Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The 90s in India - ‘Pehla nasha’ se ‘Rangeela re’

This post is dedicated to my country on its 60th year as a Republic.

Having lived in US these past few years I quite often heard about 80s music and culture that everyone raves about. I never could relate as I was quite young in the 80s, never liked glawdy, glowy costumes or cheesy western pop songs. Though on the other side if you are Indian and if you were in your teens in the 90s, you know we are talking about a fabulous period.

“Pehla Nasha” this dreamy and romantic song probably had more impact on young teen minds than any book or speech would ever have. It invoked passions and was liberating in the societal context. I guess it came out in 1992 or 93 but I remember it being very popular in my school when I was in 9th standard(1994) Every one of us boys probably dreamed of singing this to our crushes, which most of us including myself never went through with. Well! Anyway the funniest incident I remember regarding the song was the time we decided to form a choir to sing this in our school festival in 10th standard. Our strict vice principal wouldn’t allow us as he said it had sexual references. The fact that it only refers to a “kiss’ probably highlighted his naivety and medieval thinking. We promised to edit and sang it full anyway and got away with it. I guess our minor innocent teen rebellions in India were much more enjoyable and less harmful than ‘drugs and guns’ in the west.

Going back a couple of years to the dawn of the 90s I remember one of my favourite was the “Chinese radio” by “London boys”. Though, I was equally hooked on Bryan Adams, GNR and Bon Jovi. Western influences weren’t as widespread in India at the time though they were quite popular in pockets. I guess we always appreciated what we found good irrespective of origins, signs on the increasing openness of the 90s. I was in J&K at the time and quite remember these two brothers who were friends of us two brothers rocking out to “Bed of roses” though I confess I didn’t know the lyrics at all. The four of us when to adventure camp in Khajiar, Himachal Pradesh. We were woken up to a song at 5 am everyday which I forget (I’m sure my elder bro remembers. Will check) but they also played “Informer” by snow. We all loved it and if not everyone, at least I thought it was in some weird language only to grow up and find later that it was in English sung by an American.

Moving on from Music, who can forget endless strips on ‘Chacha Chaudhury’ & ‘Twinkle’ comics we read, mostly in school sneaked in between the text books. If that wasn’t enough our favourite indoor class was definitely book cricket. What a wonderful invention! Breaks in the school days and bus trips were spent playing “trumps” with cards of wrestlers or cars. “Undertaker” and “Hulk Hogan” I remember were the ones to have. Evening cricket or football was common everyday with us running into each other homes for Mom’s or aunt’s tea and biscuits. Of course those we gulped down endless glasses of Rasna too.

Summer vacations were everyone’s favourite time of the year. Almost every year we made the long train journey back to our home town to visit our grandparents. While I enjoyed every bit of the vacation but my favourite part was the long 2 day 2 night train journey across India. In the 90s we still used trains aplenty. You could really see and experience a lot of India through these journeys and time did not seem to matter as much then. Everyone is trying to get somewhere fast these days! Back then I wished we the train ride would last forever!

I could go on and on about the small little things that epitomised our life in 90s and why they were so amazing. However, in the interest of brevity, I would recommend you look up the facebook group You Know You Grew Up in India in the 90s when" to recount all those happy times. Instead I’ll talk about the new vibrancy in “bollywood” in the late 90s reflecting the mood of the nation. I was about to complete school and move to college and around the same time two blockbuster movies captured the imagination of everyone in the nation. DDLJ and Rangeela! Who does not remember the music and how the songs got played endlessly for at least a year or two! Rangeela was my favourite of the two. Remember Urmila running on the beach in “tanha tanha” or the crazy creative dances in “Kya kare kya na kare”?

So there you have it. I am sure I haven’t covered everything, far from it, but at least its a glimpse into growing up in the 90s in India. Too many things changed in India in the 90s. The country transformed. Though this post just offers some snippets into my memories, many other changes had huge bearing on our life. It was as exciting a time as present day India still is. If you experienced it you’ll know what I am talking about. If not, it’s very hard to explain what you missed.

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