The author is indebted to Mr. Ahindra Lal Bhuyan for forwarding him that anonymous mail which ignited the spark that led to this piece.
She grew up during the 80s.
At the age of 12, she was proud of her first “maxi”.
Phantom & Mandrake were her true heroes.
“Camlin” geometry box & Natraj/Flora pencil were her prized possessions.
The only “holidays” she took were to go to her grandparents’ houses.
She gave her neighbour’s phone number to others with a ‘c/o’ written against it because her father had booked theirs only 7 years ago and they were still waiting for the number to come. It was a scene to see when the linesmen were working on the road for connection of the telephone to their house. She was sitting there on the road to know when it will be over with her eyes glued to the linesmen.
An LML Vespa was the only vehicle for communication of the family of four. Her elder sister standing in front of her father, her mother sitting on the back-seat and she in between her mother and the father. She enjoyed the journey from home to school and back suppressing her suffocation under the pressure from both sides. She saw some onlookers on the roadside stopping to see how efficient her father was as a driver. The flying edge of her mother’s “chaddar” waved a bye-bye to such onlookers. Carbon on the plugs and puncture of the wheels were the occasional problems when the driver and each of the passengers had to do some bit to bring the vehicle to moving. The road sometimes behaved in a manner to make them all look like clowns of a circus.
She had been to “Gemini Circus”; had held her breath while the pretty young girls in the glittery skirts did acrobatics, enjoyed the elephants hitting football, the motorcyclist vroom-ing in the “Maut Ka Kuwa” and had fallen down on her mother’s lap unable to control her laughter when the two dwarfs hit on the back of each other with their brooms.
Her parents were proud owners of HMT watches. She “earned” her own after the HSLC exams.
She had at least once heard “Hawa Mahal” on the radio which could be switched on when it was struck gently from the back by her father only.
Then came the black and white Beltek TV. The entire family used to watch it under the strict vigilance of her father. It was without any invitation that the neighborhood gathered around to watch the Chitrahaar or the Sunday movie. Although it was a black and white TV it wore a colored look due to a green flap attached to it later on.The black and white TV was converted to a colored one by the house rats once they found their abode inside it and decided to redo the interior by applying their own electronic know how.
Then came the actual color TV when the Asian Games started. Everyone else got the same idea as well and ever since, no one came over to their house to watch TV.
Everything was fine except after the death of any political leader because of the mourning they would announce on the TV. After all how much “Shashtriya Sangeet” can a girl take? There was none to be seen on the TV screen with a smiling face, not to even speak of Chitrahaar or any entertaining programme during the mourning.
She knew that “Indira Gandhi” was somebody really powerful and terribly important. And that’s all she needed to know.
The only “gadgets” in the house were the TV, the Fridge and a mixer-grinder. All the gadgets had to be duly covered with a crochet cover and sometimes even with ingenious, custom-fit plastic covers.
Movies meant Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Rekha or Jaya Prada. It was obligatory to watch the advertisements of toothpastes and soaps and detergents and cosmetics to watch a movie of two hours in not less than four hours. Since Doordarshan was the only channel there was no option but to bear the onslaught of the ads. The positive thing was that she could sing the songs of the ads and mimic almost all actions and it was a great show when she performed all these in any family gathering.
Taking a photograph was a big thing. She was lucky to call her father’s Click III camera her own. A reel of 12 exposures was valuable hence it justified the half hour preparation and “setting” and the “posing” for each picture. Therefore, she had at least one family picture where everyone is holding their breath and standing at attention!
They were really happy then.
….and then she turned twenty-four.
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