In the last few weeks some unique events happened in my life that set me thinking of my generation in depth- a retrospection which was much due considering that my active working life is now slowly on the way out and also coupled with the fact that my small business made me recently interact with hundreds of people, mostly half my age. The generation I am referring to is of those born in the 1960’s. The first few events were that I saw two movies based on PL Deshpande the famous Marathi actor, writer and intellectual, and also the movie Thackeray based on Bal Thackeray the Shiv Sena founder. The other event was that I met my old college friends at a get together at Dadar where I grew up, who all were born in the early 60’s.
All the discussions that happened in the get together of those close friends were based on our college days till mid eighties and the settings and events captured in the movies were in the era 1960s to 1990s. Though the events were Mumbai / Pune centric, they were, nevertheless possibly applicable to all those born in the early to mid sixties, all across India.
One thing that I realised in the past few weeks was the fact that those born in the sixties were extremely fortunate people. Fortunate, not in monetary terms, but in terms of living and life. Why ? Because, this particular generation has seen the most of the great changes in an entire lifespan that perhaps no generation in India has seen. What this particular generation has seen and experienced, perhaps no one prior to and later than in their mid fifties now, will ever experience.
This generation has seen it all. From the days of not having a refrigerator and a landline at home to times when people have the latest smart phone in hand, which is now extremely misused and which has taken over your life. The transition from going to a neighbour’s house to make or receive a phone call on a heavy, antiquated black phone piece to a 200 gram smart phone that tells you that you have to have your food. Through that journey was a push button electronic hand set landline , a cordless phone, a pager and an “‘un-smart mobile phone””. I remember asking my friends if they had a phone and a refrigerator at home in the 60s and 70s, and I remember having a FIAT or an Ambassador car was the sign of the super rich. All along school and college, I nurtured a dream of owning a second hand FIAT car which was finally realised after I turned 32, full ten years after I graduated. Today, my generation’s sons and daughters are taking cars and bikes to college.
I remember me and my friends scheduling a meeting together 7 days in advance and honouring a commitment to meet, without calling or speaking to each other in the intervening period, as there was no way to get in touch.
This is a generation that had the best of exposure to our own culture, our own languages / mother tongue and a fantastic reading exposure to a foreign language- English. This was a generation that went to Marathi and other vernacular medium schools, yet spoke English quite well in due course of time. International schools were unheard of. Going to Balmohan Vidyamandir, RM Bhat, ANZA and other neighbourhood schools was just the perfect thing to do, and branded schools and colleges and foreign boards were unheard of. Becoming an engineer or doctor meant that you had made it to a very few colleges in the state and that you were really good at studies.
This was the generation that knew the BeeGees and also knew our own PuLa’s, Gadimas and Shrinivas Khale’s. This generation read Enid Blyton ( Famous Five/ Secret Seven ), Mills & Boon, Tin Tin comics and also Faster Phene ( Marathi ) in school, and later Agatha Christie, Irving Wallace, W Franklin Dixon, Arthur Hailey and also James Hadley Chase ( the last being read secretly after parents were asleep ) ; besides reading famous Indian language books by P L Deshpande , and poems by G(a) D(i) Madgulkar, literature by V(i) S(a) Khandekar, Acharya Atre and others- all borrowed from libraries with great effort and walking & cycling . This was a generation which was extremely comfortable in their own mother tongues and also in English. The environment that prevailed during that time, would not let you be anything else. Now the same generation is quite happy with Kindle, Amazon, Whats App and Twitter, but misses the old world charm of books. Unfortunately this generation finds their own next generation, not reading anything at length other than their academic studies, and busy forwarding short messages and jokes all the time- which hardly adds to their knowledge or content- despite having all books on Amazon and Kindle to read.
This is a generation that has seen huge changes in India’s fortune, experiencing poverty like situation to stable prosperity 20 years later, and later on also experiencing the pitfalls of excessive investments beyond their own means in properties more than what was possibly required. This generation was one that went to US for studying only if one had ample funds or was getting a scholarship or was having an uncle out there. Migration to another country for education meant a return to India after a 2 year ‘Vanvas’. The same generation sees their children return in 3 months for the Christmas break, after starting their fall semester. Isn’t that prosperity for you ? An extra tuition class besides your college education was unthinkable for many, while the same generation sees their kids going to expensive classes for all kinds of things, for possibly no reason. This generation was comfortable driving vehicles such as Fiat and Ambassador ( which were obsolete even then ) and are now happy driving high class automatic transmission cars. This is the generation that used a T Square, a Drafter, Log Tables, Scientific Calculators and then Computers. They used crazy programs like Fortran, Cobol and Pascal, and later went on to use MS office and PPTs and laptops only in their mid thirties- but are now proficient with the latest in software. This generation possibly used PPTs in their mid thirties after having made slide transparencies on plastic sheets, using overhead projectors ! Now the same generation also uses the latest toys for office meetings like PPT on Windows 10 ! Any yes, this generation does not understand how anyone becomes an AVP or VP or GM at age 30, and with no one working under them, and without any powers. For us, a Manager post itself meant something big, sometime back .
This is a generation that thrived on playing real games, being physical and working out on the grounds. Also, from watching just 2 channels of DD ( Doordarshan ) airing some fantastic programmes in Hindi ( Phool Khile Hai Gulshan Gulshan, Chitrahaar, Ramayan, MAhabharat, Buniyaad, the Sunday movie at 6 pm, stupid jokes of Yakub Sayeed and Babban Prabhu on a Sunday morning, and Marathi master piece programmes like Gajra ) and other Indian languages , this generation now also flips through 150 channels dishing out bad debates. This generation has seen it all. This generation waited for test matches which were played only once in a while, and waited for their heroes like Sunil Gavaskar to reach his century and Kapil Dev to get his next wicket – all on a 21 inch B&W TV.
Only Quality of life ( just like on the 2 TV channels ) mattered and Quantity of things possessed just did not- since those did not exist. This generation still has a value system in place, like mutual respect and friendships . A generation that saw all- frugality, comfort and excess. It however knows even today that not having something does not matter, and there is a lot to have and be happy, even when not actually possessing many things physically.
This generation however carries the responsibility to convey to the next few generations- be frugal, don’t be possessive, and that to be happy actually is a state of your mind and not a state of your pocket. There is a lot of nice things to enjoy in life like healthy interactions with others, reading great books, watching drama, theatre, mehfils as seen in the 2 movies of Pu.La. As we discovered in our get together, Memories and Friendships are to be possessed and nurtured rather than only shares and properties- the latter which you never take away with you.
Born in the 1960’s ? Maan…you are lucky! Give yourself a pat on your back !