Playing in neighbourhood parks was the norm; diseased dogs roamed as freely in the unkempt grass just as mosquitoes bred uncontrollably. We were encouraged to return home with real bruises. Men would lurk around the park, but we were unaware of the danger they were to us. On a few days, we were handed over a rupee or more to buy ourselves corn on the cob, prepared by the roadside. Food poisoning wasn’t a very big threat.
There were more power cuts, which only meant we could play with the kids in the neighbourhood. Our parents spoke to the neighbours, exchanging notes about the stock market and prices of eggs. Worrying over the mobile running out of battery wasn’t a very big deal. On a few evenings, we’d eat a meal that had been prepared in another’s home, just before the cut. Sharing food was a norm, nobody spoke of keto diets, detox juices.
When I sat behind dad on his scooter, the wind would play with my piggy tales. A Cadbury’s for dessert was the highlight on weekends, second to mum’s homemade vanilla ice cream. Mum-dad never brought ‘work’ home. They took us to vacations, to our grandparents’ home and we looked forward to that. Frequent traveller miles and benefits were not trending.
We were encouraged to excel in studies. A good degree meant a stable job.
Dreams were applauded, just as risks were spoken about. Career paths were limited, exploring the unknown was unheard of, but not looked down upon. Votings for the best kid on the block on Facebook was a ridiculous thought. A sun, a mountain, a tree and a river was on everyone’s art book. Masks were but just a theatre prop.
We laughed when we were called out to be fat, brown or girly. On a few days, when we felt hurt — we fought it out and forgot about it. We were taught to shake hands after the ugliness. The difference between private and public and rage and revenge was made clear to us. The fine art of not getting offended was unspoken, understood. Hashtag movements were yet to arrive.
We collected stamps. On birthdays, we bought greeting cards. The postman earned a box of sweets if we fared well at exams. Grandpa’s fountain ink pen was a safely kept treasure.
Forward to all was unthinkable.
• • •
It was the early 2000s. Little did we know, we were heading towards scripting a series on dystopian future for an online streaming service. Art imitates life and vice-versa. An adage we’ve grown up to quote and admire. If your idea of an ideal evening includes streaming shows in the comfort of your homes, then you have tasted the future. Black Mirror, 3%, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the latest one in the list, Leila, are a few names that come to my mind. Our conversations on addiction to social media and wars over water a thing of future? For, everything that was once a dystopian thought is now the present, what does that say about the ‘fictional’ series we’re watching? A question that we could ponder upon the weekend.