Earlier this week, I went to an informal school reunion. I was going to go as an astrophysicist CIA agent, but apparently you have to go as who you really are, so I went as Unemployed Fellow in Odd Shoes™. It was our first reunion since we passed out of school in 1999.
Yes, 1999. I am in fact so old, that I went to school in a whole other millennium (and I had to walk six miles to get there and back, both ways uphill.) If I’d tried to write this column in 1999, my computer would have taken a year to type each word out, and when I hit “Save”, I’d have to dive behind a table and hide just in case it exploded from the hernia-inducing effort of it all. We were all very afraid of Y2K back then, a bug that was supposed to destroy every computer on Earth (except Chacha Chaudhary) when the year 2000 came. Turns out that the programmer who came up with that theory was Mayan, so never mind.
Meeting school-friends after 14 years brings back a flood of memories, some of things that seemed insurmountably terrifying then, but seem trivial now. Why was I so afraid of Algebra papers? Why was it so difficult to remember where India’s largest coal reserves were? (Answer: Talcher, Neyveli, and Gangs of Wasseypur) And why the hell did we spend six years calling my friend Subhash “Paamtya”?
I met at least one person at the reunion that used to bully me on a semi-regular basis, but it all seems so silly now, there’s no way I could hold a grudge. So if you’re reading this, Bro (name changed to protect privacy), I promise you, again, that I wasn’t the one who slashed your tyres. And no, that petrol-soaked kerchief you found sticking out of your tank wasn’t mine. I don’t care if it says “Property of Rohan Joshi” on it.
There are things about school in the 90s that I miss terribly. Things that I long for them and mourn for in a way that makes my heart hurt; like the fact that cab-fare was just Rs nine. There were four of us, so we carried two bucks each. And then fought about whose turn it was to pay the extra one rupee, because then that person couldn’t afford to buy “Pepsi-Cola” that day.
Pepsi-cola, for the uninitiated, had nothing to do with Pepsi. Or cola. It was a polythene tube filled with a delicious combination of flavoured ice and the promise of jaundice. If you read jaundice and thought of it as a bad thing, remind yourself that this is school we’re talking about; the two weeks off would have been the greatest thing on Earth, and the six-month no alcohol period didn’t matter when I was twelve, because back then I didn’t drink. Much.
Pepsi-cola tasted like an angel’s kiss, cost a princely 50 paise, and created the most excellent post-school pastime; sticking your orange or kala-khatta coloured tongue out at the one idiot kid who’d gotten the colourless lime flavour.
My favourite part of school in the 90s though, was summer vacations. Summer meant endless hours of cricket, zero homework, and most importantly, in the days of pre-cable Doordarshan, summer meant Giant Robot. Giant Robot was a show about (big twist coming up) a Giant Robot. And he was controlled by this little Japanese child named Johnny Sokko. And together they fought the Gargoyle Gang and the evil emperor Guillotine, who came from an ancient alien race of underpaid actors who laughed in villainous fashion while wearing the world’s fugliest papier-mâché octopus mask. For reasons that were never addressed, even though he was Japanese, Giant Robot looked like the Sphinx during gay-pride week, and the show had the worst visual effects work this side of Koena Mitra’s last face-lift. But it was, to my ten year-old brain, the greatest thing ever committed to screen.
I know every generation ever says this about their time, but being a kid in the 90s was the greatest thing ever. Kids today don’t know how to do it. You really haven’t lived until you’ve grabbed your bat and gone home just because you got out on the first ball.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi