When Pigs Could Fly
Imagine filling Nirodh condoms with litres of water and rolling it down with your friends, thinking it to be the little cute pig in your head albeit without a face. It was enough then that you thought it was a piglet. There was this willing suspension of disbelief. This is what one of the friends did as a kid in a small village in the south. The other friend, who grew up in the eastern part of India in a small town, filled Nirodh with air and tied a string and released it in the air like a balloon. Although the pale white-yellowish balloons weren’t that exciting, they were still balloons to us because nobody told us they weren’t. Back then, we had a lot of imagination. There was no Internet. There weren’t even as many television sets. There were stories though.
Like millions of others, who would have been born in the 1980s, we were children who played with everything. The three of us grew up in different regions and found each other in Delhi. Our experiences and memories intersected like those of many. Our childhoods were much alike. Innocent and sweet. We talk about those days sometimes. About objects, about people, about life itself and about the possibilities of imagination. That night, it began with Maggi. It was a treat in those days, a luxury. R only got introduced to it when he left his village for his graduation. C, a woman, knew Maggi and George Michael and read fairy tales that had snow and unfamiliar landscapes in her childhood.
Randomness wasn’t a personality fault then, we jumped to the way the world came to us. Through cable, television, video cassette recorder (VCR), tape recorders and the walkman that added a lot of cool quotient. We used to have a black and white television set then which came with the ubiquitous antenna that was fixed at the top end of a long aluminium rod. They jutted out like fish ribs. No one knew the science behind the length of these rods and those fin-like things but everyone believed that the longer the aluminium rods, the better would be the signal. Also, more options. That was also the time when Doordarshan had limited transmission centres. I don’t know why but our transmission centre seemed to be the one in Kurseong, a hill town located 32 km from Darjeeling and some 350 km from Saharsa, my hometown. The struggle for better signal was real. There was always someone on the roof tinkering with the direction of the antenna whenever Chitrahaar or Ramayan was being telecast. The person in charge of the antenna had to constantly adjust it and shout to the one who stood in front of the TV monitoring the picture quality. It felt important being in charge of the antenna, especially when everyone was looking up to you with such great expectations.
Made in Heaven Live
Later, cable television entered our lives and took us to a world beyond Doordarshan. Uncles and aunties, while hooked to the serials and movies themselves, blamed it for even the slightest of lack of interest on our part in our studies. Parents would often threaten to disconnect the cable connection if you failed to secure good grades. For C, the cable television operator, a mysterious man often reached via those old telephones, was a global person. He would play films like Anaconda and Rambo. Sometimes, even more esoteric ones like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Her mystery man in Patna knew that horror had to have a range too and he took it beyond Ramsay Brothers and he would sometimes play Evil Dead too.
R said in his village, the cable guy would also telecast wedding videos. Videography of weddings had just become the new fad, a status symbol, a way for the community to remember who wore what. The family whose wedding video was going to be shown would go all out to advertise the timing of the telecast to others.
That night, as we ate Maggi, we decided to make notes of our memories. For the sake of growing up so free, so uninhibited and full of imagination. To laugh and to see the world again with surprise. People like us are the threshold generation. Everything changed at once. From analog, we became digital.
Of course, nostalgia is like wearing rose-tinted glasses but on some nights, it is good to return to the good old days when a condom could transform into a piglet and an antenna was the medium through which we saw the world outside of our little worlds. The television wasn’t an idiot box then. It was a precious thing that was kept in a ‘television almirah’. C says she would buy one if she can find it. For old times’ sake.
(This is Part 1 of a three -part CAR series)
Ashutosh Salil of CAR, an acronym for three friends
(This appeared in the print as 'Nostalgia Diary')