I just got back after seeing Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias (International: The Year My Parents went on Vacation). The movie happens to be the Brazilian selection for the Academy Best Foreign film, charts the events of Brazilian history 1970 through a 12-year-old kid’s eyes. I don’t have a movie review here, but as I saw the movie, I could not help but reflect on an India I grew up in.
I grew up in India of the nineties. Fresh of about half a century of socialism, I grew up in that inert period between those times and the blatant consumerism that defines times today, when politics was defined by confusion everywhere. Damn, I still remember those embarrassing Third Front Governments that were around between the Narsimha Rao’s Congress Government and the National Democratic Alliance years between 1999 and 2004 characterized by the charismatic leadership of Atal Behari Vajpyee. We did not have the brashness of today’s Urban India, none of the French Connection’s and Sex and the City lifestyles, or any of the swagger a weak Dollar and a Strong Rupee has brought.
But from nothing, during the course of my lifetime, somewhere the script changed. The Bombay Sensitive Index went from 2800 to 20,000 in the last ten years, property prices went an average 500% in the National Capital Region. Bottomline being that India was swash with liquidity, Bentleys rolled in, Bollywood made better movies and it became an interesting place to live in.
Now, as a Politics Major, I look back at that period, but I have no recollection of all that churn my childhood should have been. I live in a city that did not exist ten years ago in a map. I grew up in India of the nineties. A McDonald’s opening was news, and I have driven across the city to eat a Cheeseburger. On the day of the fiftieth year of Indian independence in 1997, a McDonalds came in my neighborhood. Nothing ever really happened. Television was either cricket games that India invariably lost or government broadcasting stations that had no programming after 2200 hours. Then, late nineties we had Cartoon Network. Bollywood films were always romance with the stars in GAP, complete with kitsch song and dances shot in the Swiss Alps, and had happy endings. Yes, a GAP fleece hoodie was what we wanted. Boys read Hardy Boys. Girls read Sweet Valley. Enid Blyton reached a unisex audience. Till the triumvirate of Nike, Adidas and Reebok came in the latter half, our concept of a sports shoe was no frills white canvas. Till 1996, India had three cars you could choose from. The bestseller was the Ambassador, Indian for the 1966 Morris.
Today, my Study back home is a veritable museum of Apple. I don’t think New York of any different than New Delhi, and young people in both places have more of the same lifestyles than different. Somewhere I should have felt the pinch of a skyline that did not exist coming up and an unprecedented economic growth only superseded in human history by Modern China.
But my answers lay in that kid, the protagonist of the Brazilian movie, and not in any politics textbook. History might remember that era as something else, maybe they might call it the roaring 90's, but for me that is childhood. It was more Cricket than anything else. And we were darn excited about live streaming of cricket games. I still remember Sachin Tendulkar walking out in the Semi- Finals and a 120, 000 disappointed fans at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta, as India lost the 1996 Edition of the Cricket World Cup to the eventual winners, Sri Lanka. Just like with Pele, Tostao and Rivelino, it was easy to ignore everything, even politics, but Soccer.
Sport and the heady days of Childhood; who needs Politics?