Part II – Adverts, Devices, Sports, Festivals

This piece is a continuation of Part I of “Growing up in 80s and 90s”, wherein we read about the single most impactful entity – Doordarshan and Television in general, on the lives of people born from 1965-1980, the Amitabh-Reliance era. We continue with other interesting aspects of the lives of people from this generation, during their growing up years.

So, around mid-eighties, many homes started getting Video Cassette Recorders (VCRs). This was supported by Video Cassette libraries where one could rent the cassettes of movies for Rs 20-50 per day, depending on how new the film was. The Library also used to have 2-10 VCRs themselves, which they would rent out (for around Rs. 200-250 per day). People with TVs but without VCRs would rent the VCR and a bunch of 3-4 cassettes (to fully utilise the rented VCRs) and have a 10-12 hours of uninterrupted movie-watching mostly with friends and families. People living in apartments would hire this VCR and cassettes and show the films on terrace tops, for all the people in the building. What about families or communities without TVs ? Or without colour TVs ? No problem. The Library could also throw in the TV on hire and the turn-key entertainment package would be complete.

Eventually, Cassettes gave way to VCDs and later onto DVDs. I think we still have DVD libraries around, but I hear kids download pirated versions of new movies whenever they feel like seeing those and libraries have a bleak business model.

Talking about video cassettes, we saw a host of Pakistani TV serials on video cassettes – Dhoop Kinaare, about a team of Karachi doctors, some of them chocolate-faced hunks. Tanhaaiyan, possibly on the same youth platform with a bunch of PYTs floating around. There was Bakra Kishton pey, an all-out comedy (am not sure if we will find that funny even today).

In the same broad bloc of TV and VCR and video cassettes should come those lovely advertising jingles between which we used to see the TV programs. Don’t know if am getting older but haven’t heard too many hummable jingles in the 2000s. We have grown up on Aayee aayee Babool ki bahar, Babool toothpaste se hum sab ko pyaar; Jo OK saabun se nahaaye, kamal sa khil jaaye – the USP “sachmuch, kaafi bada hai” took our breath away. Then there were the evergreen Vicco Turmeric Ayurvedic cream (bade naazon se paali hamaari banno) or the hyperbolic Vajradanti (teeth as strong as Indra’s club), Vajradanti Vicco Vajradanti or the ever-clean “Washing powder Nirma”, with its own version of exaggerated benefits – “doodh si safedi kapdon mein laaye” and the desperate attempt to develop a connect with a bunch of names of women – sudha, rekha, jaya, sushma.

Then there was a slightly poorly executed Jab mein chhota bachha tha badi shararat karta tha…kya rangeen jawaani thi…ab mein bilkul Buddha hoon…inspite of the execution, going through the three generations built the connect. Amul Chocolates had “I am too old for Karate, too young to give up chess” targeting some middle-of-nowhere age and profile.

There were some iconic emotional songs like Bajaj Auto’s Yeh Zameen Yeh Aasmaan, Humara Kal, Humara Aaj, Bulund Bharat ki bulund tasveer, Humara Bajaj. Or Taj Tea’s “she’s a special woman, she fills in my life; she’s a special woman, she’s my wife”.

The lists which different people from our era remember may vary but many of the below should be common to most of the lists :
• Jaai Kaajal – thaki thaki aankhon ko thandak de…nazar ko har dum saaf rakhe
• Britannia Coconut Crunchies – Ek naariyal ped se toota…hmmm…girte hi who beech se phoota
• Indiana Ghee – Yaad aa gaya mujhko guzra zamaana…khushboo bheeni bheeni aur…
• Lifebuoy – Tandurusti ki raksha karta hai Lifebuoy
• Colgate ka chhota packet – Mod ke rakho, idhar laao, udhar laao, mujhe bhi do, idhar laao
• Hawkins – Hawkins ki seeti baje, minton mein khana pake
• MR Coffee – Double mazaa hai aur kam daam, MR coffee iska naam
• Glucon D – yeh jaan mein jaan daal de peete hi
• Vigil soap – (Vengsarkar in the ad I think) – tandurasti ka saabun Vigil, iski keemat kuchh bhi nahin
• Everest Masala – Masale Everest ke, haan haan ji sabke taste ke
• Cema bulbs and tubes – Roshni ho aisi aankhon ko chaahiye jaisi (Sreedevi in the ad)
• Kinetic Honda…when it gets to you, it changes you…you will never be the same again
• Volfarm Ketchup – Thoda Ketchup try karo, Ketchup hota kaddu bhara – that was quite a revelation for many of us.

Let’s move on to another area of possible interest to a few of us, viz, the devices, appliances and consumer technologies in those times. So, well, electricity had indeed been invented by then . But that was an entire generation which grew up without mobile phone, Internet or email. Mobile phones were launched in 1993 in 4 metro cities and in 1996 in other cities. There were 4 hours in the day which were peak-hours. Rates in the peak-hours was Rs 16.80 per minute outgoing AND incoming. Other 20 hours during the day were charged at Rs 8.40. I think night charges were Rs 4.20. International calls were at Rs 84/minute to USA. National long distance calls were about Rs 5-20 per minute for Mumbai-Delhi calls – used to vary big-time depending on time of the day. Even before mobile phones were launched, there were many households in Mumbai also which did not have a landline phone (used to be called only “phone” those days). There were Public Call Booths and Boxes (PCOs) – you had to use a common public phone used by everyone else – yikes! Landline phones were rationed and hence, the higher the usage, the higher the rate per minute – economically bizarre but true !

The worldwide web (www) itself started gaining popularity only around 1995, almost the end of the Amitabh-Reliance era. Email got introduced to some of us through the domain. So, there we were – no cellphones, no www, no email as we grew up.

Washing machines were largely semi-automatic, where one (at that time, the mom; now I believe, the household help) had to take the clothes out of the washing drum and put into the spinning drum. A few top-loading automatic machines had started making their entry towards the end of our era. PCs had started entering homes around 1990.

Some CPUs were horizontal in shape (as opposed to the vertical tower ones prevalent nowadays). These home PCs were by and large assembled. The few branded ones that I remember were Zenith, HCL. Some people had started getting dot matrix printers into their homes – these used to make whirring noises and print closely placed dots.

Cameras were not digital and had films – there were two types of films – colour and black & white, and within each of two types – 24 snaps and 36 snaps. So, on vacations, we used to carry 3-4 extra films, which we would load into the camera balancing precariously at Sunrise point. Few of us had video cameras, which were about 10-11 inches long and used to weigh about a kilo.

There was no set-top box and cable TV used to go right into the TV. There was one channel which used to air all the new pirated movies. No dish TV. All air-conditioners at home (wherever there) were window ACs. Split ACs started entering homes in a big way only after the era ended.

Sports was outdoors. We had formal Cricket teams where we used to contribute some money each, buy the gear. We had ear-marked pitches on large playgrounds for each team. There were phases of playing cricket with rubber ball, soft tennis ball, hard MRI tennis ball, cork ball and sometimes even season ball.
Football followed same team format as cricket but was relatively less popular than cricket in the areas I grew in. Badminton was invariably played outdoors. The team members pitched in for the net and for the shuttle-cocks. The net was normally tied to electric poles across the road.
No swimming pools, no billiards or snooker.

Festivals were spent largely with families. Diwali crackers were heavy on the noise side. There were Laxmi bombs and atom bombs and wool bombs and box bombs. Holi was with colours which refused to go away for a week.

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