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Our best decade in decades

We’ve been free for 65 years. We’ve obviously changed. But how? The way we live, love and talk – and more. We find out in a 7-part series, looking back at every decade from the ’40s to the present. We start with the neon-tinged era just gone by – the 2000s

brunch Updated: Jul 01, 2012 12:30 IST
Palash Krishna Mehrotra
Palash Krishna Mehrotra
Hindustan Times

On January 1, 2000 – the first year of a decade that would come to be known as the Noughties – I woke up in Dublin with a hangover. I stumbled out onto the porch of my friend’s house and took a good hard look at the day. It looked no different from any other. Grey and rainy like most days in the British Isles.

In three months, I would be back in India, having finished my stint at Balliol. I was 24-years-old and didn’t have much of a clue as to what I’d be doing with the rest of my life. College was over, and since I’d made up my mind not to enter academia, entry into the Real World was imminent.

Over the next ten years, my generation would come of age, take control of its destiny as it were, with the Noughties setting the stage and providing the context for the journey from 25-35. There are features which are shared by generations across the world – certain choices which have to be made by human beings anywhere, regardless of which decade we are in. There were those of us who married their college sweethearts and those who didn’t; those who became corporate slaves and those who preferred to remain free birds; those who continued to smoke pot and those who quit.

But each decade also flavours the generation that inhabits it in a unique and particular way. 9/11 shocked and polarised the world; American militarism reached its peak with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and we spent nine years watching George Bush make a royal mess of it – his gaffes on TV providing the only and much-needed comic relief.

The 2000s was a decade when technology came into its own, giving rise to a tech-savvy generation

Newspaper headlines though are often about events that don’t affect us personally, and which take place in faraway lands. What then did the Noughties mean to us in India?

It was a period of hope and optimism. This was the decade when middle-class Indians, cutting across ages, made the great technological leap. Things came and went, from floppy discs and Ram Gopal Varma, to Orkut and Limewire, but what remained was the simple fact of us having made the switch to a wired world.

It was a time when prices fell all around, when technology became affordable and accessible. Mobile phone handsets and computers became cheaper, call rates were slashed, and broadband penetrated small towns and big cities alike. This was also the age of cheap flights, of Captain Gopinath and Air Deccan, a time when people who had never flown before could do so, for, at times, it was cheaper to fly than to buy a rail ticket. It was in the Noughties that credit card companies dished out plastic like bananas, and people splurged on consumer durables: washing machines, flat screen TVs, fridges and DVD players.

Palash Krishna Mehrotra: Author of The Butterfly Generation, he contributes to several publications

This was boom time. We were reaping the fruits of economic liberalisation. Our living standards were up, and they were going up for a critical mass of people, not just the old middle class but also an expanding one. Mr Gupta took his first flight. Mrs Pandey got her first ATM card. Little Chintu his first laptop. American-style capitalism muscled its way into small towns. Big Bazaar was selling beanbags and iceberg lettuce to rustic Allahabadis; Converse its star-studded shoes in sleepy valley towns. Old-style shop fronts made way for glass, and as the gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities narrowed, there was a very real sense of shared prosperity.

We live in a country where our collective self-esteem is tied to the fortunes of our cricket team. Under Sourav Ganguly’s aggressive captaincy, we started a dream run, winning test matches in Australia, West Indies, England and Sri Lanka. This too was linked to the new prosperity – we were doing well economically, and our newfound confidence was reflected in the attitudes of our players. In an earlier decade, the world’s best teams would have bulldozed them; now, for the first time, they could hold their heads high, and give it back.

The Eighties were, well, the socialist Eighties of Campa Cola, Maruti 800 and Doordarshan. The Nineties were when economic reforms were inaugurated; it would take till the end of the decade for the results to show. It was the Noughties when it all came together for us, from the big technological crossover to palpable economic prosperity, something which seems like a faraway dream in 2012, when everything seems to be falling to pieces.

Rewind: Why the 2000s will never be forgotten

Four’s a score Priyanka Chopra, Lara Dutta, Dia Mirza and Aditi Govitrikar win Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss Asia Pacific and Mrs World

9/11 happens in the United States, killing nearly 3,000 people
Apple launches the iPod, changing the way we hear music forever
Indian Parliament attacked leading to the death of a dozen people

Gujarat riots break out when a train is attacked in Godhra

Facebook is launched by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg
Tsunami hits the Indian Ocean after a huge earthquake in Sumatra
The Bombay High Court curbs Indian TV channels from showing ‘adult content’

Candlelight vigils spike after Manu Sharma is acquitted of Jessica Lal’s murder

Black Monday as Lehman Bros declare bankruptcy.
Recession begins
Gay pride parade is celebrated in five different Indian cities
26/11 Mumbai attacks hold the city hostage for 72 hours

Let’s take you back, even if only a little, to show how exactly the last decade fared.
And don’t blame us for suddenly feeling old!

The mega-scale production that changed the way the world viewed Bollywood

BindraAbhinav Bindra Gave Us the Sweet taste of success by winning india its first individual Olympic gold

Five Point Someone - What Not to Do At IIT! by Chetan Bhagat was published, creating the easy-to-read, bestselling paperback

The Gujarat riots killed almost 1,300 people in the aftermath of an an attack on the Sabarmati Express train in Godhra

India got wired and saw technology become cheaper with computers and mobile phone handsets becoming more widely available than electricity in some places. Broadband pervaded almost every second town and telecom companies fought for the lowest call-rates possible.

Lalit Modi engineered the Indian Premier League (IPL), and made it one of the world’s largest sports events, estimated at $4 billion

India was completely gripped by mall fever when big brands set up shop in small towns

KBCKaun Banega Crorepati resurrected Amitabh Bachchan’s flagging career and along with Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, made Star Plus the number one channel in the country. And unleashed a decade of heavy, sari-clad sob fests on TV.

Fashion Split at the seams when every city, (Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Bangalore Kolkata, et al) started hosting a fashion week event of its own

(Palash Krishna Mehrotra: Author of The Butterfly Generation, he contributes to several publications)

(Next week –The Nineties )

From HT Brunch, July 1

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First Published: Jun 29, 2012 18:52 IST