When you struggle to remember a certain memory buried in the past, you seek to relive what it felt like at that moment, try to etch out the person’s features and their expressions in your mind, strain to remember smells and sounds.
I can remember the smell of rain piercing the dry, cracked mud very well.
That cool, earthy aroma which used to emanate and spread everywhere as rain washed everything in its way. Worn out, dusty leaves on glum, wrinkled trees got back their fresh green colour, birds on wires shook off water droplets from their feathers just to get drenched again, little puddles formed to mirror the sky, carry along paper boats and receive fat drops of rain and the scorching sun was wiped out with dark clouds.
I also remember how the wet cool mud felt beneath my feet, squelching between my toes as I scrunched them up.
After the scorching summer, the rain was always a welcome relief. As soon as thunder cracked its whip and a cool breeze swooped down, we as kids ran outside to receive the first cool drops of rain. The feeling was almost magical. Gleeful kids kicked off their shoes and ran barefoot splashing mud and playing football in the rain. The smell of coffee simmering and sizzling pakoras filled the house. Lights were turned on to drive away the darkness.
As a 20-something now, living away from home, rain doesn’t feel so magical anymore. I haven’t felt that mad, giddy excitement in a long time which would impel me to run out and get soaked.
Watching the rain pour down from my window always brings back those memories. Reliving them in our heads, we smile unconsciously and then with a sinking feeling realise that we can never go back there again. That childlike enthusiasm disappeared long ago when the child in us grew up, saw the grim reality of the world and gradually fell silent. But we still have these memories to savour and even for a few moments we steal away from the present to be a part of the past again.
A thorough 90s kid, I feel blessed that smartphones, laptops, tablets did not exist back then. Because as children when we set off for my grandmother’s place in robust spirits during the summer holidays, we didn’t have a smartphone to fiddle with. We would snag the window seat in the train and press our faces to the grill straining to see as far as the eyes could humanly see. Green fields would rush past, with small thatched huts. Cows grazed calmly and scarecrows stood still in the sun. Whenever the bridge passed over a bridge, there would be a loud sound as the steel structure whipped past and we would call out to each other to excitedly gaze over the wide expanse of the sparkling river.
We talked to co-passengers who became very pally within no time, played Antakshari, shared home-made alu-puri on stiff paper plates which had ‘Welcome’ written on it in curly writing and finally retreated to the land of Enid Blyton as five friends went off on fantastic adventures together.
The occasional Tinkle and Chacha Chowdhury would come out of suitcases after nudging parents awake from sleep, hurriedly bought at the station to settle the restless kids down. It was also a good time to drink those cola drinks once the vendors passed by clinking the glass bottles against one another.
Travel now means taking an impersonal flight to our destinations. Business-like we take our seats, pop in our earphones. There is no conversation and in two hours, without looking at our co-passengers, we deboard, our mind already ruminating on that email we just received from work.
The 90s child had a very happy childhood. We didn’t have shiny gadgets but we had these brick games, we used to jab away at the buttons with our fingers till they hurt. We had mario and these cassette video games which were a little reluctant to get into the slot.
As soon as the last bell rung, we would run out to spend our meagre pocket money on tangy golgappas (we would get a free golgappa after a lot of coaxing) and bhel puri. Coming back home, we used to wolf down our food and pull on our favourite pair of worn out shorts to run out and yell for all of our friends. Within minutes, there were sounds of gleeful laughing and running. We didn’t want to come back home, after several “Bas paanch minute aur” our parents would give up on calling us back home.
We have money now but no time to spend it and even if we manage to spend it, there’s no satisfaction. That’s the thing about these memories. They take us back to simpler times but even as they warm us inside, there’s a tinge of sadness that we can never have that back.
Sundays brought with it it’s own special feeling. Sundays were sluggish, lazy days. We would wake up after a lot of persuasion and then a final resort (turning the fan off) to Sunday breakfast cooking.
Families would gather around the television to watch Sri Krishna on Doordarshan with Sarvadaman D. Banerjee as Krishna nodding away with sagacious wisdom. Mahabharata and Ramayana would follow with the villainous Ravana and other wicked kings, all extraordinarily hairy and bushy around the face.
Dusty collections of tazos and jenga cards are testimony to the amount of money we spent on Cheetos for their tazos, picking it out of the packet and then licking our fingers clean of the masala.
Those who had siblings indulged in the infamous remote wars, the ‘I-don’t-know-why-I-hate-you’ poundings and the ‘Tune maara toh main bhi maarunga’ scuffles. But sometimes they suddenly turned inexplicably angelic, sharing their ice-cream with you if you dropped yours and playing indoor catch and catch in case you were bored.
By the time puberty collided with us and left us reeling, we were singing along with Backstreet Boys, the Spice Girls and Jonas Brothers. We saw cassettes become extinct; but visit any 90s kid’s home and you’ll see their cassette collection still preserved. You don’t really have the heart to throw them away.
Crushes were the order of the day with the most remarkable sensations flooding through us. Starry eyed we daydreamed about weddings to our crushes and when we came across them, the damned butterflies invaded our tummies, mouths stammered and palms turned cold and sweaty.
We still fall for people now but I wait in vain for the butterflies to assault my stomach again, my palms don’t turn clammy and I am able to form coherent sentences. I miss that light-headed feeling.
With the weight of the world firmly settled on our hunched shoulders, head bowed over our smartphones, eyes scanning messages and emails, I can’t remember the last time I felt young, carefree and excited.
With a dim, distant idea of fun and happiness in our heads, we try, we really do try to recreate that feeling but after hazy drinks and grownup talk, we come home and get into bed with a vague feeling of disquiet settled firmly in our chest.
It will never be the same anymore, I might never feel that passionately or strongly again. Memories remain and the most we can do is perhaps call our old friends, all busy in different cities and laugh a little about how silly and happy we were before we hang up and return to our lives.