In a long bus ride, I read How I braved Anu Aunty and made a million-dollar company and I loved the book. The stories in the book are especially familiar to those who have faced the ire of family and sometimes friends at wanting to do a startup.
In the midst of the book, there is a passionate explanation by Varun Agarwal of why his idea of alumni T-shirts and alumni hoodies are important to people:
… The strangest thing was that my long-forgotten cupboard kept yielding one memory after another. I ran into a lot of my stuff from school that had got lost in the decade gone by. I started thinking of all those wonderful days. And that is when it hit me. That is what Alma Mater was about! It was about bringing those good ol’ days back. It was about taking you down that memory lane that leads to the wonderful times of school and college.
… We didn’t have Facebook then but we did have ICQ. One line none of us from that ‘era’ can ever forget is ‘ASL (age/sex/location) please,’ when meeting someone new on ICQ. We had atrociously funny-sounding email ids – firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and the like and even funnier names in the ‘chat rooms.’ You couldn’t Google but had to go to altavista.com or approach Mr Jeeves for any queries and clarifications.
You still had to call a girl on her landline and muster all the courage to ask for her. The only place you could hang out at was Wimpy’s or McD and one still stayed away from the solitary Coffee Day on Brigade Road. Galaxy was where all the movies played and one had to stand in a long queue to buy tickets for Mission Impossible 2.
TV still played The Wonder Years and The Crystal Maze and the world seemed far smarter minus the Saas-Bahu soaps and the reality shows.
You could still find the time to read a book in the evenings and play cricket in your ‘gully’ on Sundays. ‘Canada Dry’ was the only source to get high and sweet, candy cigarettes were puffed at most of the times.
VSNL ensured porn still loaded one byte at a time and VCDs were all the rage. Hulk Hogan was perpetually rank one on all the ‘Trump Cards’ and Cameron Diaz from The Mask was in every puberty-hitting youngters’ dreams. The only operating system we knew of was Windows 98.
Anyone with a printer was treated with respect and the World Book Encyclopedia was the only source of information for projects. Hero Pen was the original Chinese nib was still preferred over the brash new ‘Pilot’ pen.
Azharuddin was still our captain and Jadeja and Robin Singh were our pinch hitters. Venkatesh Prasad was the only one with the balls to mess with the Pakis and we still lost all the test matches.
And I definitely cannot miss out wearing a ‘colour’ dress to school on your birthday and distributing Eclairs to everyone.
I could go on and on. but I guess you get the drift.
As I cleaned my room, I ran into my long forgotten collection of Tinkle. Gosh, how I used to love those comics.
I guess some of us might hate to admit it now but everyone of us have read a Tinkle at some point or the other in our childhood. Even though it would be really un-cool to talk about ‘Suppandi’ now, he was the coolest character we knew in junior school. Before there was cartoon network, before Swat Cats took over, there was Uncle Scrooge on Doordarshan and there was Tinkle.
… I guess Tinkle comics have long been forgotten but they will always remain with us in our memories and will always remind us of times when things were simpler, when Bangalore was greener, when one would get up at 7a.m. on Sundays to catch Talespin on DD, when Phantom cigarettes ruled and chakra was more than just wheels. When we wouldn’t worry about deadlines, meetings, Facebook and everything else that our lives have become today. We would only worry about when the next Tinkle comic would be out. Sadly, Uncle Pai, the creator of the series passed away recently. RIP Uncle Pai and thanks for the memories. We owe you way more than one.
So, you see, Alma Mater was not just about starting another company. It was about starting a whole new subculture. Of making you feel like you were in school or college again – that wonderfully delicious feeling.
Reading those words flooded my mind with wonderful memories – I could have written those words! I could relate to almost every single word – right from ICQ to funny-sounding email IDs to Wimpy’s to The Crystal Maze to gully cricket to candy cigarettes to Cameron Diaz in The Mask to Windows 98 to World Book to Venkatesh Prasad to Eclairs to Tinkle to Talespin. Phew!
Thank you, Varun Agrawal, for the nostalgia as well as a wonderfully written hilarious story on entrepreneurial struggle vs. Indian family culture. I especially love the way his bargaining skills with the auto rickshaw walla improved as he went further down his entrepreneurial journey!
Go read the book, it’s a perfect Sunday read.
Update: Based on the book’s recommendation, I watched Dead Poets Society, 1989 movie feat. Robin Williams as a teacher, and absolutely loved it – Carpe Diem!