Friday, 15 April 2016

That kid from 90s

Yes, a lot of us have spent our childhood in 90s. While some of us moved on with the life and remembered the decade as one of the sweetest memories of our life, there are some who never got out of that golden era. Of course, they grew old physically, but something of them got stuck there, forever...

That kid from 90s 

“Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai Pata Chala Hai, Chaddi Pehen Ke Phool Khila Hai Phool Khila Hai.”

Ramesh was so much startled that he hit his head hard with the cupboard above his study table, trying to find the source of the song in a frenzy. Of course, it was the TV in drawing room. But “this” song? 

“Papa, papa, see Papa!” Raju was dancing on his tiptoes excitedly and pointed towards the TV. What Ramesh saw, it gave him goose bumps. It was the same old Jungle Book, from his own childhood, with Mowgli and Bagheera and Baloo. Except that unlike his favourite cartoon series, it was a live-action adaptation.

Apparently, Disney was making a new movie on the classic Jungle Book story and it was a trailer that they were broadcasting on TV. Ramesh watched in awe as the characters from his childhood emerged on the screen in spectacularly realistic forms. “I want to watch this movie, Papa!” His six-years-old son pulled at the hem of his shirt, still jumping around. Ramesh looked at him, smiling. The song had brought back so many memories…

Ramesh is a grown up adult now, thanks to all the years that passed by since his childhood. He is grown up enough to get a job, get married and have a kid of his own. He works in a reputed IT company, has a nice, cosy home and a lovely family that consists of his wife and son and his parents.

Now, Ramesh is not your usual Indian adult, no sir. He belongs to an era when the kids in India were having the best days of their lives. Like any other 90s kid, he spent most of his childhood and teenage days preoccupied with several activities ranging from playing with WWF cards to reading comic books of Nagraj and Bankelal.

Ramesh still remembers that one time when his teacher first introduced computers and he stole the rubber ball from the mouse, when he longingly waited for Sunday mornings to watch his favourite cartoons and shows on Doordarshan, and when he had a fight with his best friend who cheated in the game of Snakes & Ladders.

You would ask, what’s so special about Ramesh? He is just like any other 90s kid, right? Well, yes, he is, mostly. However, what really makes him different from the other children, or adults of his age, is the fact that even though Ramesh is the father of a kid now, try as hard as he might, he can never stop thinking of all those golden days of his life.

Even though he is doing great, providing for his family and taking care of his old parents, more than often, he finds himself trotting on the path of his past, which he knows will never come back.

This one time, he was in a music store, browsing for a good pair of speakers for his iPad, when he came across something; it was a Sony Walkman, showcased in a glass box. Hesitatingly, he asked the shopkeeper about its price. the shopkeeper stared at him for a while, and said, laughingly, “Sir, that is just for the showcase. No one listens to it anymore.”

That was when Ramesh realized how old he had grown. Another time, he took Raju to get him ice cream. When they reached the ice cream parlour, Ramesh spotted a very old man selling a particular kind of sweet toffee with which Ramesh was very much familiar. He remembered how the sweet was crafted into watches, necklaces and wrist bands, which he and his friends were very fond of.

Ramesh asked Raju whether he wants one or not. Raju looked at it for a while and said, “This is disgusting. How someone can play with their food? I will get my ice cream.” Ramesh couldn’t help but remember how much he used to insist his mother to buy one of those sweets.

So, this is our Ramesh. Amidst all the happiness, the only thing that really makes him sad at times is, he misses his childhood more than anything else in the entire world, and no matter how hard he tries to relive those moments with his only son, it never goes as he expects. Raju has absolutely no interest in all those stuff. He is just a normal kid who loves his PlayStation 3 and gaming PC.

“PlayStation 3!” Ramesh suddenly remembered. Raju wanted the new Call of Duty game so much. He had been insisting to Ramesh for a long time. However, Ramesh had planned to gift him the game on his birthday, and it was Raju’s birthday tomorrow.

Hurriedly, he put on his shirt and rushed outside. It was 10 in the night but he knew of a game shop which would be open at this time, hopefully. The road was blissfully empty, with hardly any traffic as the rush time was over. However, just when he was a few blocks away from the shop, he spotted something and pulled the breaks of his car.

The car stopped abruptly with a screech. Ramesh got out of it and slowly moved towards a dingy looking shop. It was a toy shop; a very old one. He knocked on the door, but found that it was already opened, with one of the hinges broken. Hesitating a little, he entered.

There were all sorts of toys inside; cars and dolls and catapults and spinning tops… Every corner of the shop was bringing back a flood of nostalgia to Ramesh.

He picked up a spinning top and the rope with which it was played. He remembered how he used to have a match with his friends, betting on whose top would knock out the others. He remembered those days as if they happened just yesterday.

The inside of the shop was all rickety and smelled of old wood and dust. Ramesh wondered how the shop was so big from inside when it appeared so small outside. Putting the top back on the shelf, he approached the dusty counter and ringed the bell.

At first, he thought no one was there to answer him. A little bit disappointed, he was just about to leave when a very old man came out from the inside of the shop, smiling at him.

“How may I help you, sir?” the man asked with a warm smile.

“Umm, actually, I was looking something for my kid,” Ramesh said hesitatingly, “but…” “But you are not sure what you should get him, are you?” the old man completed the sentence.

“Yes, yes,” slightly taken aback, Ramesh said, “Uh, can you please help me?”

“Of course!” the old man said jovially, “That’s why I am here. So, what kind of games your kid likes?”

Ramesh was blank. He had a look at almost all the toys in the shop and had no idea what Raju would like most among them.

The old man stared at him for a while and then said, smiling, “Don’t worry. I know what the child would love. Give me a minute.” And he went inside.

After a while, he came out with a box. “Here,” he said, putting the box on the counter.
Ramesh looked at it in disbelief. It was a board game, and not just any board game. It was “Ludo,” his most favourite one. A slideshow of pictures started to scroll in front of Ramesh’s eyes. He was best in the game. He used to beat his cousins and friends every single time. They actually used to call him the king of Ludo.

“It will be his favourite too, worry not,” the voice brought Ramesh back to the present. The old man was speaking to him.

“Well, OK. I will take it,” he said and took out his wallet to pay. Suddenly, he remembered something. “I would take one more thing,” he said to the old man.

Driving back to the home, Ramesh couldn’t help thinking about the shop and the old shopkeeper. Suddenly, he remembered something with shock. How the old man knew Ludo was “his” favourite game? He sharply turned his car and drove to the shop. However, for some unknown reason, he never found it again.

Just when he parked the car at home, Ramesh realized that he completely forgot about Raju’s game. “What was I thinking?” he murmured to himself. Anyway, he decided to gift him the game of Ludo and hoped that Raju would like it.

“Papa! You got the new Call of Duty!” Raju came running to him the moment he entered. Smiling, Ramesh procured the Ludo box from behind.

Confused, Raju asked, “What is it?”

“Find it out yourself,” Ramesh encouraged him to unwrap the box.

When Raju saw the Ludo box, he asked Ramesh again, this time, a little bit annoyed, “What is it?”

“This is a game of Ludo, Raju,” Ramesh said, “It’s a board game, and really an entertaining one. Come here, I will teach you how to play with it.”

“But I don’t want it,” Raju was in tears, “I wanted my game, and you got me this? I don’t want it!” He threw it away and ran to his room.

Ramesh was hurt. He looked at the scattered tokens and die.

“Don’t feel bad,” his wife said, “it’s just that he has never played it. Give him some time, he will get it.”

Ramesh didn’t say anything, he was too tired and hurt. He just went to his study table and sat, lowering his head. He recalled how happy he was when his father had got him Ludo for one of his birthdays. It was not an ordinary one; the board was laminated and the die was shiny and big, like a gem.

He tried his best, but he was not able to control his tears. “It was a mistake, those days are long gone, never to come back,” he whispered to himself, “I should never have got him this game.”

He decided to return Ludo first thing tomorrow morning and get Raju’s video game. Just when he was about to get up, someone pulled at his trousers.

“Papa, I’m sorry papa,” it was Raju, his cheeks wet with tears, “I’m sorry papa, I shouldn’t have thrown it.”

Ramesh put his hand on Raju’s shoulder and said, smiling, “It’s OK Raju. I will get you Call of Duty tomorrow.”

“No papa, I want to learn how to play it. It looks interesting,” Raju said.

Ramesh looked at his wife who was standing at the door. She gestured him to go ahead and Ramesh knew who convinced Raju to give Ludo a try.

“Alright, it’s a very easy game, but nonetheless, a very fun one,” Ramesh said, putting the board on the table and arranging the tokens.

“Four players can play it, each having an option to select tokens from green, blue, red and yellow,” he started to teach as Raju watched keenly, “Each player gets a turn to roll the die and move their respective tokens accordingly. Are you getting it Raju?”

“Yes papa. I want to give it a try,” Raju said enthusiastically, “Can we have a game right now? Please?”

“Of course, but just one game, OK? It is late and you have to sleep,” Ramesh said, “but before that, I have something else to show.”

He reached for his trouser pocket and pulled something out. It was a spinning top with the rope.

“What is it!” Raju asked excitedly.

“Do you want to learn how to play with it?” Ramesh asked.

“Yes! Of course!” Raju said jumping around him.

Ramesh didn’t say anything. He just smiled and looked at his son who was now seven-years-old. 

The year was 2016, but who said 90s were over?