|Illustration: Shruti Yatam|
Childhood is just like an opinion: Everyone has had one and everyone thinks theirs is the best. Coloured by the vintage filter of nostalgia, viewed through the shattered kaleidoscope of adulthood, our childhood sticks deep, like religion. Look no further than when your parents start a sentence with, “When I was your age…” Grab a cup of coffee, because it is going to be a lecture in how this generation has lost the plot, and you’ll need the caffeine to stay up.
“Ye koi gaane hai? Gaane to Kishore Kumar aur Mohammed Rafi ke hote the. What is all this crap that you guys listen to, Honey Singh and Badshah? ‘Blue hai paani paani paani.’ What nonsense is this?” This is how every road trip with my family begins. The person sitting next to the driver, playing the role of the car DJ faces more pressure than Virat Kohli in a big run chase, as he tries to acutely balance the melodies of the ’60s with the beats from 2017.
Movies are another bone of contention and are usually easier to defend than Honey Singh. “What is with these people flying around on broomsticks and monsters roaming on the streets? It is so unrealistic,” pooh-poohs my dad, watching Spider-Man. Then he goes back to watching the 37th version of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana on Zee TV. I fail to understand how he can watch different versions of the same thing over and over again, when he knows the entire plot and sequence of events. Change a few visual effects here and there, give or take a few plot points, and you could have Tiger Zinda Hai.
The “humare zamaane mein” line of thought extends to food too — the same brush paints anything outside the range of ghar ka khana as junk food. And as far as parental jurisdiction goes, all junk food is bad. Even franky, which is basically just sabzi and chapati that went for a masters’ degree to the States. “In our time, we used to eat only healthy and nutritious food,” says my Gujarati dad, coming from a family with a rich lineage of diabetes and heart diseases. Even our daal is so sweet that you could give it to the children who come trick-or-treating on Halloween.
And then there is the false braggadocio that could put a battle rapper to shame. “We used to just beat the shit out of each other while playing on the ground. We would steal mangoes from the neighbour’s farm, jump into the well, swim in dirty water. You guys are pussies.” My dad says it in a tone that indicates he’s proud of it. Sure, I am missing out on the typhoid, losing a couple of teeth, and ending up in jail but I’d rather just stick to safer pursuits like football or cricket. I’ve missed out on these character-building exercises, just the way I have missed out on walking three kilometres, swimming across the English Channel, and fighting the Demogorgon to attend the one school in the entire village. But what can I say, technology progressed and granted us a revolutionary invention in the form of buses.
But our parents can’t walk away with all the credit. We continue to keep this grand tradition alive by hating on the generation that succeeds us.
The entire “90s kids” train of nostalgia is designed to make our childhood feel special and unique, while we shit on the children of today. “Swat Kats, Tintin, and Johnny Bravo, those are cartoons. Cartoon Network of the ’90s was the real deal. What kind of heathen watches Ben 10 and Shin Chan?” “WWE of the ’90s was so lit, with The Rock, Triple H, Stone Cold.” “This EDM music is so ewww, what is wrong with you people?!”
Well, maybe the kids of today believe Johnny Bravo is a serial harasser of women. Maybe they don’t like Undertaker showing up every single time at Wrestlemania like Mihir Virani at a K-serial wedding. Maybe they enjoy losing themselves to… whatever it is that EDM is supposed to achieve. This is a different generation that grew up in a different time with access to different things, technology, food, and human experiences. They have different memories, different ideals, different Gods. What Charlie Chaplin is to my father and Mr Bean to me, Shin Chan is to them.
But I guess this is a function of age, the constitutional birthright of every generation to snark at the zillion imperfections of the folks that came after them. Just the way our parents told us that we don’t enact out the Hunger Games on the school playground, we tell younger kids that they don’t play at all. “I’m so glad I was born before this whole technology thing started,” we say. “No phones, no apps, no laptops, fantastic childhood.” All the while conveniently ignoring how technology enriches the lives of younger people. While a seven-year-old has access to Snapchat and the Gormint aunty video, he also has access to Wikipedia and Ted Talks.
I suppose this generation too will have its revenge with the one after. They’ll tell tales of how difficult their existence was, having to deal with 4G speeds and structured playtime. Just the way we romanticise our imperfect little worlds, they will romanticise theirs. On that note, Happy Childrens’ Day!
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