Monday, May 03, 2004

The Nintendo Generation

In 1957 a large object from outer space crashed into Earth's Amazon basin, near ruins of the lost Mayan civilization. Scientists world-wide heralded the incident as a trivial cosmic occurrence, and thus the collision was soon forgotten.

Now, thirty years later, rumours of an evil force have swept into the Pentagon's front office, and tales from frightened villagers of a hideous being with an army of alien henchmen are sending chills down the spines of top military brass.

Unwilling to upset current political stability, an all-out assault on the region has been overruled, and instead, two of America's most cunning, courageous and ruthless soldiers from the Special Forces elite commando squad have been selected to seek out and destroy these alien intruders.

Congratulations, pal, you're one of the chosen. But before you take pride in being the best, be warned.

You're about to come face to face against Red Falcon, the cruellest life-form in the galaxy. He arrived on Earth thirty years ago (that's six months time in an alien's life) to establish a foothold from which he will attempt to conquer our world and then use it as a stepping stone toward his ultimate fiendish goal: domination of the entire universe. Needless to say, playing hero won't be easy. But you have no choice -- you must be a hero. Because if you fail, life as we know it will cease to exist, and the vile Red Falcon will rule forever. If you succeed, doesn't matter, because I doubt you will.

If you haven’t yet guessed which game this is then you are definitely not a part of what is being referred to as the Nintendo Generation by social scientists and anthropologists. Contra was released for the NES by Konami way back in 1988. This game soon became a classic side-scrolling shooter, with a variety of weapons, challenging game-play, and 1 and 2 player-simultaneous modes.

If your age is between 15 and 25, and even if you haven’t played Contra (shame on you for that), you are a member of this Nintendo Generation. We as a generation are unique, especially in India, since we are a part of the ongoing technological and cultural revolution. Most of us can remember a pre-cable-television, pre-western-fast-food-joint (McDonald, etc.) India. Cable TV came in 1993 and Mc only came much later. Heck none of us had an email account six years back and yet we saw Yahoo and Hotmail become billion dollar enterprises offering 4 Mb storage space. And today I have a Gmail account which gives me a 1000 Mb of storage space. Talk about revolution. We saw the rise of IT, the dot com crash and we saw the revival of tech stocks.

We grew up playing our own video games (or even renting them). We were the generation who stopped going to the theatres and preferred watching movies at home on a VCR. And still we saw the revival of the movie theatre experience and the rise of the multiplex. Computers and cars became a necessity while we were growing up. Our generation saw the entire country undergo a change. Children born in the last few years are not a part of this generation. Their generation was born in a tech savvy environment and they learned to say ‘Digital’ before ‘Dada’ and McDonalds’ before ‘Mama’. We on the other hand saw the old traditional India in our childhoods, but still accepted the modern with open arms. As the years roll on, our place in society will become exceedingly important because we are the connecting link between the traditional and the ultra-modern. India as a country and Indians as people have virtues which the western world doesn’t and I am not trying to be patriotic or jingoistic here, but that is the truth. The onus is now on us to prevent the moral degradation of our society similar to what happened to the west. That can only be done by accepting the modern and retaining the traditional and finding the right balance between the two. For now I must get back to playing Contra.

Bitter Sweet Symphony

As I sit facing my computer screen, listening to the Bitter Sweet Symphony by the Verve, the outside world slowly descends into darkness. The low level stratocumulus clouds are posing a challenge to the mighty sun. I step outside for a glimpse of the sky and feel the first drops of rain on my palms. Just then U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name begins in the background. Nostalgia takes over and lulls me into a deep hypnotic trance. This place, these people will just become memories in a few days. The golden years of my life have just slipped by and all that remains are memories. Vanessa Mae’s rendition of Bach’s Street Prelude has just started in the background and gives me hope, short-lived though it is, it is enough.

It has started raining very heavily now. My friends who were playing football till now have switched over to rugby (or some very weird form of it) in the mud. Half the guys have taken their shirts off to differentiate between the two teams. The game is just an excuse for them. An excuse to remember all the good times spent together. They are just running and passing and tackling and having fun. This is what life is all about: semi nude men playing in the mud? No. Life is about young boys living together and sharing an adventure, a dream and going out into the big world as men. The game of rugby was just an excuse to tell the rest of the world: We are on our way. Get ready.

In a few days it will be time for goodbyes and farewells. I might not see these people again, ever and this thought saddens me. I am too old to make new friends now. I have been doing it for the last 21 years with great ease and have always looked forward to meeting new people and making friends. When you have studied in nine different educational institutions and lived all over the country, making new friends becomes detrimental to your survival. But I was always good at it. Now I am not sure whether I’ll be able to do the whole charade all over again. Judging peoples’ characters, finding the right set of people who are emotionally and mentally compatible with you, I don’t think I can do it now. Perhaps I can still do it, but I don’t have the energy or the inclination to do it. I think I have become a little too secure in my life and don’t want to leave this comfort zone.

Life seems to be following a predetermined course and I feel like a mere spectator, seeing my own life pass by. My reserve of stored optimism is slowly drying out. I just hope that my decision to take a year off will be helpful in the long run. Shocking as it may sound to most of my friends and well wishers, I have never been more convinced about anything in my entire life. There are these very small, trivial things which I want to pursue in this one year. Trivial they may sound, but they are very important to me. I don’t want to turn forty and regret not having done all these things. It’s now or never. Every day I sit and add to this ever growing list of things to be done in the next one year. If I am able to accomplish even half of them, I’ll die a very happy man. Top of my list is getting myself educated: educated in the study of life, something which cannot be taught in any school or college. There is writing, music, books, travel, cooking, French, philosophy, religion and a host of other things in this list. Bungee jumping! How could I forget that?

'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life
Try to make ends meet
Your a slave to money then you die
I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down
You know the one that takes you
to the places where all the things meet yeah