Nothing annoys me more than people of my age who keep raving about the ‘good old days’, i.e., those glorious days of our childhood when we’d drink water straight out of the tap, eat all kinds of greasy stuff, wipe our hands on our pants before eating and lick them dry after, run around barefoot, treat our wounds with wet mud, play football in the dirt, use a pencil instead of a keyboard, do multiplication in our heads, and we never had all these “luxuries” like iPhones, iPads, and so on, ad nauseum.
And therefore, we are expected to believe that our childhood was much better than our children’s, and by extension, we are much better than our kids since we learned how to thrive in adversity, we learnt how to innovate, how to be entrepreneurs, etc, etc.
If you’re forty or older and you really believe that your childhood days were the ‘good old days’, then … stop kidding yourself.
One afternoon in October 2005, I got a call on my cellphone. I had just brought my father home after a major cardiac procedure. Since he seemed stable, I left home to get to work. A few minutes later, without any warning, his femoral artery ruptured and gushed fountains of blood everywhere, and he lost consciousness. I got home just in time to administer emergency CPR and saved his life. We rushed him to hospital in an ambulance, and after a very complicated surgical procedure, the surgeon told me he was out of danger. On that day, my father got a seven-year extension on his life.
In the ‘good old days’, my father would have bled to death in his own bed, in a matter of minutes.
You see, there were no cellphones in the good old days, no Google maps to help me locate the nearest ambulance service, no way I could have called the hospital from inside the ambulance while on the road, and even if I had somehow got there in time, there was no way the surgeon could have saved my father … because the medical technology that he used to save him had not even been invented in the ‘good old days’.
In August 2007, I contracted a rare E.coli infection, that was resistant to all known antibiotics at the time. For four years, I tried every possible treatment, including weird mumbo-jumbo stuff like faith-healing.
Through those terrifying years when my GI system went berserk, I rarely left my home, for fear that I would embarrass myself in public. I could not work and play as I used to, could not earn my living the normal way, could not socialise, could not do anything except rush to the toilet at regular intervals, day or night. And rush to the hospital every once in a while.
It took two modern-day miracles to save my career and my life. One miracle is the Internet – because of which I was able to remain in touch with the world and earn a decent living even while confined to my home. The other miracle is a drug called Rifaximin. This new-generation antibacterial was developed specifically for highly resistant gut infections like mine, and it was launched in India only in late 2010.
In the ‘good old days’, my nostalgic friends, I would have literally crapped myself to death.
Consider these facts about the good old days:
– NO cure for any major disease. Today, even cancers are curable. And relax, the cure for AIDS is just round the corner.
– NO effective treatment for clinical depression, schizophrenia or any neurochemical disorder. In those days, the usual treatment options were either electric shock or lobotomy. Or they would lock you up. Today, such patients are treated at home and can lead useful lives.
– NO career choices for average people like me. Either you became a doctor or an engineer, or be ridiculed as a loser, as I was. Today, anyone, and that’s just about anyone, has both the opportunity and the means to be a winner, no matter what his/her mental prowess or age or physical condition is. And that’s because of that modern-day “luxury” called the Internet.
– NO social activity outside your immediate circle. You had to be nice to your lousy friends in the neighborhood, and had to join them in their exceptionally dangerous ‘traditional’ games like gilli-danda (that could blind you) or kabaddi (that could cripple you) or flying kites with illegal manja thread (that could decapitate you) or worst of all, hunting garden lizards with sharpened sticks. Either that, or you got shut out or worse, bullied and beaten for being a wimp. My childhood days in BARC quarters, Chembur, Bombay 400071, were MISERABLE.
Today, your physical location is immaterial. Your friends bully you, dump them. You don’t need to take crap just to fit into any social circle. You can create your own social circle that spans the globe. No one is alone on the Internet. In my ‘good old days’ in BARC-Chembur, I was always alone.
– NO hand-phones. No Whatsapp. No SMS. No Skype. NO direct-dial. NO telephone calls outside your own city – and usually not even that. You had to book a trunk call and wait and wait – if you had a land-phone in the first place. Or, you had to queue up outside the post office in the middle of the night. And wait for hours till they put your call through. And then shout your guts out so that everyone would hear all your personal stuff, because the bloody line was so bad.
– NO home delivery. No on-line booking. Miss the old days? Queue up in a stinking railway station in the middle of summer to book your holiday tickets – and see how nostalgic you feel.
– No choice of TV channels, except for ‘good old’ Doordarshan. You think Arnab Goswami shouts too much? Then perhaps you’d rather prefer the news of the 1970’s. Good old news from the one and only news channel available – that was entirely owned by the government. Have you forgotten the days of the Emergency, you nostalgic dickhead?
– No credit cards. No electronic transfer. No mobile banking. You think e-money is unsafe? Then next time you visit India, carry a huge wad of American dollars from New York to Bombay instead, and see how safe you are.
-Two years waiting period for a telephone, or pay Rs. 15,000/- for a tatkal phone and get it in ‘just’ one year; three years wait for a Fiat car or Bajaj scooter, one year for a ration card or gas cylinder, six months for a monochrome TV or even a pocket radio (for which you had to first get a license).
Yeah. You had to have a license to own a TV or radio. And, the government would regularly send an inspector to your home just to check on you. And of course you had to bribe him.
There’s nothing good about the good old days.
Kids drank out of rusted taps and garden hoses because they were idiots. And only some of them got away with it. Many of those kids didn’t get away with it. Those kids, like you, who didn’t die of cholera or typhoid or gastroenteritis were just dumb lucky.
If modern technology baffles you, if your kids are embarrassed because you cannot answer their questions about the world around them, if instead your own kids teach you how to use a simple device like an iPhone, then squarely blame yourself for not reading the right books as a kid, and instead wasting your time playing ‘good old’ games like gilli-danda and lagori.
No wonder your kids ask Google and Wikipedia for advice. Not you.
I could go on and on. But you get the point don’t you? ‘Good old days’ is nothing but a myth.
But don’t take my word for it. If you’re so much in love with the good old days, it’s really quite easy to return to those days.
Burn your TV, flush your cellphone down the loo, throw out your PC and iPad and every electronic device that you bought in the past decade. Destroy all credit cards. Drink only water from the tap, drive only a rusty bicycle that you made yourself, run around barefoot, eat raw cucumbers and deep-fried pakodas on the roadside with muddy hands, play gilli-danda with street kids, and chew on wooden toys painted bright red with lead paint. Just like the good old days.
Sure. Go right ahead. I dare you.
Within one month, you will (a) get fired from your job or (b) become a social outcast or (c) infected with a terminal disease or (d) arrested or (e) insane or (f) all of the above.
But don’t worry. If you’re in Bangalore, I know some good doctors at Nimhans. They’ll take good care of you. I’ll tell them to use ‘good old’ shock treatment.
“Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson … You find the present tense, and the past perfect.” Owens Lee Pomeroy, 1929-2008, Engraver and radio buff, Maryland, USA.
Cheers … Srini.