The ‘voicestra’ that I posted, two days ago, was a song that brought back nostalgia for many of my generation. This was a song about a person’s first love sung with all the innocence of a teenager in the 1980s India. Being a teen in India in late 80s and early 90s, was a special time – alright, being a teen is a special time in any era, anywhere- but India at that time, was a country that was being kissed awake by capitalism. Suddenly our fear of imperialist chains were falling away and the youth of India was introduced to the brands that were seen only in the late night English news that was shown once-a-week. Pepsi came to town!
This might not sound as ground-breaking as, say, man on the moon – but it was, the time and place where Indian youth discovered that you can break away from tradition-en masse! The arrival of MTV was blamed for the downfall of all Indian values but we did not care! We wanted more! We wanted to go out and have a Dosa and wash it down with Pepsi – Fast food salvation. But it was not just food brands that came to plant their flags in a country which was marked till then as ‘Here be Dragons’. New trends like dating and clubbing started creeping into middle-class India. We had a new class by then, the ‘upper middle-class’. This class could afford to fly to other cities, no more squeezing into first-class sleeper A/C. The next level of people “the middle middle-class” could then afford those seats in the trains. We started having more strata in the economic levels in India.
The youth of all strata have always been the fastest adapting section of any society. My generation, at that time, whole heartedly embraced everything new and atrocious. There were cut-outs for Jackie Chan in my hometown with a garland around his neck, right beside the cut-out for Rajnikanth – unmistakeably south-indian in concept but the object of adoration was popularized by Hollywood. We got to see singers like Madonna sing about heart-ache American style – which we could not really sympathize with but can definitely scandalize with. In all this, our idea of love-at-first-sight and forever, did not diminish. My generation was still naïve enough to believe that the first person you fall in love, is the person you are going to be in love with forever. Dreams were built around that premise – castles-in-air, dancing and singing around trees were undertaken with enthusiasm.
We did not know enough to see that screen love is infatuation, we did not know the difference between that life where the problems were of what to wear for your next song and the real life of 9-to-5 jobs and long commutes. Nothing captures this feeling better than the song ‘Pehla Nasha’ in the movie ‘Jo Jeeta wohi Sikander‘. It was a classic, coming-of-age movie, Indian-ishtyle – boy-meets-girl kind, but the magic it wove, the feelings it evoked with this song – sigh.
This is a quote from ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas‘ which can be applied to that period in Indian history as well. This is how we felt:
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
On the bright-side, I have realized, that I am not so jaded that I cannot enjoy those emotions even today. The scenery has shifted from my tree-filled college to our balcony clothesline, but hey, its still love! And hopefully, the forever kind!