Saturday, November 18, 2017

A time warp

These days, I have started developing a feeling that I am stuck in some kind of a time warp. Let me elucidate. Time warp can be thought of as the idea of a change in the measurement of time, in which people and events from one part of history are imagined as existing in another part. In simple words, time warp could also mean that I am rather old-fashioned in my behaviour or opinion. I can see that this feeling is nothing unique or new. Each and every generation in the past, present and future (including mine naturally), must have acquired it or shall be possessed by it sometime or other. If that is so, it should have been natural to assume that our generation’s time has come and it is just our turn to grumble, whine and complain about young people, how they behave, dress, work and do things?  Things, we think as incorrect or as most inappropriate. If being in a time warp is such a natural feeling that comes to every generation, sometime or other, shouldn’t we (that includes me) , though grudgingly, accept it and keep feeling grumpy and disgruntled all the time? Why then do I get this feeling of being stuck?
The plain reason for this kind of ‘locked up’ feeling suffusing my mind is my gut perception that the changes happening around me are not necessarily unwelcome and given a second chance, I would rather whole heartedly welcome and enjoy them. Or speaking frankly, I rather envy the young generation of today for having and enjoying all the good things that people of my generation only thought in dreams.  Let me make an effort to list down a few things at which I have this feeling of resentful longing.  But, before I do not, I should also list a few customary things we enjoyed in our youth, but no longer can hope to indulge in them. The first and foremost is the clean, fresh air that we breathed and how things including water were unpolluted and fresh.  However my list of good things cannot be stretched much further.
I am a product of the socialistic India of the Nehru era, when that happy feeling of being freed from the yoke of British Empire was all pervading. In a nationalistic fervour, our elders decided that we should be educated in our mother tongue and need not acquire any knowledge of English, with the unbelievable result that I learned my ABCD, while in 8th standard. The other day, I watched my granddaughter (age 9) speaking on mobile phone, with a total stranger. Her confidence and expression was so amazing. I remembered that I could not even speak on a telephone (landline) till I was fourteen or fifteen. Speaking confidently in English, I could do, only much later.
But, that was just the beginning. Slowly for us, all windows opening out to outside world closed.  Leave aside foreign travels and goodies; even books published outside of India, became so expensive that very few could afford them. The only link that kept us informed about the world outside India were the Hollywood flicks with their peculiar way of projecting family and society values.
When I graduated, it was the time of Indigenization and saving foreign exchange. Nobody thought of free trade and things like that. India was always short of foreign exchange and it always beats me, how suddenly, after the decade of nineties, the same country could collect a stockpile of more than 300 Billions of US Dollars. As Engineers, we were supposed to find local substitutes for everything, with the result that we produced things that were too expensive, shoddy and did not perform as expected. Obviously, after imports opened up, no one would touch them with a bamboo pole even.  Our indigenous small industries died their logical and natural death around time, when a new millennium began.
Anyway, let us leave things of the past and come back to present. Other day, I travelled on the expressway between my home town Pune and Mumbai in a plush car. On the road I saw a plethora of car brands, which, in my youth, I had seen only in photographs in glossy magazines. Obviously, these magazines were subscribed by a rare few. No common person could afford them.  With all those BMW’s, VW’s and Audi’s zooming past me, I remembered my old rackety fiat and our ultimate luxury product, the Ambassador.  I reached Mumbai in two and half hours flat in air conditioned comfort, a far cry from those six or seven hours in sweltering heat and dust. Yes! I do envy the young generation for their swanky cars and expressways, something, that we had seen, in our youth, only in Hollywood films.  The same can be said about two wheelers. I remembered my old 150 CC ‘Lambretta’ and how it broke down often embarrassing me on the road. The list is almost endless. I remember the old vinyl record player now being replaced by ipods and so called old box cameras with black and white films (colour films were too expensive then) replaced by digital cameras. The blue coloured inland letters that we wrote to communicate with friends and relatives, slowly getting replaced, first by SMS and then by ‘Whatsapp’.
But, it’s not the materialist things enjoyed by today’s young people that I envy much.  When I managed to get admission to an engineering college, my options were civil, mechanical, electrical engineering or electronics. Civil engineers worked on construction projects, mechanical engineers worked on shop floors with dirty, oily hands. Electrical engineers took up jobs with state electricity boards and finally ones, who chose electronics worked either with all India radio or overseas communications centres, again Government departments. Those, who could not get admission to engineering or medical colleges, faced even bleaker prospects. Commerce graduates became clerks and remaining graduates became lowly paid school teachers or at the most lecturers in colleges. Compare this with the wide spectrum of fields that are available today. My granddaughter even with a very high score chose the arts course. She told me that today arts graduates have wider choices available for future careers than their counterparts choosing science.
When I landed upon my first job, everyone advised me to stick to it, throughout my working life. That was the norm then.   Today, I see people changing jobs as if they are changing clothes. This is possible just because jobs are available in plenty. A person, who is a miserable failure in academics, unable to get any further than tenth or twelfth standard schooling, can easily get a job paying reasonable salary in a call centre or data entry  job and do extremely well later.
Perhaps the most envious aspect of the life of today’s young generation is the freedom they have. Young couples decide to remain childless on purpose. In earlier times this was just impossible. People can give lots of time to their hobbies like trekking. They also have their individual spaces even in martial life with no interference from the partner at all. Today’s young generation can freely travel to any country of the world
Perhaps my readers would now realise that today’s young generation have the best of opportunities and every possibility to lead a great life. The older generation can only sit quietly and watch. Neither their bodies nor capabilities fit enough to cope with exacting requirements of today’s world. My case is not any different.  During decades of seventies and eighties, of last century, I did have a few golden opportunities to visit foreign lands. I remember myself wandering along the avenues lined with shops with big window show-cases. I would often look at the goodies like cameras and television displayed there. All I could do was window-shopping as I had no foreign money because Government would never sanction it and secondly even if I had managed to buy a thing, it would be subject to a huge customs duty, while entering in India.  As a bystander in a time warp, I have exactly same feelings, as I watch the young generation enjoying their life. Only thing that I can do is to envy them.

18th November 2017


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