Sunday, February 17, 2013

When We Were Your Age


Image courtesy - Stock Vector




During my growing up years, festivals and birthdays were great occasions of joy for me. That time of the year when delicious aromas would waft out of the kitchen and I would be hovering around expecting my Mom to invent a miracle that would change the world forever, quite like Marie Curie. For me a hot, syrupy, melt in mouth malpua was a miracle that could cure the world of all its ills.

Ma would pretend not to notice the tiny little hands trying to paw a mishtee or two. Nothing tastes better than a “stolen” cham-cham, its sticky juice running down your arms in rivulets.

Festivals (Durga Pujo for Bengalis) and birthdays also meant brand new clothes. Pujo shopping would start months in advance. Baba would come home early and we’d all drive down to Karol Bagh. Ma would spend hours trying to drive the sari salesman insane with her “aur dikhao” demands, while we would slurp noisily from out bottles of lime and lemoni Limca.

It didn’t matter who we were shopping for. All that mattered was we were together having a good time.

Birthdays meant two brand new dresses and Ma taking the day off for me. Pujo meant animated discussions with friends, all of us trying to impress each other with our windfall of 3 skirts, two frocks and the fancy sandals from Metro shoes.

I didn’t care that none of them had labels, that my coveted croc tees were actually fakes, that the cake was pineapple every year and that I mostly got colour pencils as gifts!


Of course, every year my brother and I were subjected to the mandatory “when we were your age, we got only two sets of clothes every year” lecture, before we got ours.

I can still vividly recount that day when we were waiting for Ma in the market. She was supposed to join us from work. All three of us were waiting outside the Bata store, the minutes turning to anxious hours. I was trying my best to dissolve in my own tears, convinced someone had kidnapped my one and only Mom, when she turned-up, looking all harried and worn out.

These were the pre-mobile days and she had no way of informing us of the nasty jam she had got stuck in.

The pre-mobile and pre-Credit card days, when we shopped for our needs and not as a therapy…When we made a list of what we wanted and carried enough in our pockets to pay for it. Unlike the present, when gratification is instant and repentance awaits a credit card bill.

We go to malls because we have nothing better to do. We buy dresses we don’t need, crib that our closet doesn’t have enough space to accommodate our extravagances and then claim we have nothing to wear.

If we fancy something, we don’t torture ourselves with “do I really need this?” or wait for birthdays or anniversaries to pamper ourselves. We simply swipe our credit cards.

In our quest for making every day special, the special occasions have lost their sheen.

I’m not condemning our evolving lifestyle that caves in to its impulses than deny itself. After all, we are working harder and putting up with unimaginable stress. So, if all it requires is a few extra pairs of shoes to make me happy, why not? I’d rather live for the day, hum zindagi na milegi dobara, as I board the plane for my tri-annual break, than save for a rainy day that I might not live long enough to see.

For those of us who have chosen to stay in the material world, elevating our standard of living is a reasonable objective.

But what I do not relate to is when we use shopping as an excuse to sidestep our problems rather than confront them. I broke up with my boyfriend of seven years... I deserve that clunky watch that I have been eyeing for ten minutes. I hate my boss and I’d rather change my mobile than my job that is sucking the life out of me. I’d rather play golf on weekends than spend time playing with my children, but let me surprise them with an iPad!

No amount of money spent can replace the emotions we invest in a relationship. It most certainly cannot be used to assuage our guilt for not spending enough time with our family.

Funny thing is our love for the excessive doesn’t stop us from sermonizing the younger generation on frugality. It’s now us recounting our growing up years to our kids, trying to get them to value money… When I buy yet another dress for my daughter from Zara, I don’t fail to remind her, when I was your age – we only bought clothes from Karol Bagh!

Because I want her to know, behind the apparent ease with which we acquire modern day trappings, is a lot toil and sacrifice. And what we have today may not last forever.



84 comments:

  1. Hmmm those were the good old days.. so happy to see some terms that I thought are now out of fashion Karol Bagh, Bata, Metro...and yes I do tell my daughters" When I was ur age.... )

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    1. My daughter refuses to set foot in Karol Bagh. Why sweat it out when we have air-conditioned malls!

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  2. It's all kind of sad. When one just pauses from running at hundred miles per hour with our hair on fire, one realizes the terrible price we have paid by swapping our inner peace with our materialistic wants and needs.
    Fantastic essay...and plenty of material for thought. I think I will have a Foster's while I ruminate. ;)

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    1. What's wrong with your taste, Rickie! FOSTERS? Puhleeez!

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    2. Arrey, don't they say - When in Gurgaon, do what the Australians do?
      Or have I got that wrong? *scratches head*

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  3. Reminds me of the sermon of sermons - "The Mom's Song" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEFXj00Gou4 (Wish I could acknowledge the original mom but don't know her name)

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    1. Generations may come, generations may go, but the sermons remain the same.

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  4. True...well, we did get 3 dresses per year and I wore only Bata hawai chappals till I got to college!

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    1. And I shopped for kurtas at the Khadi store.

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  5. Suddenly I was back to the old times. Everyone of us miss those days, but I guess, no one would want to go back to the old times.

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    1. Nope, nostalgia has the amazing ability to chip away the unpleasant.

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  6. Reminds me of good old days..... No sales, no discounts and no happy hours and yet life was beautiful.

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    1. But we realized it only after we moved on.

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  7. Purba this post brought back the nostalgia of the past and every thing you stated looked like rewinding an old tape. I commented twice but god knows where they vanished, last night:(

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    1. Oh! is that? Will check the spam folder.

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    2. same here--I began to go back to the puja days--the only time when our family would go shopping together and the only time of the year when we would buy new clothes and eat at a restaurant. It was so special those october days...now I buy clothes for no reason, eat some new place for no reason and often by myself...those days are gone

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    3. Those days when little meant so much! We all miss those days, don't we?

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  8. The problems of affluence and galloping technical progress! Sigh! Well parents set the example. So who else is to blame than us? :).

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    1. Absolutely! And then we crib, our kids got too much too soon.

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  9. Wow! As of now, I am on the receiving end of 'When I was your age'
    Wonder what I would say to my kids - When I was your age I shopped only for therapy or when something caught my attention and I couldn't let go :P

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    Replies
    1. Baby! it's an endless cycle. It's what momhood does to you :-)

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  10. No amount of money spent can replace the emotions we invest in a relationship. Ooh my, you touched a very old nerve there. That's 20 years in a nutshell...
    I'm out of words but would tell you this. This is precisely the reason I chose to move out of big cities and live in suburbs. BTW I or should I say we've again started to shop like good ol' days and that world still lives. It's just that we've stopped visiting it.

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    1. Not many have the courage to take such a radical decision. You should feel proud of yourself.

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  11. In fact when my Mummy used to say..'When I was your age..' I hated the ends of those sentences. It was so plain boring. But now I understand. In fact I understood once I started earning. Spot on about how birthdays have lost its sheen. Because my toddler gets his share of toys almost like every month, his birthday may not look special for him. When I used to be in school, we got new dresses only on our birthdays and Christmas ...sometimes for Easter too. This was under the excuse that we are wearing school uniforms throughout the year and dont need too many other clothes. Well I am sure my son will not believe that if he notices my current wardrobe.

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    1. We have so much yet we feel we have too little. Sad, isn't it?

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  12. True Purba. That's how things have changed and not all of it is good. But somehow we are also passing this materialism to our kids.

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    1. What if we are making them realize the futility of a materialistic existence?

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    2. If we are then we are doing what should be done.

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    3. Yes! why assume the worst?

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  13. I am now at the receiving end of "When I was your age" lectures... I am sure there will come a day when I will be dispensing this gyan!

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    1. Of course you will! There's no escaping it.

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  14. No amount of money spent can replace the emotions we invest in a relationship. awesome lines !! and a great article too as always :)
    I don't have girlfriend as of know ,so shud i buy an iphone 5s to compensate for that :D :P lollzzz

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    1. HA! And your iPhone will not demand a Valentine's gift.

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  15. By "toil and sacrifice" you mean wading through the dense population and braving the jungle like streets of Karol Bagh?
    Moreover, you were finding it hard to maintain balance in the Rock Pools, then were singing "Main talli ho gayi" with an umbrella in hand. And now you are nostalgic.....What was in that bottle you found? :O
    P.S. Investing emotions in a relationship? No, thank you. Snow Leopards are solitary animals :)

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    1. So you'd like us to think, you cuddly cub!!!

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  16. When you went to Karol Bagh did you have Roshan ki Kulfi?And chole Bhature?You remind me of all things nice.
    Coming back to the topic just as i struggled to comply with my kids' demands;i now see them doing it with their own--only at a much larger scale.This generation gap exists.

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    1. Kulfi from Roshan and Chhole Bhature from Punjab sweets - yum!

      As parents we have done our bit and sermonizing only makes it worse.

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  17. I'm just wondering what your daughter would say to her next generation!
    And for your information, Cham-cham is obsolete nowadays :)

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    Replies
    1. Psst! I never liked cham-cham. Too sweet for my taste.

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  18. yes, sometimes I think of those days during college when on getting meagerly scholarship of 5000, I used to buy myself one reebok tee, and the happiness behind that toil and hadwork....now I have racks n racks of designer stuff, and when i buy them, I miss that innocent excitement.....when I know I have worked 10 times harder for the same....

    I dont know what to say to my future kids(considering i dont have nay right now!!).....i cant really set an example with my closet full of clothes, bags, shoes watches and what not....maybe i should chuck them all...

    OMG purba, you took me on a self questioning thought process!!!


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    1. I started with a salary of 2800/- and felt like a princess!

      Our cravings are always trying to tell us something but we'd rather satisfy them than introspect.

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  19. Purba, what an introspective and thought provoking post. When it comes to materialism, a moderate lifestyle and a decluttered mind gives more peace and happiness than what we pursue.

    The thought that by having, buying, earning, owning more we would be happy or make someone happy has robbed us of our true happiness of bonding and sharing with our relationships.

    The greatest wealth for any person is the memories of being with the loved ones but unfortunately we are so busy in everything that we have no time for our loved ones.

    A really good post from you.

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    1. I believe a clutter free life leads to a clutter free mind. The more we acquire, the more responsibilities we have and that robs us of happiness.

      Thank you for liking.

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  20. Really enjoyed your post. I too have had the "When i was.." I feel it is more important now than ever to live minimalistic to set a good example to our kids and to keep ourselves stress-free. But it is for each of us to attain this Nirvana by ourselves. It surely cannot be force-fed with all the distractions and peer-pressure around.

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    1. Our kids are smart and imbibe the best and the worst from us.

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  21. um...frankly speaking, I still don't buy (forgive the pun) into that mentality. We are still frugal and don't buy things if we don't need them. We don't go shopping for therapy and we don't buy things just because our friends have them. I don't get the concept that we have to do something just because everyone is! That's just an excuse we use to do something we secretly really want to! What is preventing us from stopping the madness if we really wanted to?!

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    1. Roshni, I am speaking for many of us, if not all. I do know women who hate extravagances and are happy with their six pairs of pants.

      It's more about introspecting where we are heading.

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  22. Ya,I for one have given in to this evil.Gone are the days where I would save up to buy that one dress that I have been eyeing.Now when I see a discount or see a change in credit card cycle ,I convince myself to buy it.Not Good!

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    1. Says who it's not good. If you can afford these indulgences, why not?

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  23. Damn! You hit the nail smack on its head! Irresponsible consumerism, diminshing value, and equally vanishing values all explained in a simple post! Kudos Purba!

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  24. I am sure Stolen Chamchams means very different now ;-). "No amount of money spent can replace the emotions we invest in a relationship" is a good line and totally agree.

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    1. See, this is what I was talking about - the loss of innocence. Damn!

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  25. '..repentance awaits the credit card bill" :) The dose of typical Purba humor coupled with the idea that gratification is not the same as happiness!

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    1. Geez...I wish I knew what typical Purba humour was :p

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  26. You have touched upon a very serious topic, we try to salvage our hurt emotions through spending on things we do not need. Showing off has become a panacea of every ailment, only it doesn't work. I loved the line, "when gratification is instant and repentance awaits a credit card bill."

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    1. We Indians are aspirational. We will buy big cars even if we don't need it, live in a 4 BHK apartment even if can't afford it.

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  28. A lovely post. And here is my " good old days". We had no way of wearing dresses or salwar Kameez. I used to envy those girls in college. the saree guy used to come home, and mom would select some pattern and that is it. The payment used to be on instalment!We were mighty excited when the sarees were displayed on our mats.

    Now, I buy at the malls swiping my card.

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    1. A lot of us believe in living for the moment rather than saving for a future that we might not live long enough to see :-)

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  29. For me it used to be Gariyahaat & New market..those were the days when shopping meant some occasion like a birthday or festival.. (Odias have 13 festivals in 12 months or so they say)And till 16-17 I never wore new stuff unless it was a festival..but now when am earning I shop on a whim &pick things I like..but thanks to Mom's constant nagging I do think "do i really need this?" at least once before buying..

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    1. That's an incredibly mature thing to do, Rinaya :-)

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  30. Nice topic, beautifully expressed. I remember the Karol Bagh days very fondly!
    I guess the happiest times were when people needed people, and not things to make them happy. Sad that with each generation, we value things more than people. But just having a reference point helps us maintain that inner balance.

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    1. As long as we remember our roots and where we came from!

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  31. This post has made almost everybody quite nostalgic. I remember buying anything was an huge affair at our home. I remember when we got our first color TV, washing machine and fridge. I remember when I got my first cycle, two wheeler and mobile. The TV now, has changed to the flat screen LED, the fridge to the double door extra huge one and the washing machine to the front load fully automatic. The standards have been raised, but hopefully people dont stop valuing it! and yes time spent with the family can never be replaced with an IPAD, because there is always a new verison for the ipad but not for the time spent. That is priceless.

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    1. My parents still have their first ever colour television, collecting dust in one of the rooms. Gadgets were like family members, who we grew up with.

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  32. PURBA - Evolution of human values is a cyclic affair,
    what goes up comes down and vice versa.
    But a very organic post that nice to read, visualise
    but alas this gen or the next can not relate

    People have fallen off relating to Pink Floyd
    Its that serious

    However be blessed with your words and expressions

    - Hare Krsna -

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    1. We can simply bemoan the loss of innocence.

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  33. I think there is a phase when you are wide-eyed about everything. The important part is to outgrow it. I have gone through this phase of mindless shopping but nowadays I do ask myself whether I really want that T-Shirt. And yes, I have started shopping from Tibetean refugee shops. :)

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    1. Is it because we had an annoyingly frugal childhood, where everything was rationed and when we finally become financially independent, we just let go?

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    2. I think that is human. It is like getting a PS3 after dreaming for it for years. You will go crazy initially. But the euphoria has to subside. Becoming an addict is a problem.

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  34. hmm mind boggling post...seriously I nvr giv a damn thought b4 spending on anything as 'do I really need tht?'...once i took my parents fr shopping n my mom selected one pair of footwear but she refused to buy as it was costly acc to her as against me...Sometime I think whether v r right or shud go by our parents way? ~confused~ i am

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    1. Live like it's your last and do your bit for the society :-)

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  35. This took me down the memory lane... felt like I was reading my story! Times have changed so much... and yes, it is important to tell our kids about the value of money and the value of things it helps buy!

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    1. Yes - as parents we want them to cherish the best and prepare them for the worst.

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  36. wonderful write up! you never fail to hit the bull's eye.

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    1. Thanks and it's great to see you again :-)

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  37. Bang on! Brought back my own memories of my bldng!

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  38. An Excellent Blogpost Relevant to the Topic. It really generates a new thinking pattern in the viewers. Please pursue with your Blogging Activities.
    Living In Wellbeing

    ReplyDelete

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