I was born in the late 80s, which means most of my conscious memories are from the 90s. Any middle-class Indian kid who spent his/her childhood in that era will have some similar memories. One such memory might be lying down on the floor doing homework while the TV blared on in the background. I can’t remember now if I had a room of my own (I might have had one that I shared with my brother), but it never mattered, because the living room was where things got done. Papers and books spread everywhere, it was the only way to do your work and not feel isolated from everyone else. (Of course, when adolescence set in, isolation became a cherished thing, but until then, I craved company at all times.)
Whether or not anyone was actually watching TV didn’t matter; it was just comforting to have it running in the background. I haven’t ever been particularly fond of Indian TV, but I can’t deny that we got some of the best commercials. (Although I never really appreciated this until I went to Singapore and realised how extraordinarily bad advertisements can be.) Some of those 90s commercials are timeless, and I’m likely to remember their melodies for as long as I live. (It probably helps that we saw each commercial some 2357 times, until they were firmly implanted in everyone’s brains.) They’re also a great source of nostalgia, as a bunch of us once realised during a gathering of Indian university friends on Diwali. Each jingle we remembered was a trip down memory lane, associated with something from our youth.
Who can forget the Washing Powder Nirma jingle, or even that of Ujala, accompanied by images of white sarees with blue borders? Remember the cute kid who runs away from home because he’s angry with his parents and is tempted back with promises of jalebis? Or the Dairy Milk girl who runs across a cricket field like a loon? Or the school girl from the English Marie ads? (I didn’t realise that jingle was a version of a song from My Fair Lady until much, much later.) Who didn’t drool at the sight of that Amul butter sliding down a hot paratha? Who didn’t want to be a Complan girl/boy back then? Was there a single unfunny Fevicol ad? I still remember all the words to the Bajaj jingle, and to the Amul Doodh (x4) ones, and I still laugh at the series of ads Aamir Khan did for Coca Cola.
The ads on TV these days are slicker, smarter and funnier, but they won’t ever feel the same as those early ones did. Those first 10 or 15 years of your life produce memories that you’ll always carry around, even if they’re just silly jingles to products you can’t even get any more. That’s what nostalgia is, I guess. Still, I’m happy I got to grow up at a time when the commercials had heart, and were as entertaining to watch as the shows or movies they came in between.
What’s your favourite old commercial? 🙂