I know I am running the risk of sounding like and old ‘old’ man when I say this but having watched my nieces and nephews grow up, over the past few years, I am convinced that our generation; and 'our generation' would include my peers, probably between 21 and 26 years old; is probably the last generation to have had a non digital, unadulterated, uncomplicated, out doorsy childhood.
I vividly remember the excitement that only the last paper of the annual examinations could bring in. And once the summer vacations began - the daily routine would begin with cricket in the morning, after a break for lunch all of us friends would gather around the TV and switch on Doordarshan and wait patiently for 'Fun Time'. Once it was evening, it was back to cricket, catch ‘n’ cook, dabba udali, apa dhubi, lagori and chor - police going on right up to 9 in the evenings.
The unbound joy of watching 'Gaayab aaya' and 'He Man'. And once in a while He man would be replaced by the puppet stories of 'Potli baba'. Each of these programs would be punctuated by ads of Bournvita (Mann ki shakti Tann ki shakti ,Bournvita) , an occasional patriotic 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' or perhaps 'Baje Sargam Har Taraf Se'. But one would rarely get to see any such programming on television that was dedicated to children during the other months of the year except f0r Sunday mornings and Saturday evenings which had the monstrous 'Giant Robot' performing PT exercises and launching missiles from the tips 0f his fingers at the orders of a small child who would instruct Giant Robot over his watch-cum-walkie talkie and the robot would easily destroy his rather ‘challenged’ Japanese enemies. Come to think of it, such simple, uncomplicated viewing - No computer generated graphics, no complicated names or stories, easy animation and an even easier name - He is a robot and he is , well, a ‘giant’ . So what do we call him? How about ‘Giant Robot’? As simple as apple pie, isn’t it?
The rare luxury of having my father rent out a VCR cassette of Tom and Jerry – the evergreen ‘Sholay’ of cartoons, would throw my brother and me into ecstasy. And it was not until we were almost out of school , did we have a dedicated cartoon channel – Cartoon Network, which had Swat Kats, Bird-Man, the Centurions etc – a far cry from the dilemma faced by today’s kids – of having to choose between Pogo, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney channel, Hungama and what have you.
Another distinct memory of my childhood is ‘Tinkle’. This monthly turned fortnightly publication by ‘Uncle Pai’ would have me and my brother fight over who would get to read it first every single month. I wonder if children today read any Amar Chitra Katha publications at all. All my Mahabharatha and Ramayana gyaan is the result of reading Amar Chitra Katha and of course the family addiction of the early 90s – Ramanand Sagar’s TV epics.
Coming back to ‘building cricket’, I just don’t see any one playing it these days. Underarm cricket, box cricket, pheki cricket – all of them surely are extinct now. Gone are the days when the building entrance gate pillar would bear the stumps marked on it with chalk and a large rectangular stone would be the bowlers bowling mark cum popping crease cum stump. And the kind of run out dismissal which was unique only to building cricket – ‘current run-out’ – where the batsman would be run out if he was short of his ground and if the bowler caught the ball and had some body part touching the stump!
And with smaller building compounds, more and more cars and lesser and lesser playing space , the only form of cricket we are going to see the kids play is going to be on Playstation, Xbox and the computer.
Now a days, relationships seem to progress fast, trends and fashion are changing even faster, life in general seems to be going by so quickly and when I happened to see this news report that said how 13 years old are active on orkut and facebook, I couldn’t help but feel sad for these kids who, have, sadly grown up too fast.