Been There, Done That

And as I get older (perhaps even wiser), my mind goes to the good old days and all those things that I miss today (maybe you do, too) in this internet-driven smart-phoned age.

Illustration/Amit Bandre

Writing letters to my penpals in faraway lands, writing with a fountain pen after gently filling it with royal blue ink from the inkpot, going to the post office to buy stamps and post the letter, receiving postcards of picturesque places that I would dream to see some day, collecting stamps and even buying those 3D stamps from Bhutan.

Maintaining a scrapbook of memories, covering exercise books with brown paper and affixing a label, writing essays, getting red marks in my school diary, using the eraser that we called a rubber, sharpening a pencil, using crayons and water-colours to create pretty pictures (or at least what we thought were pretty), playing marbles, tops with those sharp spikes, kicking the can, seven tiles and hide-and-seek.

Learning how to properly place a film roll inside a camera, clicking photographs, opening the camera to remove the spool but only after winding (or was it re-winding?) it so that it may not get exposed, getting the photos developed and printed at the photo studio, putting them neatly in an album.

Using the penknife and catapult (what we called catty) and rubber band with small paper pellets, wearing gumboots and sailing those paper boats in rainwater streams, putting on my khaki shorts that were changed to battleship grey during my schooldays, wearing canvas shoes or black shoes polished to such a shine that you could see your face in them.

Today, I miss cycling in the lanes of Bandra, making a great effort at pumping air into the tyres and getting irritated whenever the cycle chain would come out and had to be re-threaded properly, lighting a hurricane lamp, lighting a kerosene stove seeing that the wick was okay, flashing a five-battery torch at night, winding my watch every day, writing reminders on the wall calendar with those big dates.

My mind goes back to my starched collars and bellbottoms and corduroy pants, satin singlets and shorts for the 100-metres dash on Athletics Day, coconut oil in the hair, the hair with a parting on the left and a puff on the right (not to forget those sidelocks), trying to get a kite in the air so that I could then concentrate on turning the firki and see the kite soar and perhaps fight with another kite, hoping my manja was better.

Today, I miss linseed oil on the hockey stick, ghee on the dinner plate, having cod liver oil and milk of magnesia, eating boras and batata wadas during the school recess, turning the finger in a circular motion while dialing from a telephone, inserting a one-rupee coin in a payphone, receiving a greetings telegram, sending a fax, reading a message on a pager clipped to the black belt around the waist.

The mind wanders to bonfires at Christmastime in the garden and terrace parties with booming big speakers and ladies and gentlemen doing the jive and the foxtrot and the twist, burning the stuffed ‘old man’ as one year turns to the next, live bands feeling ‘Hot, hot, hot’ at the September Garden at the Bandra Fair, fancy dress and king and queen contests, jam sessions and song requests that you could dedicate to someone with the most popular message being ‘Meet me in the graveyard’.

The socials and picnics with the sound of the strumming of the guitar and voices in harmony or otherwise singing that she’ll be coming down the mountain, when she comes, when she comes and it’s a long way to Tipperary and down by the riverside and obladi oblada (whatever that meant), the boys and girls buying clothing material and making that trip to the neighbourhood tailor to stitch new shirts and trousers and suits and dresses for the Christmas dance and also going to the shop to buy new shoes and socks.

And today in this age of pubs, lounges, bars, restobars, permit rooms and nightclubs, what I miss is drinking, in the good old aunty’s joints, country liquor had with a pinch of salt and a dash of lime or lemonade to wash off the slightly peculiar taste and you had the stuff along with boiled eggs or boiled gram, sitting on benches with advertising executives, airline staff, bankers, hockey players and journalists for company and the curtain of the hall swaying as the night breeze from the sea set in. 

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