Chandrika R Krishnan
“The nature of life is not permanence but flux,” says Mr Carson in Downton Abbey, and coming from him who tries to retain the old order was so refreshing. Closer home, I find many of us reliving the old times quite nostalgically, particularly in the last couple of years. The pandemic made us slow down and re-evaluate. Aided by a steady stream of Whatsapp forwards we started questioning our dreams, the need to earn more and more money, and the life as it was then was eulogized. It was almost as if the pandemic was giving lessons to the human race to re-think their life choices, on their over-dependence on technology. Having said that, is it easy to go back to the earlier times? Are we not guilty of romanticizing the past?
Recently, when my husband and I were sitting by the banks of an off-beat lake on the outskirts of Bangalore, and just enjoying the plash of the water on the pebbles and the rocks, we both were filled with gratitude for modern living. It was Mr Google that helped us find this place – the GPS led us here, the electric car in which we drove over the national highway was a pleasure to drive.
Turning the clock back a few decades before the mid-1990s, we had taken the bus to the village temple in Tamil Nadu where we had to get our children tonsured. An agony if ever there was one. The bus was crowded. My husband’s cousin ushered me into a bus with my younger one who was just a year old but before my husband could get in with my older child, the bus had started. The basket with the bottle for my little one was left behind. I shudder at the thought of that two-hour-long journey with a wailing child, the press of the people and it has taken me close to three decades to forgive that cousin!
But today travelling to the very same temple on well-laid roads, with homestays galore, restaurants, and tea stalls, we have it all. So let us revisit some of the changes the few decades have wrought on us that has made our lives easy, to say the least.
Food and provisions:
Come March, I remember my mother along with a few colony women trudging their way to the Hyderabad city wholesale market to buy tamarind, the various lentils for the year around. The colony women in the 1970s and 1980s would give their requirements to the volunteers and the womenfolk would return in a bullock cart with the provisions that would last the year. The prices of lentils would skyrocket or sometimes be unavailable for most of the year and hence, this yearly pilgrimage. After getting them, the stones would be removed, dust particles would be sieved and it would be sunned and stored. These industrious ants followed this ritual year after year all through my school days till they retired and they could buy them in the friendly neighbourhood shop the year around. Eating out was rare as it was a costly affair. If we did eat out, it was carefully budgeted into our monthly expenditure.
Milk and water shortage:
There was a time when milk and water would be available only at a particular time and it was at some ungodly hour of 3 AM. This time the menfolk would take turns and sleep in the shed where the milk and water would be delivered and then it was their responsibility for equal distribution to all homes.
Houses very rarely had a cycle leave alone a car and most of the work would be done either by walk or taking the public transport. I was in 3rd grade when a freak accident caused the gate of my house to slam back into my face. My mother along with our neighbour carried me down the road for more than a kilometre to get stitches on my forehead and it still serves me as one of my identity marks on my passport!
A call came at 11 PM at a factory that was a furlong away from my house and my father’s first words over the phone were, “My parents or my in-laws.” A call at an unearthly hour or a telegram was sure to be bad news. When we all left home post marriage, we had to go and stand at the local STD booth to make a call and our eyes would be on the amount displayed rather than enjoy talking to our loved ones. We preferred calling post 9 PM for the rates were slashed at that time. Not only did we have to go stand in the queue, but we also had to give prior information about the call. Even when we registered for a landline in 1995, the waiting time was long. Today, we get the landline connection, if at all we need it in an hour!
Books and periodicals:
The library was rarely in the vicinity and the only way we could borrow books was from the school or college library. Many of us depended on like-minded people coming together and exchanging personal books so that the circulating library could be in place.
Ha! This would take a page in itself! Theatres were far-off from our home. Most movies were long particularly Big B’s movies which had a weekly release on a Friday. At the end of the movie, National Anthem was played. The last fifteen minutes of the movie was rarely if at all enjoyed. If we missed the bus, we had to walk and most of our fathers were unhappy if we returned home after dark. As luck would have it, there was a railway crossing and goods train with no less than 99 bogies used to pass by and with every bogey, our pulse rate too would increase! Today, we have Ola and Uber to drop and pick us up from the theatre and spending cash is far easier. This is not to speak of the OTT release.
Clothes and shopping
Shopping for clothes was a bi-annual affair. It was either for our birthdays or the most important festival. The budget was laid out and we travelled by bus immediately after a brunch. The most exciting time of our lives was when we shopped for that rare dress. It was an unforgettable experience unlike the online, offline, and year around shopping that is possible today and the wardrobe heaves, groans, and moans with clothes, handbags, shoes, and accessories.
True, we took pleasure in small things, we looked up at the world around us, spoke to real people, helped out with the chores around the house. Buying a refrigerator, Mixer-grinder, Television were all family accomplishments. One radio around which the family or friends gathered, the running for buses, and the keen disappointment at missing the direct bus were all part of our lives.
But, today we can play wordle, buy girdles, read books, watch movies, have opportunities galore, hardly lift our head from the oxygen-giving mobile phones and connect with our loved ones at the swipe of the screen. Aren’t we having a better life then?
Yes, to connect or not to with real people, family, friends, not be too immersed in technology is surely in our hands. But the fact remains that changes are here to stay and most advancements make life easier than what was possible in our grandparents’ or parents’ generation. Opportunities and information are aplenty and to take advantage of the same is again our responsibility.[Banner Image by C D-X on Unsplash]
Chandrika R Krishnan, a Bengaluru-based writer and educationist who likes all things beginning with a ‘T’ – talking, teaching, tales, and tea.
A people person and a born observer, she weaves fiction and dispenses ‘gyaan’ alike to the unsuspecting audience. Her 350 + articles and stories (both in print and online media) are mostly eclectic and experiential. She is a published author, and her collection of flash fiction was published recently titled- vignettes- a slice of life. Her stories feature in many anthologies.
You can read her articles @ https://chandrikarkrishnan.com/
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