[Warning: Mildly sentimental / nostalgia type post ahead.]
Ah, good ol' Bahrain. I grew up in this neck of the woods. Nothing amazing, of course. Bahrain doesn't give the wow of a Dubai or the oh shit! of a Saudi, but it was a very nice, peaceful place. And on this trip, I see so much more advancement (read: Malls and buildings), but somehow the scenic beauty, the well-spaced out roads and the cleanliness still remains.
I was born in Bahrain back in 1984 (same day I wrote this post. Hyuk) and my parents keep telling me they suspect I was mixed up with some Arab kid. Sadly for them, they didn't gain a world-class opening batsman, but a fairly demented crackpot instead.
A lot has changed since them ol' days. It's not the same feeling that inspires songs of childhood, and at the same time, I walk through those old streets and memories come flooding back. Bahrain never had a 'rustic charm' that was corrupted. I never had an exciting childhood. Yeah, friends, a bit of wall scribbling and all that happened. But Bahrain's not a country where you can run out, make merry with friends, reek havoc, and all that. Not because there were any restrictions, but because it. Was. So. Friggin. Hot, and because there
was hardly any public transport.
I was a typical Mallu kid from the Gulf - parents mildly well off (not all of us are stinkin' rich, as goes the stereotype. Very few are), had my fair share of class topping, gadget aspirations, 'resling' discussions, uncomfortable visits back to Kerala every two years, the works.
Innocent days, those, and I'm going to attempt reliving a few of the things that made my 16 years, for whatever they were worth, worth it.
01] Young Times: How do I explain Young Times? It was not just a magazine. It wasn't just a collection of articles and syndicated comics. It wasn't just a mix of weird alien illustrations and ''more than cute'' pictures which made most of us realise we had hormones. It was a freakin' phenomenon. Posters. Poetry contests. Uncle Malik's Stampgram. Caption Contests. Cover stories. Game reviews. 'Resling' reviews. Music reviews. Seemingly cooler magazines came. But they fizzled out.
We grew up with the damn thing. Through Bret Hart's career. When the internet came (''Here's a search engine that shows you how much time your search took. A useless but interesting feature'', reviewed a friend way back in 1998). When Sega Mega Drives were the rage. When the cricket revival of Mallu Gelf Youngsters in the late 90s happened. Slowly, its readers went abroad. Some studied in the US. Some built careers in India, far removed from Otto and his antics. But when the news slowly trickled in that YT had stopped, there was shock and mourning. We wouldn't have read it, sure. But entire generations were missing something. A friend.
Thank you, Young Times. For everything. For giving Tuesdays meaning.
02] Chips Oman: Innocuously tucked away behind all the Pringles, Lays and Bugles was the unchanging dark-blue-and-red, sparsely-filled pack with the time-tested image of a peeled potato being sliced into chips. Pay a miserly 50 fils, open the pack, and let the wave of chilli-nitrogen hit you. It didn't have the class of a Lays, sure. If Lays was 'Dance of Death', Oman Chips was 'Charlotte the Harlot'. Raw, sinful and simple. And today, close to 20 years after I had my first pack, the thing still retains the same colour, form and taste.
03] Slam Books: Who hasn't filled in one of these? These were the pre-cursors to blogs, questionnaires and strangely, Twitter - where you had to fill in the answer to a common question in a limited space and in that space show future readers how funny / sarcastic / cool you were. I remember reading many legendary entries, and also got introduced to a certain four-letter word through one of these. Nowadays, of course - kids are spoilt with off-the-shelf slam books with pre-filled questions. Takes all the fun out of customized questions and inside jokes, of course - nothing beats the effort that goes into a 200 fils notebook with handwritten questions on every few pages with margins neatly drawn. This blog would probably have been non-existent if it weren't for the writing skills honed during those slam book days, so now you know who to track down and shoot - my 7th standard classmates.
04] WWF: The fucking pulse of a generation from 1995 to 1998. Sticker books. Rumours from friends' cousins in the USA. Video tapes of events two months back, which were 'recent' to us. That half hour broadcast every Wednesday night. Mom tsk tsking. Dad tsk tsking when Mom was around, and asking who the good guy was when she was away. Looking forward to trips to India because 'Prime Sports showed newer matches'. Attempting to recreate piledrivers with victimized pillows. THAT match between Shawn and Bret. Pen-drawn tattoos which our vests concealed. Awe when a friend showed off his poster (cousin from US, again), innumerable caricatures in the back of notebooks. Eventually, we all grew up, realised the whole thing was staged and found other heroes. But in those 3 years, 'dubleyoodubleyooeff' was THE shit.
05] Collectibles from chips: If you're telling me you're a Gulfie in the late 90s and DIDN'T buy certain chips just for the heck of getting free cards or stickers or tazos, you're shitting me. Heck, I remember this one abominable thing called 'Corn Chips' - the worst thing ever to be put in a nitrogen-flushed plastic pack, but was a rage all through 1997 because they gave a free card along with it - and the card could be anything from a still from a Mortal Kombat game to a movie noone had heard of to - the most prized of the lot - a WWF superstar. The richer of the lot used to buy 10 packets during recess, eat one packet, dump the rest and go off to trade their cards. This led to underground mafias in card trade, prized collections of oil-stained cards at home, and eventually a raid at our school and the banning of the brand of chips from the canteen. It was mad stuff. A similar rage happened with Tazos which came with the more palatable Lays and Cheetos range. There were many other promotions - Coca Cola and Pepsi were famous for their collect-these-five-ringpulls-and-win-prize contests. But for sheer craze and passion, nothing beat these collectibles.
Of course, there are many other icons - Helix Geometry Set, Tamagotchi, Inoxcrom pens, Croky chips, Sun Top, Channel 3, and many more. But these five will always stand out for me and bring in that tinge of nostalgia.