My attendance at the London Anusmaran was laced with nostalgia. So here goes…
Every time I pass my mother’s native place (on our way to better cities), she starts off on the same memory trail, “I used to walk 7 km every day to school with my tiffin box in hand, my pavada (long skirt) picking up all dirt from the ground. You wouldn’t know how it was to work hard to get educated. You have always had a car.”
The answer to this non-question is, of course, not what I say afterwards: “I went by school bus, if you can remember!”
This one just prompts a tirade of more reminiscences of how it used to be that buses used to be used only for journeys of longer than 30 km, how my parents used to wake up at 5 AM to attend the 7 AM mass after using a boat to go through un-navigable areas and how she used to cook seven course meals for a whole battalion of Indian Army officers AND their wives on a Bunsen burner.
So, I wondered, why is it that nostalgia isn’t what it used to be? Why is it that the older generation seems to have a copyright drawn out on “long road to a difficult education” ™ and “my parents had to save for 10 days to buy me a pencil & slate”™? Why are we profiting from their success in life? So much so that I fear that we will not be able to bore our children with these kind of sob stories!
This cannot be allowed to happen. In recognition of the difficulty of recreating nostalgia like your mom made it, I have drafted the New Age IIM Student’s Guide to Nostalgia Bees Saal Baad.
Scenario: 20 years later, our hero sits with his children, (Aju, aged 12 and Anu, aged 8 years) and wife for one of those rare family dinners he has.
His life has been filled with success and he, like all do-good Indian dads, wants his children to do better! Of course, his frequent foreign trips and the time spent leading the company into the Fortune 500 list (from the Fortune 100 one) have meant that he feels a bit disconnected with what his children are up to.
That does not really matter! He can always fall back on pointless nostalgia.
“So, Aju, how are you doing with your calculus?”
“Dad, I won’t be starting calculus till 11th standard.”
“What rubbish. When I was your age, I was differentiating from the time I was ten. Your mother told me that you are complaining you don’t have enough time to study and your grades are slipping. You are now second in class! How can you not have time? You are only attending 7 tuitions.”
“Dad, I only have 5 subjects.”
Our hero has found the non-sequitur response. “This is what comes out of giving your children the best comforts in life. My parents used to send me by school bus. School was at least 10 km away. You know how much I was troubled by all the children around me?”
By now our hero has just warmed to his subject.
“I used to get only 20 rupees per week as pocket money till I was 12 years old. Until IIM Bangalore, I had never even used a calculator. We used to use log tables. Look at you, I have bought you laptops to use in class. My father always used to say a little hardship was never hard on children.”
The children are a bit confused and ask what log tables are. Our hero can’t really explain the concept! So he takes refuge in the old adage: offence is the best form of defence.
“This is what comes out of giving your children the best comforts in life. I slog and slog and slog for you. Do you want to go to Harvard? You can’t sit like this and expect everything to fall into your lap. When I went to IIM Bangalore, I had to sit and study everyday to get to where I am. When everyone was drinking and dancing on L^2, I was…”
The next question which the hero suddenly finds hard to answer is what an L^2 is. Between the hemming and hawing, the wife informs two very gleeful children that the L^2 is where their father discovered the pleasures of wine. Among other intoxicants.
“Yes, but I got drunk only on Saturdays and other happy occasions.” (You can see the loophole here!) “And this was only after I had studied for next week, exams and done my projects, read the newspapers and cleaned my room. Have you seen your room lately, young woman? It looks like a badly behaved dog has gone through it.”
“Actually that IS what has happened.”
“When I was your age…”
The wife interrupts, “I heard from your mom, half your room used to be a dustbin and you used to sleep in the other half. Usually on the ground. On the other hand, when I was their age…”
10 minutes later, the whole family is a little worse for the wear. It’s time for the bombshell.
“By the way, darling, your parents are coming to visit us.”
The hero is horrified. “No way. I think I am suddenly required in Dubai then. Dad always talks about the good old days.”