The very mention of the word evokes countless unforgettable memories in my mind- perhaps it does in yours as well. I was in G.N. Khalsa College in Bombay between 1996 and 2001 and I can say without qualification, that those five years were by far the greatest of my life.
My most vivid recollection from that golden age goes back to my very first day in college- that's also by far the most embarrasing experience from those five years. It was the Maths lecture and our professor Mr. K.R. Singh was taking the roll-call. I said "present" when my number was called. The dialogue that followed went like this:
K.R. Singh: Who's that? Stand up! (I stood up)
K.R. Singh: Aainda se tum 'yes sir' kahoge (from now on, you'll say 'yes sir')
Me: Yes sir.
K.R. Singh: Say 'yes sir' 5 times.
I can't help but laugh, recalling all that at this distance in time, but you can imagine my embarassment back then. Imagine the plight of a shy, unsure-of-himself 15-year old, being made to look like a fool in front of the class the very first day of college- and that too in front of all the girls! For a teenager, girls are the biggest attraction and there's no greater humiliation for a young man at that age, than to be embarassed in the presence of members of the opposite sex, isn't it?
Then came the familiarity, the formation of groups, hanging out with friends after college, going for movies, the endless banter- and there always used to be one guy in the group who was usually at the wrond end of it and of course: talking about cricket, movies and girls... well you know what I'm talking about! How wonderful those days were: all you needed to do was go to college, come back home and study and appear for examinations twice a year. There wasn't a responsibility, not a care in the world... just pure, uninhibited fun!
Then came graduation. One fine day, you were out of college. You suddenly had to think of getting a job, building a career, you had a boss to listen to and his demands were infinitely different: no lectures, which would get over after 50 minutes, there was much more at stake and suddenly the tension of submissions looked almost laughable. Life was no longer carefree like it once was. You had a lot less time for yourself, your folks back home... everything changed and perhaps somewhere in the midst of it all, you altogether forgot your old carefree and uninhibited self. Life was never the same again.
And yet, the memories of those golden years remain with you forever. College life in metropolitan India today is of course, a far cry from what it was in my time. We didn't have shopping malls, multiplexes, CCDs/Baristas in our days; life was a lot different back then- and I'm talking of less than a decade ago! Back then, CDs were the in thing and buying those computer magazines with which you got a free CD was in vogue- those CDs had a lot of computer games of course! The best form of entertainment was going to play pool with friends (bowling alleys were still a new thing) or going out to watch a movie. Most theatres weren't air-conditioned and you'd get a ticket for as low as 30 rupees, the seats would be old and uncomfortable...remember those days?
I'm sure a lot of kids today would wonder how one could have had fun with all that- musty old single-screen theatre halls, the old-fashioned restaurants that are considered passé today, no mobile phones, no Orkut... how on earth could all that have been fun?
And yet, would anyone who didn't live through those believe that kids today have much more fun than he/she did? The answer is an emphatic no, isn't it? It was not the place, but the company you enjoyed, isn't it? Come to think of it, it was the togetherness that you really enjoyed, isn't it? It was after all, not the atmosphere, not the air-conditioning, not the luxury that you enjoyed, but the joy of being out with your friends and every generation has had that joy.
To every generation, his time seems the best. In reality, every generation has experienced and will experience the same fun, the same joy. Its just that your experiences take a different form, all else is just the same. If the best form of entertainment in my father's time was listening to cricket commentary on radio or watching a movie in a theatre or reading a book, it was watching movies on a VCD or watching cricket on T.V or going to an entertainment park in my time. Today it would be hanging out with friends in a CCD/Barista outlet, or going to a shopping mall or watching a movie in a multiplex. In the end, the true joy is in doing all that with your group!
When you look at it, every generation is relevant in its own time.