We cheerfully walked kilometres to and from school (usually without a parent or chaperone), and, immediately after our return, dumped our school bags, drank a glass of milk and ran out to play.
The Good Old Days..
Rajesh Haldipur takes a walk down memory lane to the 60’s and 70’s
Life in the slow lane...
- Few people owned cars – and some of those who had, kept the windows closed even in summer when they left home, so that the neighbours would think they had an air-conditioned car!
- Our parents usually had enough money to last till the next salary, though the mind boggles on how Mom made both ends meet, with 3-figure salaries being quite common. Yet they had enough to spare for donating for causes like cyclone relief, earthquake relief, etc. through schools.
- There were at least a few bungalows/ independent houses in each locality in Bombay. They have all but disappeared in Bombay. Those that remain are the subject of decades-long legal disputes, in most cases.
- No swimming pools (except municipal), no basements, no podium parking. Some had enclosed garages so they could lock their cars out of sight of their envious neighbours.
- In short recess at school, those of us who had 5 to 25 paise pocket money, enjoyed buying red-and-white bubble gum dispensed from the top of a thick bamboo. The rest of us acted as if we hated the stuff!
- Sometimes, our classmates would saunter back to class minutes after the bell went off after enjoying a jeera goli that left jammy red churan jelly smeared on our faces.
- School-bags were canvas and lasted 3-5 years. On, they tore, the seams gave way, and they were repaired/ stitched by the cobbler.
- We cheerfully walked kilometres to and from school (usually without a parent or chaperone), and, immediately after our return, dumped our school bags, drank a glass of milk and ran out to play.
- No coaching classes -- till we reached Class IX at least. In rare cases, there were personal tuitions from school teachers after school, in subjects that we were weak in. Usually this was free, or a small fee was given.
- Some of us also enjoyed thin slices of raw mango with salt and chilli powder.
- No Lays, no Kurkure, no bottled water. We drank straight from the tap, and had no stomach upsets.
- We played barefoot, or at most, with chappals. No sneakers, walking shoes and running shoes. At the most, we had canvas shoes with a thin rubber sole that wore out pretty soon, which we wore for PT.
- Outdoor games with simple props included a variety of marble games, such as one with heavy iron balls as marbles; usually we used cement marbles (3 for 10p), not glass.
- We also played with pieces of stone and catapults ("catties") though adults frowned on our playing with this potentially lethal toy.
- We played outdoor team games with names such as aatya-paatya; aaba-dhubi and kho-kho. Only the last survives, I think.
- We still had many coconut trees to climb, scrape our stomachs and skin our elbows, in the coastal city that's Bombay. They've now all gone!
- No computers, no video games, no playstations or Wiis. Instead, we had miniature pinball, magic "disappearing egg", and a game where we arranged numbers 1-15 by moving square pieces using the sole blank spot on a 4x4 matrix.
- Another was a plastic toy with concentric circles and gaps through which you slid 5 tiny iron balls into the innermost concentric circle.
- The area around the apartment buildings was open -- hardly any cars were parked because very few people had cars. Today, there are many more kids, and much less open space. The only way we can keep the new generation quiet is by giving them mind-numbing electronic games to play.
- Cutex nail polish, Cuticura or Ponds Dreamflower talcum powder, Keo-Karpin and Cantharidine Hair Oils and Tata's Eau-de-cologne were the mega-cosmetics brands. Who remembers Patanwala ka Afghan Snow, regularly advertised on radio?
- My sister and cousins wore beaded colourful rubber bands called “Love-in-Tokyo”s to tie up their pony tails.
- 36" bell-bottom trousers were the rage, and have yet to make a comeback after its disappearance!
- Girls wore “pinafores” to school and “frocks” after school – I am not sure what they mean any more, but these words were part of my vocabulary then. I don't hear these words any more.
- Those of us whose Dads shaved regularly saw them sporting nicks equally regularly. After-shave treatment was not lotions, but a piece of alum. Some of us had Dads who were satisfied with shaving soap or even bath soap doing double duty, to save on shaving cream. No shaving foam. No twin-blades, let alone 5-blade razors!
- 100% cotton was much cheaper than terry-cot, terry-wool or synthetics; and we hardly had ready-mades. Everyone had a fixed, family tailor of choice. Like we had a family doctor, family carpenter, electrician and plumber, but no architect or interior decorator.
- Ready-made shirts of cotton gauze (!!) (fashionably called cheese-cotton) were available at Handloom House in Mumbai (since burnt down). They were the cheapest shirts going – and were great for the summers.
- Clothes with multiple colours that ran -- "bleeding madras", I think it was called, were also in fashion.
- Who can forget "double-knit" pant pieces smuggled from Japan sold by the neighbourhood tout?
- Radio mostly meant Vividhbharati, Bombay A or Bombay B on Medium Wave.
- Black-and-White TV arrived in 1972. Brand leaders included EC-TV, Crown TV, Televista and Telerad. One brand had an unlikely name called Loyn-Moon! All of them have disappeared without a trace! I used to wonder what the channel selector (for up to 12-channels!) was used for, because, for so many years, we had only 1 channel- Doordarshan.
- Sunday morning 11 am was Bournvita Quiz Contest time on Vividhbharati, with Hameed Sayani, and after his death, Ameen Sayani compering the show. The timer's tick-tock still rings in my ears, and we had great fun when we knew the answer, but the team on radio did not. We kept shouting out the answer, till we were told the answer -- as if they could hear us!
- Afternoon at 11 am on Bombay B was "baazaar-bhav" in Marathi - a listing of current wholesale prices for all kinds of grains in different mandis.
- Listening to Voice of America or BBC Radio on shortwave radio when weather conditions were just right, at night on a largish portable “Telefunken” or Murphy brand transistor-radio, was another treat.
- I remember thinking that the effeminate Michael Jackson on Saturday Date (that was the most popular radio program among the youth) might actually be someone called Michelle Jackson. Yes, MJ was famous that early! Names of excellent AIR newsreaders like Pamela Singh and Pearson Surita readily come to mind. “This is All India Radio, and the News is read by ............. .............”.
- Jetking used to market inexpensive D-I-Y portable transistor radio kits, with a solder iron, solder wire and flex included in the kit. I remember assembling one of them – learning how to count the resistance values and how to solder, using flex. After many tries, I got it right – and then proudly carried my creation around holding it to my ear, to listen to the cricket commentary of Tony Cozier, Suresh Saraiya, and (more rarely) A F S Talyarkhan, long after I had dropped it and several chips had broken off the casing – so much that I needed two rubber bands to hold the transistor-radio together.
....and.....sparrows were more plentiful than crows and pigeons.
When was the last you saw a sparrow in Bombay?