Where shall I begin? Let’s begin at the beginning. The first things a child falls in love with are toys and games. In my case, dolls too.
I loved my Barbie, and my brother loved his G.I. Joe. I must have married my Barbie to his He-Man every summer. Sadly, it always ended in an instant divorce because I wanted my doll back.
Then came the Hot wheels car we used to get free with packets of Maggie. It couldn’t get any better than this. I still remember my brother forcing me to play with his WWF cards till I fell in love with Undertaker and Hulk Hogan. He used to have a bag to keep all his beautiful array of stickers. I remember stealing a whole strip of his Mickey Mouse sticker set and getting bashed by him later.
I miss that stationary box I had. It contained all my cool stationery. My most prized possession was a glass pen with a peacock head. There were sharpeners, erasers, and key chains in cute and lovely shapes. I guarded that box better than the government guards their gold reserve. I have beaten a younger cousin over that box.
Playing Solitaire, Free-cell and all the games Savio mentioned in my Papa’s PC, breaking my score repeatedly. And the summer vacations with days full of Scotland Yard and Game Of Life with my brother. I remember hanging with my brother on the gate from evening 5 PM in the wait for the ice cream truck and vendors who sold Tikkis, Matra and Mot—looking out for the balloon peddler who would bring fake cameras, sunglasses and magic eggs, begging my Baba(Grandfather) for money to buy goodies.
I used to play Snakes with Papa’s Nokia till my fingers went numb, and I pleaded with everyone not to kill me in a game of Ludo. Making the team with my father to play a card game called Hearts was like swearing allegiance to my Lord Commander.
The Aloo Parantha never tasted so good ever again after school, when I used to hide somewhere in my classroom and eat it, saving it from my friends’ loot. It was such a privileged feeling when you had a huge Milton water bottle. A classmate would ask, “Please ek sip de de (Please let me borrow some water)”, it was a thug life moment when I said with some fake arrogance, “Nahi Mera khatam ho jayega (No, mine would get finished)”, but when my best friend was thirsty, I would go all like, “Mere paas water bottle paani doon? (I have water bottle, you want some?)”
Exchanging movie postcards and posters with a friend and arguing with them about SRK looks hotter in which one. It was less of an exchange and more of smuggling under the keen eyes of teachers. Sharing a book was like sharing a sacred bond. And that feeling on top of the world when you had 20rs with you to treat your friend to a Coke in the lunch break.
Today we have blogs to write our hearts out, but in the 90s I used to have a diary with a lock shaped like a heart that used to hold all my thoughts and secrets. And the last page of the notebook was our very own Twitter. From trying different signatures to signing huge cheques and giving autographs when I got famous and writing taboo stuff was like surfing the net in incognito mode.
I miss so much from the ’90s. Now that I am writing, nostalgia is hitting me harder. How many of you remember that song, “Mile sur mera tumhara“? It was such a feel-good song about the unity through the diversity of India.
And the advertisements, I used to watch TV for the ads. They were comforting, a sense of familiarity through continuity. I loved the ads for Bajaj, Titan, Nirma, Liril and Amul, and many other products like Pan Parag and Vicco Turmeric. Seriously, do you remember that Dhara advertisement, “Ghar mein to mummy ne Jalebi banayi hai“? Sitting with the whole family and watching them was a different experience altogether.
I was so bad at understanding English movies back then. My cousin watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S and tried to be as cool as her and couldn’t get a single word. But I turned my energy to all the remix songs starting from ‘Kaliyon ka Chaman’ to Bombay Vikings, Bally Sagoo and ‘Kaanta Laga’. A moment of silence for that version of me.
My grandfather was in TOI, so we used to have so many magazines at home. From Filmfare and Femina to Champak and Sarita. I loved flipping the pages while lying on my parents’ bed. The most coveted day was when Mom cleaned her Godrej Almirah. Oh, it was like a treasure trove opening. All the precious things and keepsakes were in there. I can still see my mother telling me to go elsewhere and play, but I would sit there and touch everything.
And every Diwali, the house used to get painted. Oh, the fun! The furniture would shift, the bed boxes would be opened, the food would be cooked on a makeshift table, and nothing was out of our reach. What an adventure it used to be.
In winters, my mother, in fact, all mothers, would sit together in the sun and knit colourful sweaters for us. I used to say, “Mujhe bhi do naa (I too wanna do this).” and she would give me the ball of wool and tell me to feed her the line.
One day, out of sheer nostalgia, I bought a handful of Eclairs, Coffee Bite, Mango Bite, Pan Pasand, Poppins, Gems, Melody and Kissme, but trust me, they missed the taste of adventure. The taste of childhood.
I now sit and think, maybe we don’t miss the worldly things. We miss ourselves. Our childhood and the people in it. We miss the innocence and simple-mindedness. We miss the beautiful ignorance. I still pine for Papa’s smile when he used to give me the new Barbie doll’s dress and my Mom’s sparkling eyes when she showed me her coveted jewels and my Grandpa’s lap while he attended a call with that old phone with a dial on it and a lock hanging by the side. I crave my granny’s love when she gave the money to buy goodies, and my brother’s affection when we played together.