“Good Old Days!”, or is it so?

Subin Jagdish
Sunday, November 27, 2016

“What fun we used to have in the good old days!”, “The life was much better in the olden days”… If you talk to anyone above the age of 35 or so, these are words that will almost invariably come up, and almost as a certainty we would nod our heads and agree with the speaker. But is that really true? Were the “Good old days” really all that “GREAT” or is it just us trying to make the grass on the other side appear greener than it truly is?

As an expatriate from the lovely land of Looms and Lores also known as Cannanore (in those days) residing in Kuwait, let me outline a vacation that I would have taken in the year 1981 (35 years ago)

Leave approved – I start looking for a reliable travel agency to book my flight to Bombay. Yes – Mumbai was Bombay and there were no International Airports in Kerala. Neither was there any online ticketing. Travel woes don’t end there. I need to spend overnight in a hotel and catch a bus from Bombay to Cannanore the next day. Train is not really an option because the Konkan railway has not yet been built, and the alternate train will take about 2.5 days.

After a long 28 hour journey in the bus, which I can tell you is not fun with children and the summer heat in a non a/c bus, I finally get down at Caltex Junction. It is now the 3rd day after leaving Kuwait and I am almost home at last! I load all my stuff on the roof of the black and yellow Ambassador car and as I watch the driver tying the luggage to the carrier – I can see him mentally rubbing his hands together in glee as he calculates how much money he can fleece out of this “Dubaikaaran”.

Finally home at last, I unpacked my boxes to find that the rains I enjoyed seeing after 2 years of Kuwait living had not been every kind to me. The boxes were not very watertight in those days and rain had managed to enter, spoiling some of the stuff so loving bought for relatives and friends. The thrill of meeting everyone was however unspoilt and I enjoyed the family reunion that my return home had sparked.

Next day, after spending a good 15 minutes trying to read the morning paper which was falling to bits due to having faced its share of the rain, I finally gave up and sat on the verandah. “Eppo ethi?”, the cheerful voice of Mohan, our family fisherman came from the gate. Mohan was our fishmonger, for the last 5 years, ever since his father had gotten too old to pedal the bicycle with a basket full of fish tied to the carrier. Even thinking of going to the market or speaking to another fishmonger was frowned upon, both by my mother and Mohan himself. In return, the freshness of fish was guaranteed, he would give my mother fish that wasn’t fresh. The rates of course would change depending on whether it was my mother (unemployed) or my brother (working in Kannur), my sister (working in Delhi) or I (Kuwaitille mon) was paying.

A trip back home meant house visits, and auto rides in plenty. Cannanore in those days had the best looking autos in kerala with tinted Glasses and cushion seats. It was necessary, autos in those days had a top speed of about 30 KMPH. If I used a cycle, I would probably be faster. The other option to move around was a Lambretta Scooter. No fancy electric starting – by the time I could start it, I would have digested the last two meals I had eaten. Please also don’t forget that the thought of negitating dim unlit roads with a headlight that the torch on your mobile phone today would have beaten with ease. Bus was always an option, but the thought of having a 15 minute walk to the main road, and then waiting for half an hour was not very pleasing. Yup, you guessed it right, most of roads didn’t have bus services and the ones which did were few and far between.

Going for an evening walk was a scary thought too. Though our home was at Thana (almost the middle of town today), there used to be snakes and Jackals in plenty. Anyway most home rules stated that we should be inside by “Sandhya Vilakku”, maybe for the same reason. Walking in the rain even during the day was am adventure since we used to have a humongous umbrella to cart around with us (no folding umbrellas in those days, remember?) and the muddy tracks leading home before all the lanes got cemented or tarred.

One week into my vacation and I run into a new problem; shortage of clothes. The rains have still been going on in full swing and everything is washed and rewashed and rewashed in the rain again. Nothing has dried and some of what did dry took a dip in the muddy water when the clothes line fell in the rain and wind. Life certainly would have been nicer with a washing machine back then….

The next best thing to look out for was the trip to visit my aunt in Palghat (that’s Palakkad). Travelling by train was always something I loved, though I almost changed my mind when I ended up waiting for 4 and a half hours at the station since the train was late. Though I lived quite close to the station, with no telephone and no internet, the only way to find out if the train was late was to actually go to the station. At last however the train came in huffing and puffing. The black colour of the engine should have been a warning of things to come, as should have been the layers of soot on the red bogies that followed the smoking steam engine.
Even a day or two and innumerable baths after the trip, my hair and clothes used to stink of smoke and soot. Luckily the bath used to wash away the soot, so at least everyone could still recognise me. Trains in those days were not very fast either and it took a whole 9 hours to reach Olavakkode Junction instead of the 5 hours or so that now does. Steam engines do a lot of damage to the rails, so the amount of sideways lurching in our seats used to be more than the actual distance we travelled.

Since we had not thought to send a telegram about our arrival and letters would simply take too long without a guaranteed arrival anyway, our reaching my aunts house was quite a surprise (or maybe a shock) for them. Pleasantries aside, sitting outside, near the paddy fields, munching peanuts, we literally spent hours complaining about how hot and dusty Cannanore was compared to Palghat. Oh yes, we used to do a lot of complaining in those days too. Not much different from today – Complain about the weather, the rain, the cost of things, politics etc.

Back to Cannanore, another special event used to be the LOW VOLTAGE phenomenon. This was a unique occurrence back home with bulbs reduced to mere filaments and fans rotating marginally faster than the needles on the clock. This was a daily happening between the hours of about 1830 till about 2200 or so. It was a nice game running around switching all the tubelights in the house on before the voltage dipped so low that they wouldn’t come on after that. CFL lamps, you ask? Never heard of them in those years. Tube lights were the brightest lamps we had ever known. Battery powered radios were the best thing to pass time. TV and Cable were many years in the future yet.

Family outings were a bit different from what we are used to now a days. 15 people in the Ambassador car, or 11 people in the family Fiat. Trip to the temple, or to the beach, if lucky. Once in a while, the more adventurous of us, would actually get together and walk the seven kilometres to Payyambalam beach. The big treat for the kids was the Peanuts and chana that we used buy from the vendors back then. Theme parks and entertainment places were just not there, while theatre and Ice cream were rare and treasured events. Treasured events were of course photographed and once in a while we realised after the film was over and we had it processed that my hands were not as steady as I thought and that I had the feet, but not the head in the photo.
All these deeds past – it would soon be time for me to return to Kuwait, once again a 3 day journey. 6 days of vacation gone in travel. No wonder we felt that a month of vacation felt like only 3 weeks at home.

Today, as I travel back home on my vacation, my updates on FB and Whatsapp of my flight time, the sandwich I ate at the airport, my seat number and the colour of the Salwar Kameez the girl next to me is wearing, provide detailed information to friends and family of my whereabouts. If my flight is 5 minutes late landing at the airport, the driver waiting in my air conditioned car at Kozhikode airport will inform my parents of that too. The journey to Kannur takes only about 7 hours as compared to 3 days it took me to reach Cannanore.

And yes, I will still talk to my daughter and her friends about the “Good Old Days”, when everything was nice, and life was simple, and how the world was a better place, but know that I will not go back there at any cost. My comfort and the ease of life that modern living gifts me is a price that I will not pay.

Subin Jagdish heads Aftersales Operations for Adel Alghanim Automotive. Basically a Mechanical Engineer followed by Management qualification. His first love is Cars and all Automobiles. Hobbies include Driving and Photography.

Express your comment on this article

Posted on Saturday, December 10, 2016

Even though we had all those difficulties, life still was happy with friends and without Facebook and WhatsApp!

Posted on Saturday, December 10, 2016

Now it takes only 40 minutes travel to my home from Bangalore airport.... anyways nice article Sir...

Posted on Saturday, December 10, 2016

Now it takes only 40 minutes travel to my home from bangalore airport... ?????? anyways nice article Sir...

Posted on Saturday, December 10, 2016

Nicely explained.
Reminds me the kannada Proverb "doorada betta kannige nunnage"
Means the hill at a distance is smooth(nunnage) to the eye (kannu) i.e. you don't notice the deficiencies from a distance, always looks smooth.

Posted on Monday, December 5, 2016

Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it

Posted on Sunday, December 4, 2016

Very nicely presented. Keep writing Sir..

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