It’s a general tendency when mocking someone young, for their misdirected maturity, to ask if their age is the reverse of what it is. Like if you’re 13, they’ll ask if you’re 31. That’s why I wonder if I’m 82! It’s not that I’m mocking myself here, but it’s as if life is mocking at me.
There was a time when the generation gap was about 15-20 years, that reduced to about 10 years when I was young. The eldest of cousins are about 15 years older than me and it’s hard to connect with them, yet I connect well with my eldest brother – he’s 9 years older than me. Most of our thoughts are similar, so is our approach towards most things except our inclination towards technology. I’m inclined much more to technology than he is, although he’s quite good at gadgets himself.
Now when I look down the ladder, things change. I can connect to people who were born in the early, mid or late 80s like me, although it gets tough with people who were born in 1989, like me. 1989 is like the cusp of two zodiacs, some people belong to the older generation while the other identify themselves with the younger one. The same holds true with people born in 1990 too. I connect with only a select few who were born in 1989 or 1990. There are cousins who are about the same age as mine, yet I don’t connect well with them. Their approach towards everything seems way too immature and childish to me. On the other hand, there are friends of the same age who I’m comfortable with.
Further down the ladder, I can sense a canyon whose depth I cannot judge. I can’t see beyond a point, everything’s foggy. The folks from 90s have very less in common with the 80s generation. When you dig deeper you see that the gap between generations reduce to about 5 years starting from the early 90s. Their hobbies are different, the games they like are different, the music they listen to are different. These days it feels like the gap is down to about 2-3 years.
So what’s the point of all this? Well, there certainly is a sense of alienation as well as ageing. I was brought up in a family that was from a small town / rural background, I’m one of the first pure-bred city species in my family. Yet, frequent visits to the village when I was young has left me with a certain set of memories of a simpler life.
The family itself belongs to a modest middle-class society, god-fearing, hard-earners they are, I have seen the transformation from being strugglers to successful people. I’ve seen our status improve, our wealth increase steadily and slowly. Also, the fact that I grew up watching my family, my city and my country transform in the post-globalization world has given me the opportunity to see different worlds in a short lifetime.
The tape-recorders and their casettes, the 2-in-1 casette players, watching movies on VCRs, being spellbound by colour television – something we owned only in 2002, jawdropping at neighbours and friends who own TV video games – cheaper rip-offs of Nintendos from the 80s. By the time we could grasp these things, others became rich faster, their 2-in-1s were replaced by CD players, there were handheld brick-game devices, massive televisions and more. We on the other hand spent our time stealing cable TV signals from the neighbors’ connections, catching FM radio signals from Bangalore, 200 kms away, using lengthy wires and TV antennas and celebrating the first show we heard on the first private FM channel in India – RadioCity 91 FM. It was the Sunday Late Night Retro Show by RJ Priya Ganapathy.
We’ve seen mobile phones transform from bricks to flip phones to slides to large-screen bricks. We’ve written letters, by hand, to our friends – a pile of those still lies in a box locked up in my cupboard. We used to call up our friends on their landline phones and ask them to get on Yahoo messenger so that we could chat live. It was cheaper after all.
There’s so much nostalgia to write about. As I was talking about these things when being driven back in the office cab, the driver turned to me and wondered if I really wrote letters, for real. He’s about 5 years younger to me and asks why older songs from 70s were that famous, why everyone about my age sings those songs when they’re played on the radio. A younger colleague tries to justify how Whatsapp has transformed communication between people. He is even more amused to learn that I collect DVDs and buy music online to store the files on my music player.
True, the world has truly changed and the tools we use have made much of our problems extinct. I’m writing this blog sitting in a rocking chair that has in-built bluetooth enabled speakers, banging the keys on a wireless keyboard connected via bluetooth to a 12-inch Windows tablet that’s more powerful than any computer I ever owned.
Yet, when I look at that pile of letters, the DVD collection, the stamps and coins I collected, the stack of audio casettes my parents collected, those old meaningful songs – Hindi, Kannada, ABBA, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple .. -, I certainly feel nostalgic. It’s a bygone era. An era that appreciated art for its artistic value, that recognized a man by his hobby. The younger ‘uns don’t get that, I can sense it – true hobbies are disappearing, people are acquiring and discarding hobbies like Reynolds 045 pens, the music they listen to isn’t personal anymore, there’s no loyalty to a band, there’s no loyalty to a store – online or offline. You’re loyal to the one that’s cheaper, you pick the hobby that’s trending on Facebook or Instagram, your music is either party or shitty love croons that don’t have even a 3 month long recollection value.
The nostalgia and the generation gap makes me feel way older than I am, as if I already belong to a bygone era. As if I’m 82. Wonder how my grandfather would feel if he was capable of discerning the world around him. He’s 98 and reversing it to 89 won’t help!