The rich kid in class

I was discussing this with a friend a few days back. The conversation keeps playing in my head and many passive memories (ones I’d rather forget, actually) keep coming to the fore. So I shall write. Maybe then I can close the chapter once and for all? Or at least bury a grudge.

 

I attended a Public School.  In Public School standards, I was the “rich kid” in class. We weren’t really rich, of course. But we had a car and that meant I was rich. It didn’t matter that the car was bought by dipping into years of savings because two of the three members in our family were asthmatic. That my dad still used the train to travel to the other end of the city while my mother and I used the car within a 5 mile radius because we couldn’t walk without wheezing.

 

I was almost always in this ambivalent limbo – where at home I was trained in the importance of being thrifty and in school I was somehow the brat who got dropped to school in a car and who’s mother travelled to the US on business every few months. It didn’t help that I did well in exams.

 

So I did everything I could to blend in with everyone – which meant I took every means necessary to hide any signs of “affluence”. I saved my favourite pens for homework and used the cheaper ones at school. I hid the pencil box mom bought me from the States under my desk so no one would see it and tease me about it. I even made sure my father dropped me to school much earlier than required so no one would see me get off the car. I pretended to enjoy standing in the sun even if the dust meant I’d spend the night scratching the rashes senseless. I took buses even when I had the pocket money to hire a rickshaw.

 

In short, I truly believed money was something one needed to feel guilty about. I hated money and everything to do with it. My tuition teacher, who also happened to be a classmate’s mother, often remarked that I would never see the “real world” because I was privileged. It made me sad. I wanted to see what the glory of this “real world” was all about. Money was the absolute worst. It seems every time I did badly in exams, it had to with the fact that money makes you take things easy. Surprisingly, even when I scored well, it could be attributed to wealth because I had access to everything. At the time I wondered how the hours I spent practising math had anything to do with my parents’ income.

 

By the end of school, I was convinced one didn’t need money, and one definitely shouldn’t want money. At a time when my choices should ideally have been informed by interests and priorities, I was mostly driven by guilt and the desperate need to be liked. Thankfully, I don’t regret the choices I made – because had I not made them, I would never have met the people who taught me that I did not have to be ashamed of who I was or where I came from as long as I knew how to respect others. Another reason I don’t have regrets is because it ensured I didn’t make a choice motivated solely by economic prospects. (Though it would have saved me a lot of trouble had I given it at least some consideration)

 

It was only once college ended and I actually got to the “real world” my friend’s mother had warned me about that I was forced to acknowledge the hard truth – that I actually desired money. Not in the sense that all I need in life is money or that wealth is my sole purpose in life. I just realised I wanted to earn a decent living and enjoy a comfortable life. Comfortable – I will admit – in the standards that my parents set for me.

 

Even then, for the longest time, I wondered if my career choices should be informed by these new discoveries about myself – because I couldn’t shed the feeling of overwhelming guilt every time I considered the monetary returns. Shouldn’t I be thinking of more important things first – like society, humanity, people, country?

 

It took many years, some failures and some introspection to realise something that should have been obvious right from the beginning –  Yes, I want to earn well. Yes, I want to provide for myself and my family. Yes, I want to have the luxury to spend if I want to without having to worry about affording dinner. If I ever have a child, I want to be able to provide him/her the best of everything. An education in a private school, to begin with. And no – this is not something to be ashamed of. This isn’t even shallow. I have some priorities in life and this is one of them. It isn’t a terrible thing. No it isn’t. This desire isn’t at the cost of everything else but it is a desire.

 

This doesn’t make me less of a person, less of a patriot (my country is doing everything in it’s power to shake this though), less of a woman, or less of a citizen. I follow the law, I vote, I never spit or litter on the roads, I volunteer for social efforts, I pay my taxes, and I try to be a responsible citizen the best I can. I try my best to be kind to others. For me that is enough.

 

On the one game I didn’t suck at

My description of myself in the “About Twiggy” menu reveals that my height and breadth are completely disproportionate. Breadth too big, height little.

To top that wonderful combination, I suffered from severe asthma for most of my childhood. All this ensured that I was never any good at most of the games kids my age spent time playing – tag, kho-kho, and later the likes of badminton and basketball. [Let me state here that despite the fact this situation often left me with little to no friends, I am still happy I grew up in a time when play-time wasn’t all about video games]

So, where was I? Yes, I sucked at anything that involved even a little bit of running. Table tennis I managed. Not smart enough for chess.

But the one game I was a pro at was Antakshari. For those of you unfamiliar with this, you have missed something in life. It’s basically a game where you sing – your song must start from the last letter/syllable with which the song of your opponent ends.

It’s the fun-est game ever. And it almost always results in everyone singing together and having a gala time. It’s a bit difficult to play with songs in languages that are not of Sanskrit origin though. But my childhood was all about Bollywood songs so I was unbeatable. Some of my fondest memories with my family is a whole bunch of us playing Antakshari. Even the times my relatives from Chennai decided we must not restrict ourselves to Hindi songs and allow Tamil ones as well.

 

Paadatha paatellam paada vanthaal

 

We managed long road trips without iPods because we were the iPods. Hours would go by without any of us realizing. (Except the times we were hungry, of course) You didn’t always need conversations to bond because singing together managed to do that.

I have no idea when we grew out of it. Usually I am all for technology, and don’t really spend much emotional energy in nostalgia over things that have now become easier thanks to science.

Do I miss a bar of soap because we now use shower gels? No. Do I miss a Walkman because we have iPods? Not really. Do I miss a bucket because I now shower? No. Do I miss calculators because we have Excel? Absolutely not.

But when you talk about iPods or video games or X-box replacing Bridge or my favorite, Antakshari, I cannot help but feel a sense of acute loss. Of memories that we may never make. Of songs that we will never sing together. Of not having the pleasure of listening to people sing for fun, and not just at ceremonies. People still sing together sometimes, no doubt. Especially if there is at least one person in the group with a guitar strapped to his body. But it isn’t half as common as it used to be.

I wonder why or how this happened. I like to rationalize to comfort myself. I don’t like blaming technology for everything we do to ourselves.

So here is one major reason I think Antakshari has died a slow death. (Apart from video games and the likes, of course – not them as such but because we allowed them to take over the lives of our children)

 

The songs.

 

One look at my iPod and I am sure my classmates at law school will have a good laugh at my expense. Because it is so painfully outdated.

My taste in all non-Bollywood music is shaped by what I grew up listening to. And what I grew up listening is what my father grew up listening to. So there are huge playlists full of songs by ABBA, BeeGees, Boney M, Pink Floyd, Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Beatles, and some rather obscure hits from the 60s-80s. When I was trying to be a “cool” teen, I made myself like Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and NSync. I refuse to be embarrassed about the fact I still like them.

Now Bollywood, which is basically what Antakshari is all about – that is another story. I spent way too much time watching TV in my childhood. A lot of that time was spent on MTV – when M actually meant Music. Not Muck, like it means today.

I shall crown myself the Queen of the 90s County – because I know every Bollywood song they produced in the 90s – the hits and the misses, the romantic and the silly, the profound (my favourite 😀 ) and the nonsensical, the poetic and the ridiculous.

90s Bollywood songs were rather simple in structure – a couplet which forms the refrain, two more verses with perfect rhymes and then back to the refrain. They had waltz-y beats, the orchestra usually incomplete without some guitar and/or violins. Much fun.

The one common trait in almost all the songs was that they had a relatively simple tune – you could hum them without trouble. The lyrics were also mostly harmless, except such gems every once in a while where Govinda or Shakti Kapoor were involved. (Or Anil Kapoor, sometimes)

Which means that you could sing these songs with ease whenever you had the chance. Didn’t have to worry about singing prowess or the audience. Which is probably not a luxury we enjoy anymore, because if you are with family and in company of children, you have to think twice before singing the latest “hit” number.

Because Baby Doll is not about a child’s toy. And Munni is no innocent kid. The old Ooh La La and the new one are POLES apart.

Even the songs that aren’t raunchy have some trouble. I don’t want to sing “Ro Raha Hoon Main” to encourage bawling in children. Children are smart enough to use that song against me when they want to throw a tantrum.

You can’t even use these songs to flirt or flatter anymore.  Ladki Beautiful is fine. What the hell is Kar Gayi Chull?

There is trouble even when lyrics are innocuous. Remember what I said about simplicity of tunes? Yes, that is also fading. While experimentation with notes and instruments can produce some fantastic results, it often makes the aspect of performance nearly impossible without accompaniments. Like this one – the song is spectacular but one cannot just sing it for his own pleasure without feeling like he is taking away the essence of the song. This is an issue across genres.

Of course, there are always songs that you can sing and have nice lyrics and are fun. Like this one and this one, for instance. But they are the exceptions and not the norm.

If you don’t have songs to sing, how can you hope to play a singing game?

I am sure there are other reasons. Lack of time. Inadequate bonding with parents and/or extended family. No road trips because flights are more convenient. Changing tastes. And many more.

Whatever the reason, I miss my favorite “game”. It was fun and inclusive. And where there is music, there are cherished memories.

Ideally, I should be ending this post with a Bollywood song. But because this song just won’t leave my mind, I’m going to quote it. Because ABBA is wonderful. Bas.

 

Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing

Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing

Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty

What would life be?

Without a song or a dance what are we?

So I say thank you for the music

For giving it to me

 

P.S – This one song, to express all that I didn’t in this post about pre-90s Bollywood songs. Not that there weren’t any bad songs earlier, but that is the musical era that my parents are most familiar with and I never did stand a chance. There is also Pyar Deewana Hota Hai, the first ever “old” song I consciously remember listening to and falling in love with. Whattey song, no ?

 



Glossary
(for Hindi words):

Munni: Usually an endearment used to address a little girl. That song I liked uses the word to address an attractive woman up for grabs.

Ro Raha Hoon Main: I am crying (in a male voice)

Ladki: Girl

 

P.P.S – I have at least two friends who follow this blog who will challenge my claim to the 90s Crown. To them I say – let’s play antakshari ?