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February 12, 2019

Travel Back To The ’90s With This Nostalgia-Inducing Twitter Account

Text by Shreya Ila Anasuya. Illustration by Debangshu Moulik

In an interaction with Verve, the anonymous owner of the Twitter account @memorable_90s explains why he wants to revive his childhood memories, and how like-minded millennials are eagerly participating in this project

In the midst of all the romanticised retrospection around the ’90s is a Twitter account that seems to specialise in this very particular pop culture and tech-fueled pull for the past — it evangelises everything from the beloved cricketer Rahul Dravid to old-school landlines. Most tweets are about the experience of being a particular kind of kid in that decade — watching Shaktimaan and Tom and Jerry on TV, sharing lunchboxes at school, listening to Indipop bands like Silk Route. The account, @memorable_90s, is followed by over 20,000 people, and is operated anonymously by a man who prefers to go only by the moniker ‘’90s kid.’

A chat with him reveals a person who is thoroughly soaked in an almost saccharine longing for this very particular time in India’s history. While the experiences he describes are hardly universal to all of us who grew up in the ’90s — the references are relatable mainly to those who belong to a specific socio-economic milieu — they do reflect how much public discourse is dominated by the most privileged of millennial Indians, many of whom now helm the production of all kinds of media. From viral YouTube videos reviewing the most cringeworthy ’90s Bollywood masala films to online publications that make so many lists about particular films from the decade (think Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai ), it’s no wonder that this account is so popular. Excerpts from the conversation:

When and why did you start this account?
I started this account in April 2018, because I wanted to collect every experience and relive every memory I had while growing up and share them with others who might have experienced the same things.

When we were younger, we didn’t have a 64GB device to document every moment, so I wanted to create a space where people could reminisce about what I see as the best phase of life — childhood.

What is it about the ’90s that sets them apart for you, especially from the current times?
The fun that a ’90s kid had is hard to compete with. We had no internet, WhatsApp or Facebook. We only had Doordarshan and a limited set of programmes, but I enjoyed them immensely, and I feel that their quality was far superior to what we have now.

The ’90s kids had specific hobbies like collecting stamps, coins and WWF cards. We played FLAMES, which was enough to decide whether someone deserved our friendship, love, and affection. We had social networks too — but in our time, it was just called ‘playing outside’. We played games like Raja Rani, Chor Sipahi, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Carrom, Uno and Antakshari with our friends and cousins. We were lucky enough to grow up before social media took over everyone’s lives, to the point that where meeting new people in real life feels strange.

It was a simpler time. We were not judged based on the brand of cell phone we used. Happiness was getting a rupee from our parents to buy a Kismi toffee bar. Playing outside was bliss, and friendships weren’t made over Facebook. Festivals were meant to be celebrated, not posted about online.

I feel lucky that my childhood was filled with my imagination and bruises from playing outside, instead of apps and ‘likes’ for a selfie. No matter how many filters you use, pictures will not have the innocence of a childhood photograph.

What differentiates ’90s kids from those of the present-day generation?
No matter how intelligent and tech savvy this new generation might be, they will never be able to understand true happiness in the absence of technology. They will never be able to experience life before the internet. The Tinder generation will never feel the magic of love letters and greeting cards. They will not understand that meeting your friends everyday connects people in a way that Instagram stories cannot.

What do you think is the reason for the intense collective nostalgia for the ’90s?
So much technological advancement took place in such a short timeframe while we were growing up, and since then. This rapid development makes it seem like the ‘90s was a lot longer ago than it actually is, which sparks nostalgia for a seemingly simpler time.

Now, children play video games. But our evenings were filled with games like gully cricket, gilli danda, marbles, lattoo, hopscotch, statue, and hide and seek (especially during power cuts).

In the ’90s, TV shows on Doordarshan were made to unite India as a country. You’d spend the whole week obsessing over a past episode of your favourite show, waiting for the next one to come out. If you missed an episode, you missed it. TV shows catered to all age groups, and addressed social issues. When satellite channels were launched, having a cable connection was a huge luxury. Cartoons weren’t the sole domain of young children — it was a strange and formative period for animated entertainment. With the arrival of music channels like MTV and Channel V, our dependence on costly audio cassettes or Doordarshan shows like Chitrahaar was over.

Emails and WhatsApp can’t match the excitement of writing letters to our loved ones, which we did because STD and trunk calls were too expensive. But when the calls did happen, the conversation was filled with emotion. Having a telephone was a luxury that very few could afford, sometimes an entire neighbourhood had a common telephone number. Family picnics were not a rarity. A packed lunch and a big park or garden was all we needed.

We know you’d like to remain anonymous, but can you share a little bit about the person behind the account?
In today’s world where spreading hatred using social media is the new normal, I want to relive my childhood and make other people realise that the blurred image on their phone screens was once the life they loved. I miss who I used to be before the internet existed.

I am a computer engineer working as an Mcx trader. After starting this account, I have changed a lot. I started meeting my school friends and spending more time with my family — time which was previously spent feeding my cell phone addiction. I am really loving this phase of my life.

What has the response to the account been like, and what are your future plans?
It has been awesome. I had never thought that my page would be liked and followed by thousands of people in such a short span of time. It feels like it is worth it when people thank me for making them nostalgic, and encourage me to continue posting. In the near future, I am planning to make a short film on the ’90s.

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