pulled then would impress Mr. India himself!
My son got his first cycle when he was two years old. I never owned one! And yet, I love cycling more than he does. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we used to rent bicycles and ride around the neighbourhood. Fifty paise for a half hour and one rupee for an hour were the standard rentals. One of our favourite things to do on Sundays was to get up really early and go rent a cycle. Ride around for an hour or more and then get back home in time for ‘Rangoli’, the Doordarshan TV show that featured Hindi film songs.
I also belong to a time when chai and pakoda meant just that, Chai & Pakoda! We were all treated with homemade hot fried snacks the best ‘happy meal’ ever! Laddoos, farsaan, chivda, chakli, shev, bhel, dhokla-the list is endless. It felt like our mothers and grandmothers had the powers of a genie. Chocolate was a rare item that was something that a relative staying abroad brought us once in a while. On a regular basis, candies were more than enough.
The white and black striped candies that tasted like today’s Polo, Ravalgaon Mango-bite and Pan Pasand; and the half-moon shaped orange and lime coloured candies were the most in demand. Cone ice-cream was a treat that one got only when our exam results were declared and that too, only if one had scored good marks! Nariyal pani, the hygienic fresh juice was available in abundance and Maggi was just then sneaking into our lives.
Recording a collection of our favourite songs on audio cassettes, renting video cassettes and VCRs once in a while to watch movies with the entire family and neighbours… There’s so many more memories, so much more to fondly remember. Apart from watching movies on VCR at home, going to a theatre for the latest release was also a community activity. The entire neighbourhood used to be locked out and the keys handed over to one hapless neighbour who was unable to come!
However, my heart goes out to all the children of today. How different is their childhood from ours… Ours was much simpler and yet fun. Now, I think things have changed drastically due to our urban concrete jungle where there is no community feeling or any outdoor activity! Children are locked up at home since there is no security outdoors nor there is any outdoor space left to play. They have ended with their expensive gadgets and 24×7 cartoon channels; but are they really having as much fun? Or maybe they are, and I am just missing my simple childhood!