I read somewhere that there are roughly three stages in a person's life - Stage 1 " My daddy can beat your daddy" followed by Stage 2 " Oh dad you dont know anything" and finally " My father used to say....". I guess I am fast approaching stage 3 because I have often been thinking about what it used to be like those days when we were growing up.
Somehow, health drinks seem to be the triggers that cause these musings- Ovaltine, Horlicks and Bournvita being the important brands. I remember my childhood when my grandmother used to refer to all chocholate flavoured powders to be mixed into milk as "Ovaltine". " Drink up your ovaltine" she used to say and I remember gazing at those orange coloured tins lining her kitchen shelves. Followed by Ovaltine are memories of primary school days when radio jingles and programs used to talk about some one called "Suchitra" and her healthy family consisting of her husband Shankar and children Sujata and a son whose name I am unable to recollect. Suchitra was this smart housewife who used to manage her house efficiently and keep her family on a healthy diet of which Horlicks was an important part. The Horlicks stage was replaced by Bournvita - memories mainly being of Amin Sayani and his "Bournvita Quiz Contest". Lunch time on Sundays were never complete without hearing Amin Sayani's cheerful voice saying "Cadbury's presents the Bournvita Quiz Contest" followed by the jingle " At school at play all through each day .. with that energy .. you stay ahead.."
Today when I go shopping I see so many brands but somehow the mind is unable to focus on a particular brand. I wonder if I am getting Attention Deficit Disorder in my middle age.
But coming back to the health drinks- I remember the Bournvita tins and collecting the labels to buy the Bournvita book of knowledge. I remember being crazy about the Moscow olympics mascot Misha popularized by Bournvita . I had so many posters of this bear that I think it caused a psychological stress on my poor grandmother who once had a nightmare that she was frying dosas and suddenly found the bear sitting on the tava. She woke up shouting "Help! Help !".
I wonder how my mother managed the family during those hard times when there was a shortage of almost everything. Guess Suchitra of Horlicks was modeled around women like her. An era of shortages also included I guess a shortage of wants. The most exotic thing that I have ever wanted while in primary school was a "scent rubber"- an eraser which had a mild perfume ( or so we thought). One of my friends craved for a "parle orange ball" - an orange plastic ball filled with orange coloured hard boiled sweets. We used to spend hours fantasising over what it would be like when we could actually get these things.
Today when I spend over Rs 1000 every time I go for a mid month casual grocery shopping I feel guilty because I wonder if my father would approve of some of the things I have bought - frankly, even I know that I dont need them. I sometimes cringe over the number of plastic shopping bags that I bring into the house thinking of the newspaper packs and the wicker baskets of my parents' grocery shopping expeditions. I do not total grocery bills and recheck them and I often do not count small change.
How have I become so careless and callous? Suchitra, I am sure would not have approved. But then today's efficient housewife or mom is not a Suchitra. She is a fashionable , multi - tasking super woman who like me, is a super consumer.
Everyone is aspiring for this and much more. Wants are replaced by more wants... But the question is whether and how long we can sustain this?