A friend of mine once rightly suggested that you should never attempt anything sane when you have a glass of red wine in your hands. But this idea just struck me when I was reading Suchitra Bhattacharya’s collection of short stories “Brishti Namar Pore” and there is a list of Kishore-Lata songs playing on loop. Plus, there is the leftover Ilish in my stomach…so you can very well understand the nostalgia hangover….
So what if really Facebook (FB) or any form of Social networking existed in the 90’s? Frankly speaking, I am the old world sort and I would never want the beautiful 90’s.- the wonder years of my childhood to be clouded by the presence of the uber pretentious social networking giant….to cut it short, I would prefer the meekly written old world love letter sent through a friend peddling his equally old ‘Hero’ cycle any day over the curt and short messages sent over WhatsApp or FB. But in the hindsight, ‘if only’ we had the omnipresent ‘social networking’ tools in our hands in the 90’s or our childhood..our life would have been very different….very, very different!
1. Dating, Courting and all the jazz– All of us who were writing teary eyed obituaries for Orkut a few days earlier, will agree that things would have been vastly different if the giants like Twitter or FB made an appearance some 20 years back…(why do I always end up thinking its only 10 years back whenever I think about the 90?!). Orkut stretched your wings beyond doubt..beyond your neighbourhood crush or the tuition class one..but you have to agree that the proposition of proposing your cute and 7-8 year older Mathematics/English teacher would not have sounded as romantic if it were through those very boring, very polite late night chats on FB? Wait? did I say polite? well! the definition depends on you completely- you can always take help of the Bengalis’ new found God and the eternal love of our lives- Robi Thakur, if you want that razor sharp intelligence to shine through but those wonderfully written love letters and those invites for attending ‘Rabindrajyanti’ was a different ball game all together..and in some cases the JU ‘Sanskriti’ fest. If you give me a choice, I will opt for the one mentioned later, anyday!
2. Showing off! – Imagine how different it would have been while doing this one thing which Bong aunties do best – “Showing off”. Be it from their newly acquired ‘jamai babajibon’/ ‘sundori bouma’ or their newly purchased home in the most talked about high rise in the city. Nowadays, it is damn easy when you upload pictures and announce the arrival of your newborn or your new holiday. But in the 90’s it was a tad bit different. If you made that ‘long cherished’ foreign holiday, you had to run from pillar to post to publicise it. I remember this particular grandmother from my locality (‘para’ for Bengalis) who bespoke “toder ekhane ki dhulo re: (It’s oh! so dusty out here here in your country”) to publicise her American holiday to her American ‘doodhwala’ son’s place. It’s a different ball game all together when you think how difficult it would have been to publicise your ultra edited designer wedding or the ‘not so glitzy but heavily photoshopped’ event. Or for that matter that new dish you cooked or the purchase of your new tablet? How?
Image Source: Here
3. Keeping track of that one person you absolutely hate: Maya got married to Manish, but Maya could never forget the betrayal she faced when her long time boyfriend Rahul, who absolutely ignored her after fetching that big bracket job. Maya always wondered how could Rahul completely forget those University days when he made all those false promises of being with her together forever. Nowadays, Maya is happy, but yes, she does miss Rahul sometimes….her friend Tania keeps on informing her about Rahul. She stays in the same locality. One afternoon, the landline rang and Maya could very well tell that it was Tania. She thanked her stars that neither Manish or her mother in law was at home to see the utter state of shock that Maya was in when she heard the news about Rahul impending marriage to a very very rich man’s daughter. OK! that was the 90’s. Only if, FB and Twitter had existed back then, Maya would have known not only about the details of the marriage but also the places that Rahul and his new girlfriend were out on a date for. Thank god! Maya did not have to deal with the deluge of selfies. Having said that, the absence of social networking also saved Maya and Rahul from playing that game of delusional one upmanship- “what, he bought one second hand Maruti 800? I will buy a brand new one.” After all, we all play that game of “Let’s Stalk!”.
4. Conversations and communication– Back in the 90’s, communication was limited, limited in the long distance space. Nowadays, it does not matter if you are sitting in Haldia or Honolulu, there is always Whatsapp, Viber, Facebook and everything else to keep you company. To compare that with the rickety old landline telephone which bridged many a love story of 90’s is a unfair task. Landlines were the kind of “Short story” material….the ones who kept you longing for more. It was only a game of probability that when neighbour Bunty called up Babli on her landline, only she would pick it up. And that gave birth to the concept of “blank calls”, the “fnu fnu” sounds across the telephone to pass on messages or the hurriedly put “Meet me at corner pan shop at 4:30 PM”. And all we have today is the Whatsapp! The glee that Babli had all over her face by the mere presence of “fnu, fnu” in her life is something which we cannot even imagine today. Those days, communication paved the way for conversations…long, soul stirring and often long ones, and nowadays communication has encroached the space of conversations in most cases. Wonder why we never play that game of “Let’s (s)talk!”.
5. Of Online scrapbooks and dressing up– In this one department, I will give full marks to the emergence of Social media in our lives. I distinctly remember my mother dragging me to a tailor and ordering the way how my new frock or salwar kameez would be stitched just by looking at a few sample designs from the catalog where a few hideous models posed in their equally ill fitted dresses. Most of the times the frocks were made out of the same “cheet kapor” that my mother would have purchased for me and my cousin. Sometimes even the designs were almost the same. Cut to now, and all I need is to surf the fan pages of a few boutiques, run a quick search and understand where to find that oh so gogeous Chanderi saree or where to get that absolutely delicious “latkan wala” blouse stitched from. Apart from that, social networking has also given a platform to entrepreneurs who would have never given a second thought to their brilliant skills of designing handcrafted jewellery. In short, social networking and specially “Pinterest” has made us understand, the very average middle class Indians, that junk is not always meant to be thrown away, that DIYs can be fun and jewellery can be not always gold…and that does not mean that it would have to be blingy and “jhak mak/jhak mak” always. There was always an Aparna Sen to show you the way, but with the emergence of Social Networking, my neighbourhood Pammi aunty also felt that her never really appreciated beauty could have admirers too and that she did not need to spend a fortune for that 🙂 Having said that, the innocence of the similar looking frocks is always missed 🙂
But if you ask me to sum it up, I will always be a sucker for old times…times when the news of your ‘first job’ was always conveyed to your neighbour by sending a box full of Sondesh and in turn they congratulated you with a full course meal for dinner- “Ei dekh Bulti, tui ja ja khetey bhalobashish, tai tai baniyechi bujhli” (See Bulti, I have prepared everything you like to eat), said the neighbourhood Jethima in an indulging tone. It is always a better draw than the times when you sit in your pigeon hole apartments in one of the costliest cities of the world and announce the news of your next achievement on FB and all you get is a very wry and dry ‘Like’ in form of Congratulations 🙂