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Simpler Times - I

This was the scene I woke up to this morning. As I made my cup of black coffee and walked to the coffee table with the newspapers in my hand, this is what I saw. For a minute I froze thinking about how everything is about technology these days. We have a thousand books at home and yet the Kindle is always in use. There are only two people at home and yet we have four laptops and innumerable earphones and headsets. The iPad is only used in my Bookstagram photography and the iPod is unused because I've left its charger at my work desk back in office. Funnily enough, none of these things make us happy. The only thing natural in the above picture, along with the freshly brewed coffee is the baby money plant and yellow Gerbera that bloomed in my balcony garden. These are the only things that make me genuinely happy. While the husband and I have never enjoyed materialistic things, we have ended up buying things out of necessity, and some of them were won as part of various writing contests. They make life easy, yes, but where is the joy associated with it?

Let me start with my favorite topic first. Reading. I come from a lower-middleclass family, so anything apart from the basics was a luxury. Thanks to being in good schools, I had developed quite a taste for reading and it wasn't very easy to get books back then. I'm talking about the late 90s and early 2000s. I've never received pocket money and if we needed anything, we had to ask for it many times and more often than not, it was denied. The money coming in could barely cover the basics, let alone be "thrown away" at books. I started earning at a very young age by doing promotional jobs and assisting my mother at her boutique. This is the money I used to buy books. I used to take a local bus from my place to Malleswaram (a shopping hub around 7-8 kms from my place) and then walked more than a kilometre to find the bookseller. He sold old books along with pirated copies of books on the footpath. You could get around 4 to 5 books for 100 bucks back then. 

I remember having endless conversations with the bookseller and he used to always promise to save the original copies for me. If you get lucky, you could get an original unread book for 30 bucks. Come rain or shine, whenever I got a little money, I used to go there to buy books. The travel, the time taken, the hassle, never mattered. Back then, books were bought solely based on instinct or word of mouth. There were no reviews to be checked. You just bought a book and read it. Strangely enough, there were no bad books back then. You had limited choices and they were more often than not good.

Today, I can sit at my work desk and buy books in under a minute. Paperbacks and hardcovers get delivered in a day or two, while Kindle books and Audiobooks are delivered instantly. While the books get delivered in an instant, the research that goes behind it takes weeks and sometimes months. You read ample reviews, talk to many people about it, research the genre, check out the discussions it has led to and only then decide to buy a book. It might take days, months or years before you even read it. By then, the excitement has usually waned away. I'm hooked to the Kindle and Audible now, but I shall always have a soft-spot for a good old paperback or a hardcover! While the passion for reading has still stayed the same and I read a lot more now when compared to back then, I long for the simpler times. There was a sense of innocence attached to it. Something pure. Something that can never be taken away. While walking down the aisles of bookstores do give a similar feeling, the rush of rummaging through a pile of books on a roadside to find a decent copy is something else.

Let's talk about music next. Do you remember the good old radio? The ones that needed to be manually tuned and have its antenna adjusted to get a signal. I used to the love the radio! Of-course back then the music scene was different too. The one thing that gave me a kick out of listening to the radio was predicting what song would come next. There was a certain joy in that uncertainty. You just listened to whatever song was played and enjoyed it. Today, radio is all about ads and agony aunts, with a couple of songs being played every hour. Whatever happened to the genuine love of music? On demand music has made it easy for all of us, everything at the touch of a button in exchange for a yearly premier fee. The closest we come to guessing which song is next here is when we shuffle! Also, the lesser spoken about today's music, the better.

One of the biggest things for the 80's kids was the cable TV boom. My love for English music is all thanks to the early MTV and Channel V shows. They were sooooo good! It was all about music and nothing else. While we enjoyed listening to the music (Backstreet's back, alright!), we learnt fashion from the VJs. Everything they did back then might make us cringe now, but it was such a rage then and was such a huge influence on people like me. Music used to be killer back then and you just couldn't get enough! These channels brought us the best of music even before we learned to download them. We had to wait for a movie or an artist to release their albums to get the music. Sometimes it look so long just to get your hands on it. You couldn't just download your favorite song like you do today. You had to buy the whole album(an audio cassette) whether you like it or not! Oh man, the lack of options was such a beautiful thing!

On demand music, movies, TV-shows, games; what is not on demand these days? Remember when the only movie you could watch was the one being played at 4 PM on a Sunday on DD? No one knew what the movie would be and what language it would be. We would just wait for 4 PM and sit down to watch it! Watching English sit-coms back then meant renting out CDs and hurrying to finish it before the time runs out. Do people use CDs anymore? I remember getting forms printed out using a floppy disk as well! 

Gosh, I feel old. Also, this post is getting too long so I'm going to split it into a few parts. For now, this should do. We'll talk about the food and fashion scene, the humble telephone and love stories next.

What are your memories of your simpler times?


  1. The biggest loss is the children's enthusiasm to play outside, the friendships over skinned knees! These days they are all stuck to screens even if some of them stray outside.

  2. This post made me think of simpler times. Papa used to get us books and I would read anything that I got. I used to read Hindi and English and big ones that were from Papa's personal collection. Then there were libraries. I remember we had a neighbor aunty who loved Science Fiction and in those days I was a Robin Cook fan. From there I moved on to Arthur Hailey and what not. I did get pocket money but it was peanuts. I would save it to buy chocolate for brother's birthday or parent's birthday gifts.
    There is so much to think and write on this topic, isn't it?
    I loved that shot from home and your memories, Soumya. We all long for simpler days.

    1. Thank you, Paro! There is indeed so much to talk about this topic. Things were so simple and stright-forward back then.

  3. This post definitely took me back to those simpler times! I remember renting VCP/VCR and movie cassettes during summer holidays. Listening to songs on radio was a favorite activity. I longed for an iPod later but now when I can listen to music any time anywhere, I am not listening as much. Those limited choices definitely made everything more enjoyable. Thank you for this post, Soumya. 😀

    1. Ah renting VCRs was quite something no? How many movies I have seen that way. Limited choices were so easy. Thank you for reading, Vinitha :)

  4. Every time i listen to musics, i get a strange feeling...after reading this i got to know what is that feeling..awesome one

  5. Oh your post took me back to the 80s when we would rent a VCR and binge watch movies on that- I have watched every crappy movie ( Think Rakhwala types) just to watch a movie. I am with you on the saving up to buy books. 97 I had come down to Delhi to work and I used to comb the side lanes of Connaught place for the pavement booksellers who would sell second hand books or pirated ones for a pittance. Even that was too much for me - I used to earn 2000/- a month then. Books were and always been a luxury for me - when I buy I make sure I will really read it - thats what got instilled in me.
    I was hooked to the worldspace radio in the early 2000s - I miss it so so much. Now a days radio reception within the house is bad- or it is for me and the only time I get to listen to it is in the car. I am the radio generation as thats my first waking memory. My dad to date turns on the radio first thing when he wakes up every mornng. Vividh Bharti and Binaca geetmala are very familiar to me!!
    Movies on TV were the 10 pm on friday night on DD - I have watched Escape from alcatraz - such a gem then! Again it was the same - didint know what would be on and whether I would like it ;-)

    Ah yes the simpler times indeed - but can I make a confession; I am not missing those days at all. I love the technology, the cable tv, internet and everything that comes with it. In fact I am hungry to be spoilt more ;-)

    1. Hahaha, loved reading about your simpler times :)

      I enjoy the technology too, but I wish there were limited options on things and that things were much simpler now too. Sigh, one can only wish.


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