For the past few days, I was facing the infamous ‘writers’ block’. But thanks to my company these days, I decided to overcome it and just give way to the trail of thoughts that took shape only because my subject in this post is the sadness of my grandparents, and of every grandparent who has not changed with time. This one is dedicated to all the old people of India who belonged to the era of the Golden Sparrow, or the Golden Era. No wonder, Old is Gold.
More than storytelling, I love to listen to stories. Sometimes, I zone out. Other times, I am engrossed. As a kid, I was mostly engrossed, and then I would lose myself in the stories my grandparents would narrate to me during bedtime. One memory from those days of bedtime storytelling sessions is the story of Maharana Pratap and his horse, Chetak; and of course, moral of the story. Valour, generosity, ardor, fearlessness, and virtues galore. When I grew up, I realised that not many of my peers knew the name of his horse. That was just one example of the quality of those storytelling sessions, and all these years, I have realised that I learn much more in life from listening to my elders.
It has been a smooth transition from those days of historical and fantastical storytelling to ‘realistic’ storytelling. Now I listen to stories that happened, and are happening. I learn about those wicked daughters-in-law who mistreated their parents-in-law, but I also learn about how people ‘used to…’, and about immensely wealthy people, both in monetary terms and in intangible terms. The latter is what I want to talk about. Those were the days when a quintessential Grandma would meticulously plant saplings of potatoes, chillies, gourds, etc, because she was farsighted enough to know the value of caring for the plants so they could give her food for her family. She would keep a Cow in the backyard, who would take care of the rest of the nourishment. Whatever was not eaten, was sold. And that’s where the money for the seeds came from. She understood the meaning of ‘resourcefulness’, and that became clear when she made a cozy mattress out of old Sarees and clothes for her darling granddaughter.People used to work hard during the day, so hard that they never had time for idle gossip, so hard they slept peacefully at night. Festivals meant food, cooked in every household, and shared among all households. The light on the faces of children brightened the neighbourhood, and they never required artificial lights on Diwali. Today, such children are employed as child-labourers, and their faces are devoid of happiness, their voices muted by the sound of the crackers that deafen people. No wonder we have to make do with artificial lights now. Food was always cooked inside the home-kitchen, but now, nobody wants to work that hard. Everyone looks for the easy way out: go to the market, make a selection, and go home loaded with packets of sweets (which will not be shared).
The Golden Age in the reign of the Guptas was known as such because of the development of music, dance, poetry etc. Similar patterns were seen during the older generation. The songs that legendary singers and composers would give shape to after scores of hours of hardwork are “evergreen” today. I am a huge fan of most of the singers from that generation, and I doubt that they missed out even a single emotion in their songs. From friendship to love to the relationships of brother-sister, mother-daughter, and even grandparents’-grandchildren, most of the emotions have been valued through the songs of that generation. Personally, I am always hugely impacted by the words in a song. Lyrics, I believe have an important influence over many listeners. Nowadays, a lot of degeneration is visible because lyrics have undergone a drastic change. Earlier, there was an element of subtlety and sophistication in the conveyance of those lyrics, but now a lot of ‘popular’ songs are rather brash or even vulgar, and more often than not, picturised on raunchy heroines and heroes which feature in them. Earlier, most songs revolving on intoxication were either ghazals or qawwals, or simple romantic odes. Most of them topped the favourites’ list of even teetotallers, and still do. Even poetry in the bygone era on such themes had manifestations of elegance coloured by the different reactions that alcohol can produce. Nowadays, ‘daaru’ attracts people, be it in clubs, or in so-called programmes of ‘Holi Party’, marriages, and sadly, even schools. If you are not one of the group, you invite curiosity and unwanted attention. If you dislike going to a pub, you are ‘uncool’. And there are those people who believe that it is important to cultivate and imitate bad habits in order to encourage networking, and to make ‘friends’. They forget that we are all known by the company we keep. Jokes earlier meant jokes. Nowadays, it means innuendos. Earlier, people used to meet frequently and talk to each other whenever a crisis of a significant proportion came up, in order to feel better. Nowadays, either because of lack of a social circle or lack of trust in that social circle or any other reason, many of them get addicted to alcohol, and instead of vomiting things on paper or verbally, they vomit. Literally. It creates a doubly messy situation for them, and instead of facing the reality, they start going away from it.
Life was simpler then. Beauty meant something that was natural, and real. It meant inner beauty. It meant touching feet of the elders, talking politely, not stealing or acting in a corrupt manner, and basically, caring selflessly. Nowadays, beauty is what ‘can be made’. Beauty nowadays means mothers-in-law going for liposuction to attain size sero, it means throwing money in parlours and clinics and going under the knives and scissors. In short, far from natural. Simplicity is dull, boring, and not ‘hot’. Whatever is ‘hot’ sells. Everything has turned into a commodity. Faith, love, relationships, friendships. Dating has taken a new meaning. Everybody has a checklist, and everybody wants to ‘give love’ only after making sure that they are ‘worth’ it. Sounds ridiculous and almost demeaning, doesn’t it? But sadly and unfortunately, it seems like the only way out in Kaliyug, which is witnessing NPD patients, psychopaths, cheaters, abusers, and rapists disguised as girlfriends and wives, boyfriends and husbands. Earlier, commitment to any equation meant something ‘lifelong’. It meant compromising, it meant respecting each other. It meant bowing your head as a gesture of reverence. But now, we apologize for not having patience for anything which would cause us to listen. Because we want to be the only one who should talk. After all, ego has become a survival shield. But then, ultimately, it ruins everything.
We can pride ourselves on our being tech-savvy, or being adept at handling finances, or having technical acumen. But can we replace those diminished values, that unconditional love and support, that smile or that kind word which had the power of making one forget their despair, their sorrow, their miseries?
Where is the simplicity in life, they ask. Where is the selflessness? Where is that laughter, they ask, with tears in their eyes. All they do is lament. Is that all we can give back the older generation?