Growing Up in the 80s – Part 2

Growing Up in the 80s – Part 2

… continued from Part I. You can read it here.

“It is strange how we hold on to the pieces of the past while we wait for our futures.” ― Ally Condie, Matched



The only thing that we get to carry from our childhood into adulthood is the wait for the weekend and the euphoria-high of Sundays. A lot of the happiness was attached to the television and to the one channel we had. No remote was needed to surf our 80s show. I ate my Sunday lunch watching the regional language film that was a fixture every Sunday. This was my periscope to the Indian mainland.

In the evening I took out my stamp book, caressed each of the 32 pages. I’d just received a postcard from Shannon and I removed the Australia postage stamp carefully from it. Taking some sticky rice glue from the tin I pasted the new stamp into my stamp book. There! The postcard had an image of Mount Wellington (stated on the back). I could make out from Shannon’s quick crawl that she was just back from a family vacation to Tasmania. Shannon and I had been writing to each other for 2 years now. We shared details of our lives, school, our pets. She sometimes included photos of herself and her family.

Growing up in the 80s - postage stamp
(Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay)

As Sunday evening approached, hearts would flutter thinking of the homework to be completed. The Sunday night movie on TV stood as a perfect opportunity to procrastinate further. My sister hit the sides of the TV box, “no signal”, she said. My cousin climbed through the attic to the roof, twirled the antenna rod, its orange finger ends moving to the relay instructions I gave as I stood in between the stairs. “Aayo?” he would ask, “aayena” I would relay. And then at a certain point the images would build back onto the screen and I’d scream to him “aayo, aayo”, to which he would bind the antenna in that position. The cold strong winds of Darjeeling weren’t kind to these antennae and these shouting relays echoed through the gaon.

Growing up in the 80s - winter
(Image by borissey from Pixabay)

On Wednesday the chittha would be circulated through the gaon. It was a betting potluck based on songs shown during Chitrahaar, 30 minutes of song and dance every Wednesday at 8pm on Doordarshan. If a song came on that featured the actor/actress/singer, etc picked by you, you won a bounty. I never won, save for that one time I won a “Shakti Kapoor” and my heart skipped a beat too many when his song played that night! “Pyaar Hame Kis Mod Pay Lay Aaya!” We did not have YouTube or our coveted playlists on Spotify to play the songs we wanted. We enjoyed what we were served. When MTV Asia launched in 1991, I would rush home from school, throw my bag, switch on the TV, and wait probably some hours till that one song I loved was played again.

Ah yes, and those mixtapes. I saved my money to buy those tapes, reused old tapes by recording over them too. This was the 80s Spotify Premium heaven. A unique assorted playlist from the limited archive we had. And those finger-soiled marks on the player buttons from all the stop, write lyrics, rewind, play, check lyrics, stop routine. Lying on my belly, with a studied look at my slambook with pictures of Wham!, Madonna, UB40, Air Supply from Sun magazine pasted in, I’d pore through the lyrics for hours with my sisters. And an argument would erupt on what word was sung. “No it’s ‘call to mind the silverscreen…’,” and she’d chime back, “hoina ‘cause to mind the silverscreen…’ ho”. Tapes were shared, borrowed and given back. A lost or damaged tape led to a dour knick in the friendship; and much like the tapes we stuck with cello-tape when they broke, we tried to mend the catastrophe and move on.   

Growing up in the 80s - cassates and mixtapes
Mixtapes: Personal Compilations

Muma asked me to take some kheer to Neelu auntie who was a neighbour. “Bhootharu karawdaichha bihan dekhi,” Chowkidaar muttered, a dribble of froth under his blue lips. Chowkidaar had no home, our gaon was his home. He slept with a pack of dogs to keep him warm at night, carried heavy loads during the day to earn some notes, drank his day’s earnings in the little hut across the road that always smelt of sweet-sour warm rice. He wore knee high black gumboots and khaki shorts that ballooned up at his knees, tied at the waist with a string of coir. Pepper moustache, and a twinkle in his eyes, Chowkidaar was always willing to help, he was the go-to man in the gaon especially for any heavy-lifting, and that is if we could find him. Chowkidaar daju is what we called him, and we did apply bhai tika on him the years he would remember to come home on bhai-tika. He was at the curve, and he cautioned me, “bhootharu karawdaichha” (the devils are screaming). I knock at Neelu auntie’s door, loudly so I could be heard. The doors open, and I enter. KISS, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Megadeth, AC/DC, Pantera, Anthrax, Sepultura, Iron Maiden stare at me from the walls. Auntie is not home, Sachin daju is too immersed in his music, I mumble something about the kheer and I hurry home. Chowkidaar is still there at the turn. He is slouched against the railing and is smiling to himself, a bubble forming at the end of his mouth.

Later in the day Sachin daju comes home, he’s accompanied by a few of his friends. They are carrying a battery and a few VHS tapes. They borrow the VHS player. On seeing the VHS tapes in his hand, we are all excited, “What did you get dada?”. They said they’ll be watching the films in the night and that we were not invited; muma quickly pipes in that we have school tomorrow, and no movies tonight for us kids.

Growing up in the 80s - VCR and VHS tapes
VHS/VCR Player, I remember ours was a Hitachi
(Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay)

Come the weekend we make a visit to the VHS rental store on MP Road. “Hawa Hawa” rents the air. We dance-run into the store, and crowd it, the 3 sisters accompanied by Neelu auntie. We carried home Evil Dead, Night of the Living Dead, The Omen, and The Exorcist – it was going to be a horror(ful) Saturday night. We’d waited for these tapes for months, and finally we got our chance to rent them all.

Growing up in the 80s - the omen movie
The Omen (1976) poster
Gregory Peck plays father to the AntiChrist, Damien

We set up the VHS player in Neelu auntie’s living room. There were 12 of us, 6 kids, 3 older teenagers, and 3 adults. Muma and Buba thought we’d got the latest Hindi films, and thus we’d received permission to watch the films at auntie’s after an early dinner. When Buba came to get us to go home later in the night, I was hot with fever. Sunday was spent in bed, with cold-sweat provoking memories of the walking dead, punctuated by hot soup accompanied by muma’s chidings.

Want to read more? You can move to Part 3 here.

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