I used to cringe inwardly whenever relatives said, ‘He looks exactly like Susan‘ or ‘He’s got Philip’s smile.‘ But I increasingly find myself feeling good, when I hear stuff like that. I love my parents for giving me a wonderful childhood. Even though their decisions might not have been very easy to digest then, it’s all good in hindsight. Actually, I feel sorry for my younger sister because I had my parents all to myself for six years and that too, when they were a whole lot younger and cooler. *snort* They even used to wear jeans!!
I remember how Papa used to take me on long walks in the evenings. This was when we lived in Bombay and I must have been around five years old. We’d walk from our house in Military Road to this place called Picnic Spot. I loved those walks. Papa would point out all the trees on the way to me and tell me their scientific names. All of them sounded like ‘Randomus planticus‘ to me. And even though I never picked up any botany during those walks, I think it’s those evening walks that instilled in me, a love for nature. Sometimes we’d also carry a glass jar and collect earthworms from the roadside. We’d take them back home and put them in this huge plastic tub, in which we composted vegetable waste. All this was inherently fascinating to me, not to mention fun. And the best part was once we reached Picnic Spot, we’d have a snack: Piknik for me and vada pav for Papa.
And I have Mama to thank for my love of primetime news and debates. Dinner-time at home always means news time. And changing the channel was completely out of the question. So I’ve been been watching news channels for as long as I can remember. Heck! I can still remember a time when Rajdeep Sardesai and Prannoy Roy had jet black hair. They even worked in the same channel then. It was also a glorious time, an era when Arnab Goswami didn’t ask any questions whatsoever on behalf of the nation. And even if he did, nobody bothered telecasting his views then. *Dramatic background music* Tonight on the Newshour, the nation demands answers. And Mr. Derplal Kumar, the citizens of our country won’t be taking no for an answer this time!
It was Papa who got me interested in quizzing. During dinner, he’d suddenly ask, ‘Whose cap did Appu vote for, huh?’ And I’d just stare at him in disbelief. And then he’d laugh and repeat. Much slower, this time. ‘What’s the capital of Upper Volta?‘ I’d pass, with a shrug. And he’d triumphantly say with a smirk, ‘Ouagadougou‘. And I used to think, ‘Look, I might be young but I’m not dumb enough to believe that Ouagawhatever is an actual place. Let alone the capital of Upper Volta. And what country is named like that anyway? None that I’ve ever heard of!‘ And I’d rush to verify in my trusty Manorama Yearbook. And Papa would add, ‘Check under Burkina Faso. They have changed the name of the country.‘ And he was right. There was such a country. And one with such a capital. I realized then, that the world is a strange place.
Papa and Mama also got me to take to reading. I can still remember that we had this bookmark stuck on our computer-room door that said, ‘Wear the old coat and buy the new book.‘ That was a thought which I found absolutely fascinating and over time, I realized that’s how things worked at home too. Papa used to go to Bombay once in a while and when he came back to Trivandrum, he’d bring a cardboard box full of second-hand books that he’d bought from the roadside in Bombay. It was a magical feeling, opening the box. And my fingers would tremble with anticipation. Every single time.
And believe it or not, it was my parents who got me listening to the Beatles too. Rather indirectly though. I must have been around eleven and I was rummaging through their music cassette collection. I vaguely remember something about hearing Boulevard of Broken Dreams on TV and being desperate for more English music. Up until then, all that I’d ever listened to was Bollywood film music. Remember Himesh Reshammiya, anyone? But all I could find at home were Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi tapes. So you can imagine how surprised I was to find this tape: ‘Twenty Greatest Hits of The Beatles‘. I’d listen to that tape on my mom’s Walkman every night, snuggled under the bedsheet, until I fell asleep. And I read up like crazy about the Beatles online. By the end of it, I was impressed. That my parents actually listened to the Beatles. Until one fine day…
Me: Papa, what’s your favorite Beatles song?
Papa: I haven’t heard any of their songs actually. Why?
Me: What about that cassette then?
Papa: Must be your mother’s.
Me: Mama, is this yours?
Mama: Yes, but I’ve never really listened to it. Someone gave it to me.
Papa: Yeah, who’d listen to them anyway? Moollan piller.
Maybe my parents weren’t that cool after all.
But I’ve turned into them and it’s absolutely shocking when realization finally dawns. Like when I tell my sister, ‘I didn’t have an mp3 player when I was your age. Why do you need one anyway?‘ And then I hear the echoes in my head, ‘When I was your age, we didn’t have cable TV and computers. We used to go out and play all day.’ But I guess it’s inevitable. Your parents play a huge role in determining who you end up becoming, and more often than not, you turn into them. Whether you like it or not.
Oh and by the way, turns out that Mohammad Rafi was one cool dude!! If you don’t believe me, check this song out: The She I Love
And seems like nobody has noticed that the title of this post is inspired from ‘How I Met Your Mother’. And in case you’re wondering, I hate the show. Too sickly sweet, it is. Gives me diabetes. And induces nausea.