Spit Take Life & Style

Whose Times Are Better Anyway?



When someone said to me, in a not entirely complimentary fashion, that the piece I’d written was somewhat ‘nostalgic’, I couldn’t help but catch the implied ‘yet again’. At first, my hackles went up, that she didn’t consider my piece anything but brilliant, flawless and life-changing. When I cooled down – which took a minute and a half – I figured she was right, of course. I didn’t need to go over the archives to see that, for every five pieces I write about Kangana, NRIs and Poomex (in various perms and combs) there is one that could be seen as a when-times-were-better vehicle.

Heavens, I wondered – overnight had I become an old man whose best times were behind him? Who, shudder, had quietly become what he despised more than anything else: sentimental? Part one of the assumption was true to an extent. My recalcitrant bowels and my abandoned hair-dye kit stand testimony to my ancientness. And, to be truthful, I can’t dance to Singara Sarakku with the same verve of a few years ago. But was I past my prime (which was subprime, at best, anyway), and was I wallowing in bathos? That’s when something hit me. I was doing the exact same thing the kind of people I detest were: talking about our glorious past.

While the WhatsApp scholars who have our collective sensitive parts in a stranglehold are talking of an ‘India’ of valiant kings who could destroy hordes of ‘foreign’ enemies single-handedly, where we invented geometry, astronomy and salsa dancing, discovered gravity, sticker bindis and radioactivity-repelling bull horns before anyone else did, and all was golden till Aurangazeb, Macaulay and Nehru mucked it up comprehensively for everyone, ironically, so was I, no? How was I any different then from these past-obsessed glory boys?

Well, for starters, the past I felt compelled to speak of on a regular basis – while not without its terrible flaws – was recent, something I’d actually lived, and shared with a generation who’ll vouch for it. I didn’t need ASI to carbon date it, NASA to certify it or some fake historian to validate it. I was proof. As was my generation. And while I was speaking of better times, I certainly wasn’t talking about the greatest times ever in human history since the first caveman said the very first words ever spoken by Man in Hindi.

How can we live today, see our steady descent into patala, and not refer to the recent past? Especially when so many who have lived it and benefited from it – selfish, self-destructive folks with low self-esteem, all – are refusing to admit that it ever was?

So, I’m going to forgive myself my nostalgia. I’m okay being an old man. Whenever the fancy grabs me, I am going to write about the past, the recent past, a better past, which actually existed because I participated in it. My best weapon against a fictional past that aims at dividing us is a real one, warts and all, that may not unite but will certainly not divide any further. I’m going to continue mining my past, our collective recent past. For every WhatsApp University thesis about the last millennium, I will write a piece about the last decade or the one before it.

Call me sentimental, but our kids will thank me, and other old-timers like myself, for the persistent, if minuscule, part we played in helping get us all to better times. When we finally, hopefully, get there.

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a satirist. He has written four books and edited an anthology.

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Printable version | Jul 9, 2022 12:21:43 am | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/whose-times-are-better-anyway/article65610959.ece