Most of our childhood is stored not in photos but in certain biscuits, lights of day, smells, texture of carpets, the fistfights and the broken swings and in the muddled grounds that hide the footprints, that once stamped on it. We, are the late 90s kids, and take great pride in the fact that we were lucky enough to see a change in century and a millennium together.
I grew up in an apartment, a society where they were a lot of parks, a playground with all sorts of swings and a fountain. For me, my punctuality during my fixed playing times, warranted a medal of honour. The process of calling up all the landlines of homes, my friends lived in, seemed like a grand task. Like, a precursor to a bigger event. Each cricket game or pithoo game, along with a tiny dosage of Step-u with the girls was a glorified conquest for me. Reaching back home, with all clothes muddled up and sweat up my sleeve, an expectation of princely behavior was quelled by a strict scolding from Dad and a quiet consolation from mumma. Managing to squeeze a full-sized cricket game into a gully of any width was everyone’s special skill.
I still remember, the number of times, the big kids used to coerce and bully their way out to get the Cosco ball from the naali and get it washed from us. And perhaps, the number of times, the aunty with the fancy glass door scolded us like hell, if our ball even touched her glass pane. Childhood, to all of us has been very special and meaningful with these tiny little incidents.
Right from the cold shikanjis mumma used to keep ready when we used to come from home, to the exact sequence of shows that used to come on Cartoon Network, right from 5 PM. The sassy haircut of Johnny Bravo and the nerdy Dexter’s Laboratory always came together with Ed, Edd n Eddy to rise up the entertainment quotient. Ben 10 and its Omniverse along with Tom and Jerry Tales ended up with squealing delights on our face as our crush on the Pink Power Ranger in SPD intensified. Getting a brand-new geometry box along with the intoxicating smell of the new plastic covers on the new notebooks, was pretty much the only best thing about the end of summer holidays. Remember, the Onida guy with horns and his terrifying smile that brought nightmares?
Our birthdays were probably the only occasion, when we became teacher favorites for a day and even girls said Hi. The only bites, we were probably terrified of then, were Snake Bites at 99. Chacha Chaudhary felt like a pre-booted version of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Suppandi was the lovable fool. ‘Fingering’ then meant, the number of Crax rings you could put in all your fingers combined. Terrorizing had a name back then; Laser-light. All these jugaadu tactical skills of guessing and placing bets were easily acquired by trading cricket cards and WWE cards. Also, came a time when something by the name of ‘Slam Book’ got popularized wherein you could get people to write cute and sweet things for you. The great debate then didn’t used to be about Arnab’s Republic being a popularity stint but about whether Big Babol or Boomer was better. Whether it be the nibbled off pencil from the rubber side, to the topical chart papers that adorned the sides of our homework, life felt pretty extraordinary.
For then, you didn’t have to worry about possible internships or worry about relationship prospects. CGPA was just an integer number with two decimal places and opening lunch while a class was in progression was a raw talent to mention in the list of your idiosyncrasies. When we were small, this feeling of growing up was so tempting. We dreamt and prayed of fastening the process of growing. Now, when old, we wish if all of us had a Benjamin Button in us. Society is always trying to kick you out of childhood. Once you are gone, there is no going back, so you have to hold on as long as you can. And looking back is how you start.