Someone who remembers the 90’s
The year is somewhere in the not-so-distant-yet-far-enough-to-be-discussed-future, when a student in a history class notices something odd about his textbook. “How come these textbooks skip the years from 1990 to 1999?” The teacher puts his air-marker down on the table, lowers his head and sighs. “Because…” he says lifting his head, a single tear rolling down his cheek, “… only a 90s kid will remember the 90s.”
In my opinion, this is the best decade to have lived through. Period. What makes it so special? Well for instance, I was born on the 28th September 1993. Of course that, in and of itself, isn’t an accomplishment but I was born at a time when my childhood was so fulfilling and nostalgia-inducing that kids today would beg for it. Which is why,I often find myself having reminiscences during my respite from this busy competitive life-is-a-race world — the shackles and manacles of this life as the responsibilities which comes with growing up, constrain me from being free. It has been a long road to follow — moving on to tomorrow without saying goodbye to yesterday. These are some indelible fragments of my life that are etched into my memory that molded me into the man I am today. But are these memories I preserve still real?
Though the decade did end with a bang with one of the best movies ever made — the release of Fight Club — catapulting us into the Millennium, my attempt of reconciliation with the 90s only progresses and I happily regress to my former self when it was worth getting up on a Sunday morning. Why? To watch cartoons on TV. Now I can watch TV shows and cartoons from the comfort of my room but it doesn’t have the same excitement of a week-long wait for the next episode to go on air. As I think back to these times I’ve had, I feel like Harry Potter, swimming deep inside Dumbledore’s Pensieve. So I dive in, with a vision so clear that it feels like only yesterday, and I see the 90s flashing in front of my eyes.
The 90s, when I loved bickering everyday with my siblings (and fought for an extra serving of cake on New Year’s) and not just Skype or Facetime with them once a month like I do now. I had to put off the internet because my sister needed to use the phone (dial-up modems were a luxury back then). I was too scared to call the girl I liked because I thought her dad would pick up the landline instead of her (Not every school kid had a cellphone back then. I remember I decided later that I would rather meet her at school and have fun than talk incessantly on the phone for hours, like my sisters do). I drank water that was just the right temperature , because my mom kept it out for me an hour ago, anticipating my inherent thirst after coming back with my heavy school bag from a tiring day at school. I returned home to a snack that was neither from the microwave nor was it instant cup noodles. I received my first love letter too back then, unlike someone leaving a message on Facebook. When I would get bored, I used to play the latest PC game available. And my PC would prompt me to ‘Insert Disc #3’ to play it on my Pentium 3 desktop. Despite being low on good graphics, they were fun games. I would buy them with my hard earned monthly allowance and the money I earned from studying and doing household chores. My favorite past time was a brick game called Tetris and the 99 other cool games in that console that I will never find again. That was the time when my neighbourhood friends often came home and hung out with me. Back then, instead of playing DOTA on multiplayer, since we couldn’t, all of us wished that Jumanji was real and fantasised our lives on a monopoly board. We embraced the tenderness of a gentle summer breeze after cycling for hours and exploring new places in the city. I knew my neighborhood like the back of my hand. I didn’t have Google maps come to my aid. Hell, I didn’t even have a phone. My English teacher was impressed with me and I also had a crush on her but back then I didn’t know what a crush was or that it was unrequited. I cherished it for an entire year until she left (apparently because she was getting too plump), which I realised later was maternity leave!
I swim further in the Pensieve to see myself standing on my dad’s Kinetic Honda in the little space I have, with my mouth wide open. He was driving me to school. Ah, a place where punishment was to ‘kneel down’ alongside the friends outside class. Read the same old Indian History textbook and its butchered English. I could now ace the test without even studying for it because everything just fell into place like that. Everything was easy. I used to have fun by pulling out the reels of an audio cassette to erase my sister’s favorite song and replace it with my version of it. I also made my dad buy me an encyclopedia mainly to compensate for my height at the dinner table (and also to reach the jar of candy my mom thought was well hidden from me). I did learn a lot during this time of my life though. I learned about wars and other countries and read books like Sherlock Holmes, Tintin, Hardy boys, Famous Five and other mystery novels in my school library. I also had immense amount of time on my hands during summers, which I didn’t know how to utilize. And no one talked about Global warming or its hazards back then. The Olympics wasn’t still a big deal for me. But I did realize that the black power ranger was black and the yellow one was Asian for a reason. At that time I didn’t even know that pink was a girly color and that it was considered stereotypical.
I did not mourn the loss of talented musicians or the lack of good music. I danced to Hey Macarena (I always messed up the lyrics and I still do) and saw Madonna emerge out of a shiny disco ball when I switch on the television (which isn’t HD or LCD yet — it’s the good old CRT at 480p that had the effect of superglue on me). I imagine myself watching The Legends of the Hidden Temple and other shows wondering what it would be like to participate, in hope that the slimy green goo didn’t ever fall on me. And later in the night I would watch Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, after having begged my parents to let me stay up to finish the movie (I terrorised my sister’s teddy bear for weeks with the nunchuks, which I made by shortening a skipping rope, yes). It was a time when I went to the movie theatre to see the Titanic sink, light sabers clashing against one another and Egyptian mummies trying to take over the world and watched Casablanca on TV for the first time and My Fair lady on a VHS tape that I had rented. My Fair Lady was a wonderful movie that taught me how beautiful the English language is. (Also, Sheep in the big city deserves a mention– I don’t know why but it does) Television was not yet disgraced by unnecessary dubbing artists. The Addams Family, Tom and Jerry (original and not the later versions), Disney movies, Jimmy Neutron, Kenan and Kel, F.R.I.E.N.D.S, That 70’s Show, I dream of Jeannie, Full House — I could never pick a favorite show though. Everything taught me a lesson.
Gasping for breath, I come out of Dumbledore’s Pensieve to see the world for what it is today. And I think to myself that, boy, if I was Rip Van Winkle, I would die too! My consistent memories of this particular time of my life contrasting with the present, leaves me in a dilemma of what I should be feeling right now — sad or happy? Because let’s face it, even though we live in an advanced world now (we still see flying cars only in the movies, what’s up with that?), a 90s kid will always remain a 90s kid at heart because that is a time no one can ever take away from us. Ever.
Circumstances don’t make a person, they reveal him. The same can be said about a person’s past. Those who remember the 90s have something to fall back on, something they can use to instantly change their mood. They know what they can’t look forward to anymore and they move on in this world knowing that the memories they cherish so much, the ephemeral nostalgia, is something that will always be with them in good times and the bad days. I guess we programmed ourselves to forget the beauty of the past while facing the needs of the present. That is what this period has left most of us with. A distant foggy memory that is still valid. You just have to search and reach out to it.