Thursday, March 23, 2006

Remembering the 80's...

It wasnt a decade of magic. And it certainly wasnt a period when people could forsee the huge technological revolution or the economic liberalisation that would forever change the face of thhe globe and more than any place else, of India. India was the sleeping giant, its population fast approaching a billion, its largest employer, the government scratched its head, alarmed over finding jobs for millions of young people coming out of its colleges. Let me leave the country at large, what was the eighties to me as a kid? I was just opening my eyes, the world around presented me with more questions than answers...and in writing this post I decided to rewind back in time and bring back memories and perspectives of my nascent years...and most of all try to write this post as me as an 8 or 10-year old would. Of course, I am today armed with the benefit of hindsight which undeniably would forever corrupt my post's content and quality.

The Early Years
The bus was the official vehicle of our family unit. Our Amby doubled as a tourist taxi and I forever remember it to be running from one problem to another, one workshop to another...and I really hated the beast. Pops took the university bus to Karyavattom, mom the KSRTC bus to Ayurveda College and then a long walk to Vanchiyoor(poor thing...after all that, she had to contend with two devils in the evening...but how where we to know!) and we kids took the school bus. We lived at Vrindavan Gardens, at Pattom, a huge housing colong of almost 1000 apartments, lots of space to play and a huge jungle for a backyard(it was our fave haunt!) and many many bubbly kids, our own age. These days when I pass by there, the place looks almost dead, devoid of the kids who made that place a wonderland, I guess they are all watching the telly or sticking to their books. For me Vrindavan was paradise, I yearned for the time("or whatever it was, I would wonder, that made school get over") to fly and get home to an evening of soccer, cricket, eripanthu, hide & seek, police and robber, seven-tiles and after Fauji, we were javans and guerillas mowing each other down with guns, catapults, ruubber bands & paper-bullets inside our jungle.

Prime-Time!!!
If I wrote abt telly 10 years back, I would have called Doordarshan, the biggest practical joke, the govt played on us people. But then those were the days of evolution...that is, I wonder if Cable TV hadnt come, the process of evolution has remained stagnant even in 2005 with only marginal improvement in the programmes they telecast. Unlike these days, we never were left satisfied with the measly programmes telecast and to add to our misery, the death of some lame politician would be celebraed with days of mourning and mournful ragas tested our paience no end!! But then who could forget, The World This Week which earned for Prannoy Roy the position he holds today or Siddhartha Basu's quiz, or the classic malayalam comedy serial, Panchapaandavar or Ramayana, Mahanbharata, Fauji, Circus and Mungerilal which stands fresh in national memory even today.

Where Was The Money, Yaar!!!
Today the ATM machines spit at me wads of 500's and 1000 rupee notes which are over sooner than I can make the next trek to the counter. Back then, for Rs.10...given after a few weeks of begging ...I would eat a plate of barrota and beef-curry for 7.5, an incecream soda for Rs.2 and a sipup for 50ps. And well, what was money worth, a few beating, I suppose...sent out to do some shopping with my sis for company I lost a Rs.5 note on the way back and after the thrashings was told to come back only with the money...and as we tearily combed the road a good uncle who chanced on it some way ahead handed it over to us! I realized things hadnt changed much in the 80's from the 50's when my grandmom recounted a similar story of how she caned my dad along the road for loosing Re.1 she had given him to buy a hero pen, only for him to be saved by a man walking by who had found it on the way. And the 80's were the heydays of the Gulf Mallu. These men and women, strutting abt in goldwatches, sunglasses and cars laden with electronic goods earned the envy and admiration of all...scarcely a family then, and even today to some extent, didnt have somebody in the Gulf.

School...
I hated junior school. I had few friends, hated my lessons, I had no head for Maths, and I cried for days on end about it. Whatever I studied seemed not to go to my head, as the exams proved, but later life disproved, and the progress card, I discovered, was the worst peice of torture modern civilization has inflicted on many a carefree child. Of school, I remember this act of charity on my part...a senior who helped me cross the road and was from the same bus-stop would talk about Michaeal Jackson all the time, and discovering a huge, black leather belt wih silver studs and a pic of MJ embossed on metal, which someone had carelessly gifted had lain disused for a lot of years and with my moms permission gifted it to him(those were the days seniors were like gods and we proud to be of any service to them!). I still remember the next day he came strutting towards me, his hair all wet, a few strands pulled forward like MJ, his shirt tucked in flouting school rules, and the belt and MJ gleaming in the sun...Oh! What a fall,MJ!!!

Clothes...
I hated the tailor-stiched clothes of the 80's, but then I was to blame for all lack of finesse...the first jeans, I got was discarded, coz I wondered how people could wear something so stiff and heavy and my mom telling me, "Eda, ithe jeans aada"! and me replying..."Enthonne Jeans"! Sometime last year, my sis remarked how she felt, after looking at college fotos of the chechis at the flats, that the mallu college gals of the 80's were more trendy, style-conscious and wore jeans, skirts and sylish salwars unlike the ones of the '90s and all I could think was...Ayyo! What a big loss!!!

Attitudes...
The first time I took up a newspaper was at the height of the Bofors scandal and I also remember a pic of computers destroyed in tvm...years later I conneced the fotos with the agitation launced by SFI to protest loss of jobs due to computerization. How stupid those guys must be feeling today. The computer remained an object of puzzlement thru the 80's to the mid 90's and sometime when I was in the 4th I remember an elder pal, Rahul inviting me to go learn BASIC with him for fun...6 years later I learnt it out of compulsion only to find the world had moved way past BASIC and was at the verge of the IT revolution.

Sports Afficianados...
Trivandrum was a hotbed of sporting activities thru the 80's and early 90's The televised-cricket fever hadnt struck and thanks to my cousin, Ajichetan I got to see some great basketball and football matches where it seemed the entire college crowd of TVM had descended...and of them(mostly SFI guys!) howling and shouting down Mr.K who did prize distribuion with a "kallan karunakara" yelp and me too joining in it with delight only to be dismayed at the cool dude turning to our section, folding his hands and giving that trademark valicha chiri only to make us shout louder. Of cricket, my first memories are of dilip vengsarkar taking on the fearsome west indies quartet only to see his hand broken by marshall after scoring a century, but I wondered why these men didnt score more often like us kids who flashed at every ball...yeah, I still didnt understand Test Cricket!!! But a moment in late 1989, swayed my attention to cricket for almost 10 years later, when a 16-year old rookie swamped veteran Abdul Qadir, playing in his last match, for 27 runs in an over...

The Big Gap...
Those days, my native places, Kattanam and Arakulam, seemed to me like places on the verge of civilization. The gap between cities like tvm,cochin and villages were huge. Everytime we visited the nadu, we got lost, or the car got stuck in the mud or wouldnt climb up a steep slope bcoz it lost momentum and the roads were untarred and at many places rocks protruded from the road. If lost, my sis and I would shrink in our backseats, scared of the darkness around us, frustrated at the absence of streetlights, irritating crickets, howling dogs and not a person in sight to ask for directions and I'd think of my parents, "Gosh these people cant even take me to their homes of so many years without geting us lost"...I missed the whole point...of the romaniticism of these places and how it moulded my parents...for me it was a conspiracy to distance me from friends at the flats. Today when I think abt the lost native places...it is and isnt a big loss...the natural ambience persists but today the gap between cities and villages in kerala have narrowed...everywhere you see mobile towers, cable TV and internet.

And Then...
The 90's arrived. The Maruti came into our home for the first of many later ones. It signalled the upwardly mobile aspirations of my parents. And they never looked back. The frugality of the 80's was over. A decade of saving, career-building and investment paid fruit. We moved out of the flats, my dad started lecturing internationally, my mom became a busy lawyer, I was out of junior school, the Rao-Manmohan Reforms came and from feathery strides, India started to gallop to catch up with the developed world. Well what was the '80's to you and me...trace your way back to your parents booking trunk calls and waiting anywhere from 30 mins to 24 hrs for the call to go through...and memories will come flooding back!!!!

13 comments:

silverine said...

Me first!!!! :p

Comments later :))

silverine said...

When Rajiv Gandhi died, I remember my Dad saying that things would change now. I didnt understand it then. How prophetic his words turned out to be when the Rao-Manmohan combine did what Rajiv kept preaching about i.e. taking India into the 21st century!

Today every sector is becoming a potential employment generator and the vast multitudes of students the universities are churning out have an assurance of a decent job. And thankfully we do not have to see *groan* National Programme of Dance and Music on DD :))

quills said...

You have captured those days from the 80s so vividly and doing so brought back so many of the same memories. I grew up in Trivandrum too.

Playing hide & seek, police and robber, seven-tiles, cricket, kuttiyum kollum etc etc :)

The tales of the Amby being in one workshop or the other, it breaking down right at a traffic stop :))..gosh I can laugh at it now, but as a kid those moments were quite embarrassing. :)

Those were the days of break dance, MJ, video libraries popping up on the scene and watching those barely decipherable camera print English movies.

Tvm hosted a lot of sporting events those days..I remember vaguely the cricket team from West Indies I think it was visiting and everytime they hit a six, it landed in the Mascot hotel pool.

Anyway I can go on and on, but I had so much fun reading your post. And sorry for the long comment. :)

Thanu said...

Great memories..I lived in Tamil Nadu during 80s but most of the things were still similar. After school we used to play so much outdoor. Now my cousins they rarely play they all have tutions int he morning and evening. Kallam poya pokku...

Anand K said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anand K said...

The 80s was like one big hazy acid trip for me. I remember being a very quiet, clumsy and absent-minded, perennially ill and daydreaming runt. Had very few friends back then.... and I was very self-conscious and pissed that i was not as hypercool as Vinay Vasant (he's gone places now) or Prajit Varma(now a Major with one very "discreet" paracommando outfit of the Army) or the Jayanth-Basanth twins (now doing Grad in Ol' Miss, Univ of Mississppi) and a slew of other colorful characters. Always lost in books, even after lights-out time. Reading under the covers in dim light gave me myopia..... I have been a four-eyes since 1987! Used to daydream so much that Maithri Madam who taught us through junior school called me "Mulgeri Lal"...

Oh god.... so many memories. And I think how I changed after some defining experiences in Class IV and V, i.e in 1990-91. You know what, Jabbs.... I'm going to write something, a lot of "something" on this topic myself. Thanks for the cue... you have been (very surprisingly) useful lately. ;)

PS: Talking of 80s... everyone google Vishal Patel. He has some of the best stuff on the 80s pop culture.

Nikki said...

Wow u have such a good memory jiby...

Jiby said...

silverine, i shudder to think of the madhouse india would have become in the 90's if the reforms had failed. Anyways, all's well that keeps going well! The trouble is all our progress is also allied today to the global economy more than ever...i feel a recession in the US will hit us hard more than ever.

quills, glad u enjoyed the post...though once i finished penning it i realised it ended up more trivandrum-centric than i intended it to be. viv richards hit that huge six and coz of that we joke unless tvm gets a new stadium we'll never ever get to host another match. and reading ur comment i forgot to write about malayalam cinema's best phase...the 80's...all thru college we rued having to cut classes to watch the crappiest phase in our movie history but thanks to the internet and digitization that age has been preserved for posterity....in 5-10 years me and friends will have all the movies that age, never again to loose it and to keep watching them again and again.

thanu, glad u could relate to it too having...yeah its been a huge change form the 80's to the 90's, and its such a pity the tutoring age has further come down from our days.

andy padman, i dont think much has changed with u from the 80's to today. day dreaming has been replaced by gal dreaming, books have been replaced by the laptop, internet and e-books and absent-mindedness replaced by abadhams...hehe!!! true man...i forgot all those days of vinay and prajit worship...plz do write on this man...i wud love to laugh my heart out! and yeah wht do u mean by me becoming useful...wait till my post on you come out and u'll regret this!!!

nikki, thanks a lot...if not for these memories that cease to fade...this blog would have gone out of business long back.

Mind Curry said...

wow..i just loved this one..very vivid and real..i read it twice..and probably will do so again.

death of some lame politician would be celebraed with days of mourning and mournful ragas tested our patience no end!! - just burst out laughing reading this..i remember my brother and i would groan seeing these bhajans go on for a week even! another funny thing is how doordarshan still does its programming. its like the olympics progs are repeated until the next olympics!

yeah, we could eat parottas and curry, "kappalandis", "sip up" and even a chicken "puff" all for 5-10 bucks in atul uncles canteen :) memories! i loved second trips!


..."Enthonne Jeans"!
hilarious and so cute! i can imagine you!

Attitudes...
still remain the same..sadly..

how india is transforming is truly magical.and i salute the great leaders and officials who have struggled against odds to make it possible. i just get overwhelmed by "incredible india" and "india shining" campaigns, knowing that the change is percolating to even the poorest. heart of heart i do sincerely hope the kerala we were born in does not miss the wave.

i dont think i want to apologise to taking too much of your blogspace, coz i thoroughly enjoyed it.

Brijesh said...

I came to your blog through mind curry's blog. Well written. Memories went back to those days in school and Predegree.

I use to get Rs 7 from my mother (Exactly Rs 7-nothing more or nothing less) for my lunch when I was doing my Predegree (Plus Two). The Thattukada near Hotel Chaitram (Trivandrum) had vegetable biriyani for Rs 7. From that money I use to see movies also sitting in the front row (for Rs 2). Looking back it was all fun. Now for Rs 7 u cant do even 1/10th of what I did in early 1990's.

Anyways Jiby, great one

Geo said...

Yet another great post Jiby,

I just went back to my childhood … it used to be so much fun… run home after school, meet up with all the friends, play cricket in the rubber estates, play football in the paddy fields, swim in the nearby river… lost paradise….

I guess I was too busy with all these activities that I forgot to take note of the geopolitical changes happening arnd… :_)

Jiby said...

mindcurry, thanks for leaving such insightful comments...truely only the cynics would be blind to the amazing strides india has made since the 80's.

brijesh, missed out on that chaithram thattukada...our favorite was the one opposite luciya at east fort...used to get a great deal there!!! thanks for visiting man...wud have been a regular at your blog but i am gonna be in a real sticky spot for a few months.

geo, haha...u missed the geopolitical changes, yet landed rite in the middle of where it was happening...these things do happen!!! feel jealous of u...was caught in the illusive pride of the urban jungle all thru my kiddy days.

mathew said...

was reading through all your blogs...fell instantly in love with it!!..esp this one..me too a similar tvmite (although achayan in blood just like u if am guessing rite)...and I even stay near pattom..eh..
u trainsfixed me to those old days in tvm!!!
cheers.........