Turning 39 in Delhi

I turned 39 in June this year. It felt both mildly cathartic and traumatic.  39 and me? I felt like an episode in Friends , The One Where They All Turned 30. If you have not watched Friends, it was a television show which my generation watched. Like GAME OF THRONES but people were nice in FRIENDS  and no one died.

I have spent all my life in Delhi. I have loved and lived all over, but Delhi was always home port. Schooling, graduation, friends, the whole nine yards were spent in Ghalib’s city.

My generation was a curiously placed generation. Indian economy opened up just as we reached our teens. For us, it meant the number of TV channels suddenly went from 2 to 30 plus. Imagine being 12 before watching your first MTV video. We were not the millennials. We were not the Generation X. We had no Facebook or Instagram to like or share or post. There was no Instagram to post selfies to. There was no selfie. We clicked photos using Kodak camera and got the reel developed. Our memories are mostly in our head. Perhaps that is a good thing. Perhaps it is a bad thing. Time will tell.

When my generation wanted to say hello to their buddies they had to pick up the landline and call people. Mobile phones were too clumsy. Steve Jobs was yet to make his comeback.We had no Metro to travel. We went everywhere by bus. Buses were safe but rowdy. You just travel in daylight but that was Delhi. Autos demanded whatever they wanted and got away with it. We did have bikes and scooters and we used them (mostly we got them after much begging from parents). There was no Nirbhaya and no social media. There was much eve teasing but like traditional men we pretended to do nothing about it.

Life was simple for us. The boys had Super Commando Dhruv and Nagaraj comics. The girls played mostly among themself. We both had Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu. The boys also had Wrestling cards. One of the worst things of growing up was knowing Undertaker and all the Wrestlers faked their matches. Some of us still don’t believe it. There were no cartoon channels just a few cartoons and Tele Match for most of our pre-teens.

Board Exams were a big deal. The funda was Son, get nice grades in your exams in Class 12 so you can goof off for next three years in a nice Campus. Hyper competitive people had IIT and other entrances. The commerce people had CA exams. There was only one university in Delhi and it was mostly on strike. Now there are many Universities in Delhi and they create a lot of graduates traveling in the Metro at the same time apparently.

What did we miss? No Metro No Selfies, No Facebook. We still got by. We missed nothing.

Next year I will turn 40. So day a lot of my schoolmates and friends. I can see another FRIENDS binge watch coming on.

Author: Ajay Ohri


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