Article Published in THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Beatles, bell-bottoms, Bobby

Navtej Sarna

I HAVE read often in these and other columns about people who begin life at forty, become sprightly at sixty and are evergreen bonny boys all the way after that. I have read all this with growing consternation. Not that I have ever doubted the youthful vigour of the protagonists. But it certainly makes me feel that there must be something terribly wrong with my feeling old at the wrong side of twenty- five.

I don’t mean really old, of course. Not the kind of menace who hobbies around spitting venom and growling at neighbourhood children. But, yes, old enough to remember with a pang days when one was younger.

We were good kids, those days. We alternated through long summer holidays between Enld Blyton, read in the curtained cool of the afternoon, and grassy playfields. We earned badges of courage on our knees by the simple process of falling from bicycles while trying to drive without the use of hands. And we burnt our skins playing cricket in the summer sun. We were free from the plague of video games and the mystery of Rubic’s cube.

Teenagers twisted to ‘Come September’ played on old-fashioned radiograms. How they got into those slacks in the first place is something I have never discovered.

And then when I was still doing algebra in half pants, bell- bottoms came to India. Beatles were no longer the end of the world. Beads dangled from the neck and peace patches appeared on the knee.

Disco was a hush word to be spoken only in dark whispers. Parents raised voices; grandparents raised even more eloquent eyebrows. The rebellion was a hesitant one, gradually finding its heroes and gathering strength as it spread. It had all the attendant freshness and idealism. Fads had yet become necessities. It was the beginning and not the mere following of a trend.

The headiness was understandable. It was the first generation born in free India. They were unsoured by the trauma of partition or its aftermath. Hope and confidence were a byword.

But the freshness couldn’t last. It began to fade. But before that came one last wave when ‘Bobby’ caught the imagination of a generation (and this time I was part of it). It ushered in the mobike as a symbol of freedom of the young.

All that is enough to make one feel old. Especially now when precocious kids in space outfits bursting with disco tapes are actually looked upon with fond pride on parents. Compare that to the time when a simple honest pair of blue jeans would make a parent climb the nearest wall.