Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Kal aaj aur kal

People often say that the times are a-changing, which is quite true. People of my age group have got a first-hand experience of this change, since the Indian economy started opening up when we were small children. We would have faint recollections of what things were earlier, but probably didnt bear the brunt of the circumstances. The motivation for this post was a discussion I had over the weekend with some of my friends, one of whom is visiting the US in a few weeks time declared that there is no point in bringing stuff back from the US any more.

That statement got me thinking. If I remember correctly, US was a BIG thing in my childhood (probably still is, but not as big). I remember that one of my aunts married an IITian living in the US; it was a time when I didnt know what America was, on account of my geography being limited to Delhi and Lucknow. I also remember that each time she came from the US, there
used to be a lot of excitement about what she will be bringing for us, partly because lil kids are always excited when they get stuff and partly she was going to come in an aeroplane from AMERICA!! I still treasure that Radioshack remote-controlled car she brought once. It used a 9 volt battery, another thing which I had never seen before and it was a big pain to find
that kind of a battery in India. Heck, even travelling in a plane was a big deal, since most of my experience of travelling was limited to overnight train trips.

Which reminds me, train tickets were bought at ticket counters only. In fact, as my father told me once, before Rajiv Gandhi went about his computerisation, there used to be big registers for each train. The ticket for the return trip could be bought only from that place itself. I have never stood in a line for a train ticket. I barely know the location of the ticketcounter close to home, only that its somewhere in Karkardooma. In my first year at college, I never had the need to buy a train ticket, since my home was in Delhi. By my second year, it was possible to buy tickets online from the Railways website and have them delivered to your doorstep. So thanks to my SBI account and my knowledge of "computers", for the next 3 years, I was the travel agent of my entire family as they slowly embraced the digital revolution.

Of course, now I rarely travelled by train, being the jet-setter that I have become :-). The fact that any train trip from Delhi to Bangalore will eat up 3-4 days of my precious leave has a lot to do with it. As a friend and fellow blogger remarked on his blog, "train kab hai" has been replaced by "flight kab hai". Anyway, the Bangalore airport is much closer to home than the railway station and vice versa in Delhi. But Bangalore roads being what they are, air travel rules!

Today anything and everything is available in India. There was a time when a friend of mine made a long shopping list for his foreign bound grand parents to get Reebok shoes and Levis jeans and what not. Today Nike shoes are available at the small shop from where I have been buying rubber chappals for the past 20 years. Certain things however never loose their charm. The allure of imported chocolates still remains; the fact that we have been voraciously attacking the stock of imported chocolates at home speaks for itself. Chocolates are cheap to buy and small to carry ... Go Toblerone.

The easy availibility of mobile phones and the reach of email are things that many young people today would take for granted. One only needs to watch Flop-Show's "Telephone" episode to realise how bad things were a few years ago. When I was quite small, we got our second telephone and I remember that there was a lot of hype about it. Dead telephones, wrong numbers and busy lines were the norm. And above all a long waiting period. Another ancient beast was the trunk call, which had to be booked. If someone was yelling into the handset, you could be pretty sure that it was a trunk call. The instruments themselves were heavy ugly brutes. An instrument with push-buttons was considered pretty advanced (by me). Today it is
difficult to imagine life without a mobile phone. Even school going children have one now!

One of the biggest grouses is TV. With no Cartoon Network or decent movie channels, life was decidedly drab. Sunday was the only day when some decent cartoons/serials were telecast and the whole morning was devoted to it. He Man and Spiderman, Ducktales and Talespin were followed. If you were an early riser, Popeye was on at 7am. There was also a pathetic attempt at Sci-fi by the name of Zigma (?). On all other days, there was Chitrahar (Wed. and Friday only) or Krishi Darshan. There were no good English or Hindi movies or timepass MTV etc. The great thing about those times was that there was no Ekta Kapoor either. Instead, we had Mahabharat rescheduling cabinet meetings. I missed the episode where Arjun wins Draupadi by hitting the fish's eye since I had gone for my uncle's wedding and the bloody train came after 9. This was an event that is a part of even a super duper condensed version of Mahabharat and I sulked for a long time this incident.

Now there is no dearth of channels, although some things never change, like the fact that I missed the India-West Indies match yesterday because the channel wasnt available. I wonder how today's kids would live in a world with only a single TV channel, which wasnt 24x7. Perhaps thats where my habit of reading newspapers comes from, since that was the only source of information. Computers were only in school labs and they too were with a black-n-white display and an unfriendly command prompt ( well unfriendly for a 7 year old).

I wonder what surprises are in place for us tomorrow. Cybernetics ? Teleportation (plane travel is soooooooo 20th century) ? Invisibility cloak ? Mind readers ? More intelligent bloggers who know how to end a post on a good note ?

Saturday, January 06, 2007


For some strange reason, I like being alone; left all to myself. No man's an island yada yada yada, but I don't mind being alone. Being alone gives you a kind of freedom, with no one judging your actions or thoughts.

I have often wondered why I enjoy solitude so much. I have come to the conclusion that it is because at almost each major change taking place in my life, I have been alone to fend for myself. This has probably made me capable of taking care of myself in new surroundings without much need for outside support.

In school, I didn't know anyone in my section. There wasn't even anyone from my bus/locality in my class. There were other friends in different classes but since they were older and had there own friends circle, I generally went around alone and friendless for some period of time. It took me a good 1-2 years to make friends, some of whom I am in touch with even today.

Another change was joining a coaching class. Many of my classmates had joined the same institute, but as luck would have it, my classes were held at a totally different time and place. And once again, I had to sweat it out alone. There weren't even any people living close to my home.

Which brings us to the biggest change, joining college and moving to a hostel and generally finding myself in a totally new environment. Here again, I didn't know anyone in my hostel or my department. Two of my friends were good friends in school and got adjacent rooms in the hostel! Talk about luck.

In my company too, I was the only one who joined from my college.

There is of course no particular reason for this rant. What pisses me off is that in each of these situations there are many people who have some connections with each other. Being from the same school, coaching class, college etc. They have some shared memories they can talk about and a comfort level with each other. I on the other hand have to start afresh all over again ... which irritates me. A benefit is that you are given a clean slate to start over and are not burdened by any past baggage.

The motivation for this post was that I was all alone at home for the past 24 hours and I found that it wasn't too bad. I didn't mind it (as has been stressed many times), but the sheer boredom of being alone made me go to visit friends. Boredom is a big enemy of a loner :(.

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