Wednesday, July 31, 2013

‘Those were the days my friend’

I have published fewer posts this month because of my preoccupation with things which at this point seem more exciting than writing, like reading for the hundredth time all the Asterix and Tintin comics, watching standup comedies on YouTube and The Big Bang Theory, Mind Your Language, and reruns of Friends on television, and experimenting with my new tablet which has become something of an addiction. 

In between these pursuits I have been reading both books and ebooks, though at a slower pace, and listening to music. Hans Zimmer, REM, Peter Frampton, Richard Marx, and Tears for Fears are the current flavours. Next week it will be someone else.

Of the standup comedies I watched, two standups had me laughing all over the place. One was Jim Carrey's mimicking tribute to Clint Eastwood at the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1996 and the other was Ray Romano's parental jokes delivered at a show before Everybody Loves Raymond was beamed into our living rooms. Click on the links and have a good laugh.

Towards the end of his five-minute act, Romano tells us why, given a choice, he'd like to go back to being a three-year old rather than a teenager as most people want to. Apparently, one day he was driving his then three-year old daughter, Alexandra, when he caught her looking out of the car window for 15 minutes, “staring at nothing” in particular. When he asked “Ally” what she was dreaming about, she said, “Candy.” 

"Candy!" Romano cries out in his familiar nasal voice. Do adults ever sit back and dream about candy? What would the middle-aged version of thinking about candy be like? No spoilers. Again, open the link and see for yourself. To the uninitiated Everybody Loves Raymond was based on Ray Romano's life.

The candy of Ally's and our childhood reminded me of the simple pleasures I derived in my own. I came up with 10 things I enjoyed as a kid. Some of these are gone while others are still around, in new avatars that don't look or feel the same.

Rubik’s Cube was a challenge and a frustration at the same time. In spite of studying dozens of DIY booklets carefully, I never got it right. It would raise my blood pressure if I tried it today.

The Phantom cigarettes were the only ones I ‘smoked’ in all my life. They tasted good. I didn’t need nicotine patches to kick the habit. The ‘cigarettes’ simply vanished.

The jigsaw puzzle of the world map got me hooked into the atlas and finding out the capitals of various countries became a pleasant and an educative pastime. I find the atlas as engrossing as a murder mystery.

The Meccano set gave me the earliest indication that I wasn’t cut out for the construction or equipment industry. Everything fell apart. A few nuts and bolts would be missing each time I put away the set. I had better luck building a pyramid against a wall with a crisp, razor-edged stack of cards.

The jumble, which many Indian newspapers by an act of compassion still carry, was fun to solve. Grandparents were fond of it too. It used to appear in the Sunday papers and my English teacher in 7th standard (grade) got us to crack the jumble in his class first thing Monday morning. I used to top the class because I’d solve it over the weekend. He didn’t know that, of course.

What were the “candies” of your childhood or early teens? 

Note: The headline is a popular line from the sentimental song by Mary Hopkin.


  1. I recognized the song and enjoyed the post.

  2. For me it's been Skyrim as the major distraction for the last couple of weeks.

  3. Interesting posts here; I chanced upon your blog while searching the net for any hope of TCM being revived, and I left a post on your Hardy Boys post !

    I grew up in a very cold place, and 'smoking' the Harnik Phantom cigarettes was very authentic because of the vapour that we blew out!

    And in addition to Mechano, we had Fix-o-Bricks and Shapeasy...

  4. I definitely remember chomping on edible cigarettes - scary! Growing up in Italy I loved Marvel comics and the local Diabolic comic books too - all very Proustian! Thanks Prashant.

  5. We all need a bit of variety in our lives, Prashant. Good luck with the reading this month.

  6. This was an interesting post, Prashant! I don't have much experience with the Meccano set you mention, but I do remember stuff like Lincoln logs, Hot Wheels cars, buying Scholastic Press books from the book truck that would stop by my grade school every few months, and other similar simple pleasures enjoyed by kids of my generation. I think the Rubik's Cube came out when I was in Junior High, and I never had the patience for it. Kids today have such great access to sooo many things...yet I wonder if it's a case of too much choice?

  7. Sounds like a lot of fun, Prashant. I started strolling down memory lane and remembered watching very old television with my grandmother, before our family had a TV. We watched Liberace ... that is the only show I remember. And she was a widow and worked, which was unusual even for mothers in my neighborhood, when I was a child. I remember reading ... comics and books... I was shy and used reading as an escape.

    Just in the last year I discovered The Big Bang Theory and watched all five (?) seasons very quickly. I am hooked on that show.