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The 90s childhood was joyous-playing till late, 7 kids balancing on a cycle & falling down, collecting caterpillars & building bridges for frogs.
The 90s never really went away for many of us; it feels like we are perennially stuck there! Why does it feel just like yesterday when so many years have already passed? Many of us grew up during that decade, everyone gets nostalgic about their childhood and we are no different.
The air was lighter, life was simpler, no responsibilities, no stress, we had lots of time, no mobile phones, no social media, we found joy in the simplest of things. Those were truly the ‘golden days’. Two decades gone by, a life well lived and so many new memories created, but here I am entwined with the seemingly mundane life I lived in the 90s. Let’s cast a fond eye on the 90s-the world we grew up in and the life we lived. All aboard the nostalgia train, here we go:
The 90s were truly a joyous time to be a child as there was no parenting manual. As children we played outside till wee hours in the evening, our parents didn’t have cell phones to keep calling us to check our whereabouts. It was an unspoken rule to be home by 9pm else you were welcomed with the deadly stares of your parents. I remember crossing that deadline many a times and my dad welcoming me with the same question each time, “Look at the watch and tell me the time?” This would be followed by a twenty minute lecture about rules and why they should be followed, else there would be consequences.
Come next day, and we were back to the same repeated cycle, we didn’t stop playing till late and our parents never stopped lecturing us. It was like a daily ritual and both parties knew it was bound to happen still none of them changed their ways.
I remember my house nestled in the heart of Mumbai, surrounded by lush greenery and the vast ocean. A look outside my window and my heart was at peace, my mind calmer and my soul content. I remember my friends and the memories come rushing by – of a life lived carefree enjoying the moment, digging the jungle for a treasure only to find snake eggs, water fights, knock door runs, climbing trees, seven kids trying to balance on a bicycle as they do in a circus and all falling down, the cycle was in two pieces, we were all bruised and one of my friends ended up in a hospital with a fractured hand.
We played with sticks and stones, tried to build bridges for frogs to walk in the rain, collected earthworms, put them in our flower pots and watched them multiply till they were overflowing. I remember by brother breaking thermometers to see the mercury running and wasting perfume spraying it in the house. My parents always wondered why the house always smelled of perfume and where all the new thermometers disappeared. We ran behind kites falling from the sky and when it got difficult we got sticks from our homes-the ones you use for drying clothes, we made tents out of bedsheets and forts out of cardboard boxes. We made our own games, got wet in the rains, slept on the grass, jumped in puddles and made paper-boats.
We got out, got dirty and experienced the world around us. There are so many things to explore right in your own backyard that bring so much joy. It is difficult to find that kind of happiness sitting on a couch watching a TV show or having your head stuck in the mobile phone. All these experiences shaped the people we are today, we realise the true value of the things that actually matter in life! They are found in abundance in the experiences you have and do not cost money.
So many memories that I lose track, it is my personal haven where I get lost occasionally and sometimes way too often! It is in these unanticipated moments when we truly realize the value of the past. And just like that in an ordinary day you accidentally take a trip down memory lane and live those days all over again.
People who lived in the 90s had time for everything and for nothing. We were never too busy, we had all the time to meet a friend, to talk to each other, to play for endless hours, to read or to just sit and stare into nowhere. There was no timetable to adhere to and no fancy gadgets to keep us occupied. We posted a letter and patiently waited for days to get a reply, we couldn’t fast forward a movie or a song we didn’t like, we didn’t have multiple channels to flip through. India was only a one TV channel country till 1991. In 1992, the government liberated its markets and that was the beginning of cable TV. It took a long while for people to actually get it in their homes.
Many a times we just sat at home and did absolutely nothing. Nowadays children need to be entertained and kept busy and there has to be a schedule for everything. Letting your mind wander off to different places helps in creativity and helps make sense of the life we are living. Sometimes when the mind wanders and we space out, we accidentally connect to our inner self and realize what is truly important to us. That’s why many of us think deeply, speak from the heart and effortlessly put our feelings on paper.
We used to wait for occasions, birthdays and festivals to get new toys or clothes, they were a luxury for most and we were happy when we got them. Going to restaurants or eating out happened rarely, hardly three to four times a year. If it was a birthday or an anniversary to be celebrated, we had lots of family and friends at home. Food was made by mommy dearest and was lip-smacking.
Home cooked food and nostalgia go hand in hand. Right now many of you might be reminiscing over chicken curry made by your mothers, yummy dessert made on your birthday or the Sunday afternoon spread (that was always a big deal). The fragrance of the tadka in the house can titillate all your senses at once–there is a deep connection between food and memories made on the dining table.
If you are a 90’s kid you would remember visiting your parent’s friends on weekends and holidays. The parents would sit and chat over tea and snacks while the children played at home or in their compound. Occasionally we were asked to sing, dance or mimic to entertain their friends and what a show we put up! Birthdays were not about return gifts and theme parties but about celebrating your day with your closest friends. Almost every birthday party had samosas, wafers and cake and we actually looked forward to having it. We gave handmade cards and letters to each other written in broken English and filled with lots of drawings.
We called each other on birthdays and festivals to wish each other, it was a compulsion and non-negotiable. We took turns to talk to each member of the family on the other side of the phone. Oh how I miss those heartfelt conversations with my grandparents, relatives and their cards that came without fail on every birthday! Summers were about going to your grandparent’s house or your native place, going to Dubai, Thailand or Goa was not even an option. We have no regrets about it as it was one of the best times spent and that’s one reason why we are so closely bonded with our cousins and have fond memories of our grandparents.
Festivals were spent together with family and friends. Not all the kids had the same type of crackers during Diwali…some had more while others had just a few. We had a common box in which we used to dump all the crackers and all of us took them out of the box later to burst them. We had no qualms about handed down stuff either. We learnt to share at a very young age, our toys, our clothes, our books, our food and even our feelings!
There is something about human relationships that cannot be replaced with digital interactions.
We stayed alone at home when our parents went to work, finished our studies independently, served food to ourselves and even took care of our younger siblings. Teachers were strict and we were thrown out of the class a number of times when we didn’t finish our homework or our notebooks; it was solely our responsibility to make sure we finished our lessons on time. Our parents trusted us to travel by public buses and trains even when they didn’t have mobile phones to track us. All we had was a set of instructions that included the most important one-“Do Not Talk To Strangers” and we survived.
At school, the higher classes were allowed to supervise and baby sit the smaller kids when the teachers were not around. We explored the neighbourhood without supervision and still managed to be home in time for dinner. Our parents rarely knew where we are, there was a good chance we were at someone’s house or we simply sneaked into nowhere while on our random excursions. I am sure they had their inhibitions and fears but they trusted us to be responsible and that indirectly helped us place our trust in ourselves and in our ability to handle any situation with ease.
Whenever I am faced with a problem my mind starts thinking up various solutions and possibilities. I rarely fret about it or feel unsure about how to deal with the issue at hand. We know anything and everything has a solution and if it doesn’t – it has a lesson.
Jurassic park was released in 1994 and it was the first of its kind. That was one movie most of us watched in the theatres as kids. We were enthralled by the adventure and wondered about the possibility of dinosaurs existing in our world. We imagined scenarios and our imagination ran wild- What would happen if a dinosaur suddenly popped up, where would we run, how would we hide or how soon would we be extinct again.
The 90s children also were the lucky ones to experience the beginning of the 2000s but that brought with it a lot of questions too – Will the world end in the 2000s, would there be flying cars or would there be an apocalypse? We had one foot in the past and one in the future. Fortunately Y2K was not the end of the world we all feared it would be. The lesson we learnt was, “Have patience, don’t overthink, the worst rarely happens and we always make it through the most difficult of times”
Fast forward to 2021 and I still see a possibility and hope we will overcome this period and soon be done with this pandemic. Our mind is trained to look at the brighter side of things. If something doesn’t work there is always something else that does, we just got to keep trying!
Things are never as bad as they seem and they rarely turn out as badly as you think they will and even if they do, we have the courage inside us to sail through it. In the end if there is nothing left there is still ‘HOPE’ and the world is full of endless possibilities waiting to be explored. One small step at a time is all it takes!
The 90s generation saw the world shift before their eyes. We saw a life without social media, cell phones and fast Wi-Fi. We adapted ourselves to this new world and became a part of it. While I quite enjoy the convenience technology brings, I crave for the personal touch we lost on the way. Facebook friends can never replace your childhood friends, air conditioned play areas can never replace the outdoors and bruised knees, vacations abroad can never replace nana-nani’s house and technology can never replace hugs.
Our childhood is stored not in photos but in memories. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday…most of us would love to go back in time for a little while to experience the years of simple joys, forever friends, abundant love and countless memories!
Image source: Still from Village Rockstars
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I watched a Tamil movie Kadaisi Vivasayi (The Last Farmer), recommended by my dad, on SonlyLiv, and many times over again since my first watch. If not for him, I’d have had no idea what I would have missed. What a piece of relevant and much needed art this movie is!
It is about an old farmer in a village (the only indigenous farmer left), who walks the path of trouble, quite unexpectedly, and tries to come out of it. I have tried my best to refrain from leaving spoilers, for I want the readers to certainly catch up on this masterpiece of director Manikandan (of Kakka Muttai fame).
The movie revolves around the farmer who goes about doing his everyday chores, sweeping his mud-house first thing in the morning, grazing the cows, etc and living a simple but contented life. He is happy doing his thing, until he invites trouble for himself out of the blue, primarily because he is illiterate and ignorant.