Welcome to 2013. Or as a common reaction to the new year goes, “ZOMG IT’S 2013 ALREADY?? WHERE DID THE TIME GO? What am I doing with my life? Why haven’t I accomplished last year’s goal of sleeping on a bed of money, or of strapping on a jetpack and flying to my job as Freelance Jetpack Flyer?”
We react like this every year, as if time did something totally unexpected – like it was supposed to give us a foot massage instead. The panic is understandable. After all, my generation has seen Sachin retire, that kid from Home Alone is now thirty-two, and apparently a heroin addict, and our birth dates are closer to the ’62 Sino-Indian war, the Cuban missile crisis and the moon landing, than they are to the iPhone 5.
At this point, it’s easy to fall into the nostalgia trap, and reminisce about how much easier and nicer the world was in the 80s and 90s. And it really was, if you were Michael Jackson or Saddam Hussein.
But otherwise, nostalgia is overrated, especially if you grew up in India. Our GDP was about sixteen rupees, tucked away safely under Pranab Mukherjee’s monkey cap. Yes, things were cheaper – petrol was 2 bucks for a 100 litres – but what was the point? You could still only use it in a Premier Padmini, which was basically a chunk of metal held together with rust and hope, that could hit a top speed of forty-seven kilometres per hour if thrown off a cliff.
We also complain about how smartphones have made us detached and distracted, and that we can’t go two seconds without – oh look, a potato that looks like Arnab LOLZ SHARE PIC! Um, so like I was saying, no lament on the modern era is complete without a yearning for the good ol’ days, when placing an STD call meant taking three months off from work, plus an additional two weeks for therapy. And that was just to get a connection.
Then you dialled the number and approximately four years later, were connected to a system powered by an asthmatic rat on a hamster wheel. It was quicker to just take a train and visit whoever you wanted to call. The internet came in much later, and despite its basic, tedious form, was still pretty amazing. Those early days are the reason why so many men still get turned on at the sight of a pixelated hourglass and the word ‘buffering’.
I also don’t get people who romanticise train journeys. Yes, a lot of us took trains back in the day, because our flight options were limited to ‘expensive’, ‘more expensive’ and ‘Air India: We’ll fly you back in time’. But now, why would you willingly spend 20-odd hours in a confined space with chatty old people, kids who’ve just discovered their vocal cords, and newlyweds trying to suck face amidst this chaos? Also, why should I use train toilets when I can experience the same fun by asking homeless men to rub themselves all over me?
Then there was the phase that Bollywood went through in the 80s and 90s, described by film historians as “OH GOD WTF MY EYES MY EYES!” Every film had pretty much the same story: Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, she’s filthy rich, while his dinner is a pinch of salt extracted from his mother’s tears, the two fall in love, Goga Kapoor makes crazy eyes, and then, because this is a wholesome family film, Shakti Kapoor walks in and rapes whoever is available, after which Alok Nath dies.
We watched this tripe only because we had no other option. You could’ve put Amitabh Bachchan in a ballerina outfit and made him sing out Das Kapital in the original German, and we would still have lapped it up. (It would also have been less embarrassing than Lal Baadshah)
Even society seems slightly better now. All around me, I see people ignoring norms, bucking the trend and forging their own paths – like Indian traffic, minus the rage. Careers that didn’t exist ten years ago are now considered mainstream. (Although ‘Social Media Evangelist’ is not a real job. It’s like saying ‘Pixie Sandal Washer’, or ‘Entertainment Journalist’) I see more openly gay people around, and if there’s enough alcohol, I see some bisexual women too. All in all, it isn’t a bad time to be alive. Now can we please get started on those jetpacks?
(Note: This is my HT column dated 6th Jan 2013)