The movie Queen and this ad reminds me a lot of 2000 and Kota. And let’s face it Queen is no Sholay but an IMDB rating of 9 is due to us finding her character very endearing because we all identify with her. All this might seems laughable or cringe worthy now but back then it was the life. Going out with friends meant eating Kachori in one of the famous shops, everybody had a teri wali, which meant one girl who we have never spoken to once in a life but we could recite her phone number, house number, Scooty number and tuition timings; Hero Puch was a good way of travelling but the real cool guys had a Hero Honda Splendor; everybody wanted to have a Sachin Stance or Glenn McGrath’s run up and action but all this had to stop before dad got back home; Letters to Penthouse was a Bible; and finally though everybody said they wanted to get into IIT / AIMS but we all secretly hoped that our college had girls in skirts dancing in the basketball court.
Every town has a ‘best’ shop for everything. You want to eat Samosa? the best ‘Samosa’ is made by Ratlam Sweet Shop. Kulfi? The best Kulfi is of Shrinath, or the push cart which used to come in front of your house ringing a bell selling Matka Kulfi. Kabab? Ahmed has the best kakori kabab. We did not have restaurants specializing in any cuisine; most restaurants sold Masala Dosa, Chowmein and Dal Makhani, they were only differentiated with what they had the best of. Ambience be damned. I don’t think any of us knew what it meant back then back there, only whether it was a ‘Family Restaurant’ or not. Having a bar in a restaurant was unimaginable and people who had booze outside were either denied entry or given the stink-eye by every table in the restaurant, though most alcohol aficionados either went to a ‘Pack and carry’ place and had their food in the car or went to some dhaba outside of town. And having knowledge of what is best where is today’s equivalent of having a mobile phone, dialogues like “Ye koi Malai Kofta hai? Mere saath chalo aap ko main aapko Ambar Restaurant (pronounced as Rest o rent) ka malai kofta khilata huun” were quite common.
But most of our life was spent on the small road side places which specialized in small meals. Those were the pick-me-up or ‘Har choti khushi ka celebration’ places. Flunked the last test? Go dig in the Hot Pyaaz kee kachori at Jodhpur Namkeens and the pain lessened a lot. Aced the test? Let’s have a pineapple pastry at Bakewell. Got your pocket money? Let’s go Shiv Bakery to have patties. Distances were less, time was ample (Sigh!)
Of course most of the real food came from the vegetable vendor’s push cart. ‘Aaaloooooo, tamaaaatar’ cry at the top of their voice were their CRM strategy and I actually used to wonder if they went to some sabjiwaala school, because the volume they maintained throughout the afternoon did not look humanly possible and every sabjiwaala uncannily sounded like the other. Then the ladies of the came out in the battlefield or rather that’s what they thought it was. Every vegetable was sniffed, scratched, analysed from every angle and sometime even cut to see if the claim was genuine. After that was settled the second battle was started of bargaining for the prices; there was no information asymmetry in this market, the women knew the current prices of vegetable and fruit in every mandi in town. I tried to fake this by asking every vegetable vendor “Bhaiya ye kaise diya” whether he said 8 or 18 made actually no difference to me I will buy whatever was asked by Mom at whatever price he or she was selling it. And the final battle was the Nimbu Mirchi battle, nobody bought Nimbu or Mirchi or Dhaniya it just came complimentary with the other vegetables you had bought.
I don’t think we were more religious than sixteen year olds anywhere is the world are but we did pray very had sometimes :–
Before an exam – Well we were students, exams and results mattered. And of course the bigger reason was in the exam time going to the temple was the only outing allowed on those days, so went to the temple to pray. There was one near my house which most of us preferred, because it was near my house, and we could play cricket in my driveway, also that temple had a pond where we could play skipping stones or temples also offered, how do I put it …. Let’s just say other kind of darshan as well.
Smoking a cigarette in a back alley – That was our rebellion. Our badge that we are not a kid anymore. The access card to the bad boys association. And the test every Childe had to give, it went like this – The big boy moved the cigarette to you, filter first and said “Piyega kya?” you could chicken out here and say “main cigarette nahi peeta” and get the disapproving ‘this guy is a still child’ look or you could take the cigarette upping you ante; but to cash in your chips you had to inhale the smoke and puff it out without coughing; if you could do that then that was your knighthood, otherwise what you got was a resounding laugh from everybody and the dialogue “Ye baccho kee cheez nahi hai bacche“ and the tag of ‘wanna-be’ for your whole life. But these tough guys were scared shitless when their neighbour uncle’s scooter passed through this alley and they prayed on to every god there is that either the uncle didn’t see them or won’t report it to their parents. What they did not know that their mothers already knew they smoked; not in spite of the supari and mint they chewed but because of it.
Porn – I remember one teacher telling me that in her hostel they had hollowed out a wall in the common toilet to serve as a library, that is where they stored their Mills & Boons. Being an all-girls college in the middle of nowhere (Laxmangarh) this is what they sustained themselves on. And the book store which used to import the Mills & Boons was near a temple, the risky task of smuggling the book was left to the final year students and all the girls took the book first, then prayed in the temple for not getting caught and then went to the hostel. I found this whole action plan very familiar, we also did pray very hard whenever we were smuggling Mastram in the school or the ever popular worth-shedding-blood-over ‘Letters to Penthouse’ and dreamed of going to America where everybody’s wife was blond, 34D and a stunner; and whenever your car had a puncture in the middle of nowhere she was more interested in having a tumble (thrice) in the empty cabin nearby (which always used to be there) rather than nagging you to death that she had reminded of getting the spare tyre repaired two weeks before.
But these were the pursuits of lesser men, the Big Kahunas dealt in motion pictures. And the highly revered guys were who knew a guy, who knew a guy who could get the real hardcore stuff. In which ‘upar ka aur neeche ka dono dikhaate hai’ they were the small town equivalent of drug dealers. And the boys understood more about the universe in those one and a half hours what Copernicus and Hubble did in their entire lives.
TB6 deserves a special mention here. It was Russian channel which suddenly was started being broadcasted here in India and used to telecast Adult movies late in the night. It was inspiration to a million teenage to ‘Study’ till late night in the TV room.
Cricket – Enough said. Back then Sachin was in process of attaining the status of God, Azharuddin was un-tainted, the sight of Kambli in tears was fresh in in our memory and everyone prayed extra hard for us to win the Super Six against match against Pakistan in 1999 world cup, the cup be damned, that was our World Cup !
Now you gotta get the scene first. The place is a middle sized town, the time is Circa 2000, the rich boys wear Reebok instead of Action, Maruti 800 is still an aspirational thing and parents have this habit of making you call every girl more than your age as Didi or making them call you Bhaiya if they are even one year younger. Co-ed are the exception rather than the rule. Teens Today is the progressive magazine where girls complain that their 21 year old boyfriend after 6 years of relationship now wants to get physical. Nobody has Swag. And carnal knowledge is equivalent of Sainthood, nobody except the most blessed get it. Get it?
But of course there was no lack of trying from our side. And all techniques (also known as seetbaaji back in those days) came down to these –
Stare a lot – This was the most basic of all and practiced by everyone, you just sit behind her in class and keep gawking at her, you can even touch her hair if you were close enough but the real jackpot was when you could find one day that one of her bra strap was showing, that would make your day and become the topic of conversation all evening.
Follow Home – This one required a mechanized mode of transportation and thus excluded the base of pyramid who had cycles. At the end of school there was a mad rush and throttles were sent to their maximum at the war cry of “Bhaai teri waali abhi nikli hai . Chal !” Thus you followed your waali back to her home, honked a lot, and overtook her once or twice just for fun. One anecdote here is worth mentioning (without going into names of course), our pack mate once wanted to go beyond the follow home routine and overtook the girl and braked right in front of her to make her stop, she did stop but not in the way our guy hoped, she panicked, braked too hard, skidded and fell down, what happened after that is not worth telling the tale of, but you should understand even this routine wasn’t without this risk. Another side of this routine was the stake out, this is when you spot the two wheeler of someone’s waali either parked or in motion and dashed out to his house to inform him that “teriwaali wahan hai, jaldi chal !”
Dinh: Priya ko bula do
Priya’s dad: Aap kaun bol rahe ho
Dinh: Main Raj
Priya’s Dad: Kaun Raj?
Dinh: Yahi to raj kee baat hai
*total silence for a minute and then we burst out laughing
Ask for notes – This one was certainly not for the faint of heart as this required having an actual conversation with the girl like a human being! Which very few of us could pull off. No doubt the girls saw through this but I do know a few people who actually did get notes upon asking for it, and thus the staring of the whole class. And the people who were too far to understand what went down got the smile from the protagonist which Muhammad Ali gave the media when he won the gold medal and got back to USA.
Bash up the other lover – This technique was used frequently by people who had muscle power behind them. This is something what Komatsu had in mind when they had their motto as Maru-C, son instead of directly attacking the target you encircled them by knocking other pieces off the board. Conversations often went like this –
Guy1: Saale Priya ke ghar ke bahut chakkar laga raha hai
Guy2: Tereko kya?
Guy1: Mere mohalle kee ladki ko mat ched
Guy2: Kyun teri behan lagti hai wo?
This is when the fight started. The girl in most cases had no idea all this was happening because they did not know these two guys existed
Chat on Yahoo messenger – Finally, this is what the smooth operators did. The Johnny Depps of our times. They had already broken the ice and the girl had reciprocated, so now they sat in dingy Cyber cafes, logged onto their HandsomeGuy_84 IDs and chatted the hours away. And the final climax of this was when they sat in the same cyber café in the same cabin and … Let’s just say- did not chat
There was also this intermediate categories who had girls (or Aunties) in Philippines or USA and had their private show whenever they were online. I know one guy who even nearly 3000 dollars wired to his account by an Aunty from US.
Sigh! Those were the days!