“Sonu! Show chechi your fashion show.” Three year old Sonu, my cousin looks at her mother then at me. She runs up to me, pulls my hand and seats me on the brown sofa. The child then hops ten feet away, stops, turns to face me, stands with one end of her yellowish green frock spread out to her right, puts her left hand on her hip, flashes a smile and does the ramp walk as perfectly as a three year old child can. Her mother seems proud. I don’t know what to feel.
I watch her prance about on the white marble and wonder what age I was when I first heard about or watched a fashion show. It was definitely NOT when I was three.
Globalisation, cyber space, television, mobile phones.........the children born in the ‘happening times of technology’ are exposed to much more than I was in my childhood. But as I watch young children glued to their computers and T.V screens, I wonder, are they losing out on the experience of growing up? Do they lose their childhood? Their innocence?
In their old age when they reminiscence about their childhood, what will they be nostalgic about? Computer games? Facebook? Chats? Orkut?
I grew up in an age when mobile phones were next to non-existent and computers, a rare spectacle. Video cassettes, tape recorders, music cassettes all ruled the roost blissfully unaware of their imminent extinction.
If you’ve quarrelled with your brother over a GI-JOE action figure or with your sister over a Barbie doll, we must be siblings of the same Age. Yes, I too grew up in the 90’s.
The first image that springs to life at the mention of my childhood is that of playing cricket with my brothers. The fights we had, the scraped knees, bruised elbows and egos, muddy clothes..........the memories make me want to grow up all over again.
Cricket was not the only game we played. There was ‘Lock ‘n Key’, ‘Donkey’, Hockey, ‘Badminton’, ‘Hide-and-Seek’ and a host of others. With other children in the neighbourhood joining in, the air was always filled with screams and laughter. During our vacations, play started right in the morning and breaks were taken only for meals. In the evening, we kids could be found all over the compound walls, on trees, gates or anywhere else you can think of. Memories of clambering onto the trees around our house to eat guavas, mangoes and jambakka straight off them, still tempts my heart.
Cycling was a rage too and the nastiest of fights broke out when we quarrelled over whose turn it was to ride on the cycle next. My younger brother and myself shared a ‘Hero Buzz’ while older brother rode a ‘BSA SLR’. Falling off the cycle was fine as long as we kept our mouths shut about it. Cuts, bruises and wounds were all common occurrence and our parents never panicked or rushed their ‘precious child’ to a hospital at the slightest hint of blood.
The monsoons were looked forward to for the initial enthusiasm to play in the rains, go fishing with plastic covers and makeshift nets in the flooded lanes or to ‘send ships out to sea’ in the flooded sunshade of the house. But once the initial excitement died down, we turned our attentions to indoor games. Among board games, ‘Scrabble’, ‘Ludo’ and ‘Snakes ‘n Ladders’ were popular while with cards the favourite games were ‘Bluff’ and ‘Ace’. You would never believe how spirited these games got and how all regard for relationships got suspended during each match.
Does any of you remember the Wrestling cards and Cricket cards available back then? For a while my brothers were crazy about them. I always stuck by my Barbie.
Pocket money was a rare luxury so it was always the creativity of our minds that kept boredom at bay. I still remember the cars, Lorries, jeeps, bikes and jets my brothers used to make with empty staple pin boxes, match boxes, pieces of cardboard and bottle caps. Our bedroom floor often got converted into vast cities complete with roads, buildings, bridges, petrol pumps, workshops etc. all thanks to strips of cardboard and other waste materials. These cities then became scenes of intense drama as action packed spy stories came to life. The ‘think tank’ among the three of us was my older brother. Those were the times when our young minds were always well oiled and bursting with imagination.
In the midst of all this we always found time to sneak into the enthralling world of books. All of us relish reading and so there were always library books from school in the house. Our first friend in the world of books was good old Enid Blyton. Before long we ventured out to meet Nancy Drew, Frank and Joe Hardy and so on. But what we siblings regularly fought over was, “Who gets to read ‘Tinkle’ first?”
With the dawn of each new month we would sharpen our ears and wait for the first “Trriing!!” of the newspaper man’s cycle bell. The moment he turned into our lane, we would dash to the gate to get at the comics and children’s magazines subscribed at home. Apart from books like the ‘Reader’s Digest’, ‘Vanitha’, ‘India Today’ etc. for the grownups, our little treasures included ‘Champak’, ‘Tinkle’, ‘Tinkle Digest’, ‘Children’s Digest’, ‘Balarama’, ‘Kalikudukka’ and ‘Amarchitrakatha’.
T.V. viewing was restricted and each of us had ‘T.V. times’ allotted to us. But unfailingly, on Wednesdays, we would finish all our homeworks before six in the evening to be able to watch ‘Mowgli’ and ‘Dino the Last Dinosaur’. I once cried myself to sleep; heartbroken because Mom wouldn’t let me watch the cartoons as I had got my Math homework all wrong. I still remember myself staring at the mocking numbers in my Math text teary eyed. Anger and hatred seethed within my little heart. Ooh! How I hated Math!!!
T.V. soon became a happening place when Cartoon Network took us by storm with its wide array of cartoons for kids of all ages and tastes.
‘Swat Cats’, ‘Ninja Robots’, ‘The Centurians’, ‘Sky Commanders’, ‘The Little Lulu Show’, ‘Popoye’ were all cartoons of the time. Do you remember the antics of Top Cat and Stanley Ipkis(a.k.a. the Mask)? And how about Johny Quest?
“Captain Planet........he’s the hero.......who takes pollution down to zero......” remember that catchy theme song? Yup, Captain Planet was a hot favourite too. The only serials we were permitted to watch were ‘Shaktimaan’ and ‘Mahabharata’ telecast on Sundays in Doordarshan.
In Bollywood, 90’s was the time when the ‘Fauji’ fame King Khan (S.R.K) asserted his supremacy. Down south in Kerala, the people anointed Mamooty and Mohanlal as the rulers of Mollywood. With that everyone else including Rahman, Sankar and the like got swept to the sidelines of the stage.
Something else about the 90’s which is not seen anymore is the tape recorder. That black box singing songs held me in wonder for quite a while. I remember being told stories of how singers from ABBA and BONEY M resided inside the black box waiting for the box to be turned on so that they could sing! The late 90’s saw video games begin to trickle in and the first to reach our hands was the Brick Game set with three different games in it.
Among all those memories of my childhood, my ‘big moment of growing up’ was the day I got my first pen. I got my first pen when I was about to step into the 5th STD. Until then it had been mandatory that we use only pencils.
It was an ink pen, my first pen. It had a maroon body with a silver cap. Gosh....I felt so grown up when Mom gave me the pen and showed me how to use it. All of a sudden I had such a lot to write!! I strutted up and down the house with my brand new pen much to the envy of my younger brother who had one more year to wait before he got one too.
That year at school, everyone flaunted their pens. The coolest kids in class had ‘Hero pens’ or ‘Parker pens’. But before long the ballpoints knocked ink pens out for good. By the time my kid brother got onto his first pen, it was a ballpoint one he got (much to my envy).
The joy with which I jumped around on getting a new doll, the passion with which the three of us quarrelled over the pettiest of things, the games we played, playing in the rain together, how we fought and soon after joined forces to steal snacks from the kitchen, the beatings and punishments we’ve earned from our parents, the love, fun and cheer we’ve shared are all memories I will cherish unto death.
Blame it on my narrow mindedness, ignorance or plain lack of imagination but I cannot digest the idea of today’s 'technology centred' children feeling nostalgic in their old age about computer games or Facebook chats!!!
Childhood is not meant to rot at the feet of technology.
Childhood is meant to be lived. Children should step outside and play. They should feel the different heats of the sun as it saunters from the East to the West. They should understand the different moods of the rains and know how it feels to sniff imminent rains in the coldness in the air. Let them smell the Earth, breathe fresh air, enjoy the fragrance of flowers, listen to birdsong and experience nature instead of staying cooped up indoors.
But wait! Am I missing the point here? Who is to blame for children becoming couch potatoes?
As an answer to that, one can’t help but point accusing fingers at parents who often use computer games etc. as lures to keep their kids indoors and so out of trouble. It is so much more convenient to have our children under our eyes all the time.
Dear parents, stop and think. Do you want your child to regret later in life over the childhood they have lost?
Technology, development, exposure are all good and needed but not at the expense of childhood or the innocence of it.