Nostalgia is the cushion people rest their elbows on when life gets on their nerves. “Ah, those were the days!” they sigh as they recline on the cushion and go on the rewind mode. Why do things from the distant past look so rosy? Perhaps the passage of time acts as an anaesthetic — the painful gets buried and the pleasurable lingers in your senses.
We usually get nostalgic about our growing up years, or the years we think were the best in our lives. That is why you come across people — mostly elderly — who begin any conversation with, “Those days...” or “When I was your age...” Or people — the elderly and the not-so-elderly — who tell you the same anecdote over and over again. If you find them irritating, remember, tomorrow somebody could find you tiresome too.
I was born in 1970; and even though I was a child then, I get nostalgic about the 70’s because I am possessive about that decade, about any year that has 7 as its third digit. Today, when I look back, I desperately wish I was not a child then, but a 20-year-old so that I could soak in the delights of that magical decade. It was, in fact, the best decade modern India ever lived in and if you disagree, read on.
To begin with, there was peace. Terrorism — to use the cliche — was yet to raise its ugly head. The term Secularism, on the other hand, was yet to become a cliche — India was secular. You could go to Kashmir as freely as you go to Kerala today, and Assam was known more for its tea and oil. Prime Ministers went around in open jeeps.
Even movies — since they reflect real life — didn’t have much violence. The villains were mostly smugglers or thieves and their weapons were usually their fists, knives and pistols. And the range of movies you had! On one hand, there was the angry young man personified by Amitabh Bachchan, on the other there was ‘middle-class’ Amol Palekar — you liked him because he enacted your life on the screen.
The music created then has remained timeless: music companies are still making money from their popularity. Today, technology, and not the composer, makes the music: the keyboard is a substitute for a dozen violins. Where’s the melody?
Talking of technology, in the 70’s, it was advanced enough for people to keep in touch on phone or telex. But not advanced enough to let Mozart 40 on someone’s mobile phone ruin a Ravi Shankar concert.
Most luxuries of life were available then — car, fridge, TV; but people did not buy them with borrowed money. So you didn’t have bank executives pestering you — either to take a credit card or to remind you that the credit card payment is due.
Politics was principled and rarely opportunistic. Scams were unheard of. And democracy was robust: people rose up to throw out a government that had become autocratic.
Cancer was as scary then as it is now, but cholera, pox and TB had stopped killing people. And it was only morality that stopped you from doing immoral things, not the fear of a killer disease called AIDS.
Still disagree with me? But I told you I am possessive about the 70’s.