Before the glitz, glamour and bling, and much way before grabbing global headlines for having the tallest, biggest or largest ‘whatevers’ and also hosting global events surprising many, the GCC was a much simpler place. The noise was lesser, the cars much grander and the general atmosphere itself was much relaxed.
The era I am talking about was pre-new millennium, when TV shows like Full House, The Wonder Years and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and cartoons like Captain Majid, Duck Tales, Johnny Quest and Swat Kats kept us entertained. It was a time when collecting Tazos and sticking Sun Top stickers just to get the elusive prize mentioned in the book was a challenge in itself (God knows how many Lays, Cheetos and Sun Tops must we have consumed for that) and it was also when Fridays meant coming back from Friday prayers to have mom’s ghee rice and chicken curry or biriyani,
Weekends meant grabbing the cricket bat and wickets and heading to the beach or park with your next door neighbour or the scores of friends and relatives peppered all over the city. If you were lucky, the trip would be down to your dad’s Sheikh’s farmhouse in the outskirts. That would entail a whole different level of fun, with the entire day spent in the pool, having a barbeque and countless number of games ranging from cards to board games to random running around. Hanging out was devoid of the technological dependence that we are so used to today.
Back then schools were in itself fun places to be, when competitions meant having fun with your friends. Team spirit took precedence over individual achievement. Exhibitions and local competitions didn’t need the tag of big cash prizes or names of sponsors plastered all over the prizes, stages, grounds and auditorium (and even the kids themselves). Adding to it there were no participation trophy, and nobody remained disheartened. A winner was lauded and everyone got their chance. Teachers were personal heroes, and connections more real.
Shopping in itself was a wondrous adventure, tagging along with your mom and dad, for the month’s supplies. Shopping giants didn’t litter around your city and your friendly next door supermarket had all that you needed. You’d like rolling the cart down the smaller isles, with only the essentials making it in. Gaining coupons for your purchases, your mom waited for months to exchange it for that one gram of gold or the cookware she’d been eyeing for a while.
Back in the day, public transport didn’t rip you off. Taxis were shared, buses were few, and the city was within your reach. Your parks and homes and malls weren’t kilometers apart, and your dad was your most reliable transport partner. His Toyota or Mazda or Mitsubishi did not compete with your friend’s dad’s cars nor did they with his. Cars were meant to be driven, not shown off. The general quality of cars also spoke volumes of their use, and some people never let go off with which they began with since they didn't make them like them anymore.
Awe-inducing technology back then was your CRT TV or VCR/VCP or your SEGA/Nintendo game console or satellite receiver that broadcasted a handful of channels from around the world. Moms/sisters/brothers would spend time with their best friend on phone for hours, and it wouldn’t tear a hole in the pocket of the user with a big bill at the end of the month. Semi-automatic washing machines ruled the roost, while dishwashers weren’t even in the scene. The more affluent afforded a brick-like GSM device, but other than that, personal tech was subjected to just a Walkman, brick game, Gameboy or Tamagotchi, all of which eventually lost out our interest in a couple of weeks’, months’ or years’ time.
Going back a decade or two, love letters weren’t in bits and bytes. Nobody cared who looked how at what time of the day and where. All that mattered was that the boy/girl leaning from the back of the seat would take the guts to pass the piece of note on to his/her crush. Innocence wasn’t lost and nor was bitching and cursing a way of life. Recesses were times to rush out and play, and were also when you could make your move. Romance was alive and genuineness marked the times.
Why have I gone to all this trouble just to reminisce of those days that I remember? I guess it is a grim reminder of who we were and what we’ve become.
TV shows for us are now plenty and at the tips of our fingers, while cartoons have literally died out, with quality taking a toll in both cases. Today, kids are fed on rubbish beyond compare and the only way out are the classic reruns on video sharing sites and one of the umpteen channels on television. Weekends are meant to splurge money, be it for movies, concerts or roaming in malls gaping at what to splurge on next. You might not even know the person living right across your hall, let alone your relatives in the city. Schools have become big business models. Fees dictates the quality and all kids are pampered or tortured to a level with needless knowledge and unhelpful assignments and exams. Shopping is a disaster and we are spoilt for choice. Your friendly neighbourhood supermarkets have been taken over by corporate giants, with needless wastage accompanying our incessant buying. Public transport is as essential as anything, if you aren’t lucky enough to get your license (which you most probably wouldn't considering the sheer amount of luck that we carry with us). Malls and places are scattered all around, and to reach one another would be to quote Robert Frost - and miles to go before I sleep. Coming to technology, who isn’t face down looking at their mobile every two minutes? And it doesn’t end there – tablets, HD TV, HDR, laptops and console wars – we are cosntantly sucked into every vortex that cuts us off from the real world. Last, but not the least – love has lost all meaning. Relationships are dead and romance lifeless.
But let’s not tarry in what we have become. It isn’t too late to unbecome what we have become. Go out, meet friends and family, see the world beyond an artificial screen, shop at local markets, breathe some fresh air, cycle around your neighbourhood, play a game of hide and seek, create new things and for your own sake – live a little, love a little.