Thursday, August 18, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
When I switched on the radio this morning, a friendly voice emanated from the speakers, reminiscing about a childhood that was set against the backdrop of the 90’s. It was different then…the world was still making a slow transition from black and white photos to coloured ones. The world seemed a different place with globalization touching our lives, but not in a very blatant way. Only a younger Manmohan Singh (with black hair strands still finding place on that otherwise white mane of his) making a speech that would change
The 90’s meant something very different. Quieter,definitely. I fail to now attribute any substantial reason for why it was quieter back then. Perhaps because TV in the night then did not mean a heckling Rajdeep Sardesai or a crusader-of-the-truth Arnab Goswami. My childhood was spent in the 90’s when 9 pm was late, which meant Prannoy Roy was dominating the airwaves with his 9 pm Star News ON Star TV. There was no soap that grabbed eyeballs then…it was only the debut of “Janmabhoomi” on Doordarshan that gave us an idea of what a daily soap was. The title song, sung by the then struggling Pt Ajoy Chakraborty, blared from most TVs at 6 pm. Housewives (yes, that term was still used for the now dignity-seeking homemakers) would huddle up in front of their television sets, ladles et al in hand, all eyes on that one family that for once, made them forget about all their domestic troubles.
The 90’s meant Priya and Menoka. Standalone theatres that stood proudly, serving popcorn in plastic packets, often tinted with turmeric, much to our indifference. And the indifference? Because of Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan on the huge screen, who possessed the ability then, to keep women of all ages, and their plumper heroines, hooked. You’d say, they still have their charm intact. I’d say, go watch Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
There was something charming about a life in the 90’s. There was no hurry. No, I don’t mean that as the world was running past us, we were sinking into oblivion with our work pace. We were good at our workplaces, but we were cellphones-internet-dish tv less back then. Such a world wasn’t as closely knit and “globalised” as it is now. And a life like that helped you gaze at the stars to your heart’s content, not complain about everything as much as we do now, and relationships were, thankfully, based on tangible grounds. “Virtual” was virtually non-existent. Internet did make its grand debut and the PC was an intriguing object, but it didn’t trample upon half the waking time our lives.
The 90’s also meant the “Philips Top Ten”, the only show to my knowledge, that played hindi music on TV which us kids liked. Everytime they played the song “Amma dekh, aa dekh, tera munda bigda jaye”, we’d dance like we cared two hoots about the world, without having the slightest inkling about what the song was about. There was Baba Sehgal, and there was the big-nosed-Shilpa Shetty. Then there was the “hawww” factor too. Who can forget Karishma Kapoor’s bold “Sexy sexy sexy mujhe log bole”, and how everytime the song was played on TV, a big fonted “C E N S O R E D” would appear diagonally across the screen. I remember running up to my mother to ask her why the song was censored. When she said it was because of the word sexy, I prodded her further into explaining to me what “sexy” meant. And then, thanks to sex education still remaining an unconceived idea, my mother, who was very young herself then, just stared at me blankly, unable to come up with a good enough reply to a question that she didn’t anticipate one fine day as she sat down to chop vegetables for dinner.
The 90’s meant the birds chirping. The siren in the mornings.
The 90’s…my childhood…it meant something else. It meant something happier. Something I never knew I’d have to abandon so soon.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
She swings the leather handbag down her arm and puts it gently, deliciously on the stool near the kitchen. Then, she starts washing the dishes in the sink. Oh, but those large eyes, though not beautiful, and that face ,though not attractive, are holding the glance of the dirty utensil, furtively. She’s used to this. This waste, and this feeling of longing she has for a life like they have in the movies, which she watches ever so often on her broken and protesting TV set, given to her by her employers. These employers of hers are benevolent people. The lady of the house realized a long time back that his is no ordinary domestic help she was hiring. Her name was bengali for poetry. Forget about whether there was any poetry that sprung up in her father’s mind when he named her so. With this romanticized daze of hers, she would sometimes stand in the verandah, lost in thought and with time coming to a standstill, perhaps embodying in herself the true meaning of her name for once. Ah, those thoughts. How she gets lost in them. She imagines she is that woman at the verandah, standing and watching helplessly, as her husband (now her favourite hero Uttam Kumar) leaves the building. There’s perhaps a tear that trickled down the corner of his eye. Or so she caught a glimpse of, before he turns away, leaving her weeping helplessly. He’s going to war and so they must separate. “Kobita!”, yells her employer, shaking her out of her dream. She gets back to the dusting. She gets back to being the household help, who often pretends she does not exist and isn’t party to the conversations that happen between the husband and wife whom she works for. She, in fact, caught this young couple fondling each other once, if only for a brief second. It was when she was dusting their room and wiping their wedding photo in a frame she wanted to possess too. She had a photo of herself and her husband, clicked in a studio when he was still alive and she looked much happier, with vermillion gracing the parting of her hair. She wasn’t jealous, no. She did not even curse her fate for taking her husband away on the impossible pretext of a fall into a mine while he was at work. She just took a look back at what she was like and then, almost mechanically, put the frame back in its place and went on to attend to the other chores.
As she leaves, she swings the handbag back on, draping her sari back perfectly. She cleans her hands with a soap her daughter gifted her, which smells like fruit she never tasted, and steps into her shoes, back to a life that wasn’t meant to be the way it is. But in her head, it’s almost always perfect.