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Chai Time Nostalgia: Of Cartoons, Cuddles, and Carefree Times

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Edited By: Sahana Inuganti

It’s the last day of school. Everybody’s waiting for the last bell to ring, with feverish excitement. You don’t have 104 days of summer vacation like Phineas and Ferb, but you’re not worried about that—with aam ka mausam approaching, more T.V. time, and more visits to your naani’s house, you’re super pumped. Unlike the long-drawn, intonated, “GoOoOoOd afternoOoOn aaaaand thank youuuuu, miss!” Today’s last greeting is interrupted by the bell. It’s drowned by screams of delight and the sounds of school gates being opened. There’s something special about the thrill of the bell when it marks the beginning of recess or the end of the day; it’s on your side.

It’s 2 pm. After an escapade of extreme critical thinking, you finally manage to finish the game of atlas you’ve been playing with everyone on the bus; the last word HAS to be yours before you get off. Someone is waiting to pick you up. They help you with your school bag, intrigued by the scoobies dangling from its zips. By the time you finish talking about your day, you’ve made your way to the doorstep. Heaving a sigh of relief, you crash onto the sofa and fling your tie like a whirring flagellum. Everyone at home is slightly liberal today, thinking, “Chhota aadmi gundai karna chahta hai; karne do.”

It’s 2:15 pm. If you’re lucky, your parents haven’t blocked the channel that airs Shinchan. If you’re not, you’ve got some sleuthing around to do for the password. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to unblock the channel before the “naaAAaaaChO, nAaaaAaaCHo” part of Shinchan’s theme song starts playing—that’s unmissable. If you fail to do so, you’ve always got Doraemon as a backup option. 

[Pro tip: try 0000 or your date of birth, most parents aren’t quite creative here. You’re welcome.]

You pick the remote up, and everything’s fast-forwarded to today. Nothing’s really changed—except for you; you’ve really changed. You know too much about the world. You don’t feel like that chirpy, naive, wide-eyed kid who believes in magic anymore. You’ve stopped believing that your choices impact Dora’s life decisions. You don’t feel too devastated about the fact that eating laddoos doesn’t make you invincible like Bheem. Your forehead looks like the next Air India flight is about to take off from there; circles with the sheen of graphite orbit your eyes. But you still can’t seem to outgrow these shows. They’ve taught you so much.

Mr Bean taught you how to be alone without being lonely. Teddy and he would’ve been the most viral tik-tokers on the internet today. Phineas and Ferb didn’t just tell you what an aglet is; they taught you that the sky’s never the limit (quite literally) to dream as big as you wish to. They definitely would’ve been Elon Musk’s right-hand men today. Takeshi’s Castle taught you how to laugh unabashedly. Your sense of humour wasn’t any different back then: you’d go bonkers watching people randomly fall down. Today…Takeshi’s Castle is just the child-friendly version of Squid Game.

 I learnt how to tie my shoelaces and wear a t-shirt from a show on CBeebies. Sesame Street was my go-to for ‘Word of the Day’; it helped me more than school could. 

These shows feel like a hot cup of chai and Parle G kept ready for you on a cold, dreary day. The moment of pseudo-nirvana when you dip the Parle G inside for just the right amount of time— that’s the happiness these shows exude. Every episode is predictable, but it’s this certainty that keeps you afloat. You know it’s gon’ be all right. The bad guys will have a turnaround; good will prevail over evil. Swiper will stop swiping, Candace will never bust Phineas and Ferb, and even grumpy ol’ Squidward will end up being a sweetheart.

There’s no stress, no vicarious trauma, no nail-biting thrill that makes you binge-watch all night, no tactic to unexpectedly kill your favourite character and make you grieve more than you ever did for a real person (we need to have a word with the makers of Squid Game; some of us take this stuff way too personally). For once, everything’s under control, and that reassures you. Nothing can burst your tiny bubble of hope in this world’s bloodbath-tub.

Imagine how hilarious it might be to pitch ideas for such predictable cartoons.

 “Okay, what’s the idea for the new show?”

“Sir, picture this: a cat…chases a mouse…”

“And then…?”

“Sir, then the mouse…is chased by the cat.” 

“And after that?”

“Sir, after that, the cat runs after the mouse.”

“Until…?”

“Until the show stops getting TRPs, sir.”

“What—may I ask—is so unique about this?”

“Sir, the cat and mouse can stand on two feet.”

“And…?”

“Sir, the cat thinks it’s pranking the mouse, but it’s the mouse that’s pranking the cat.”

“Intriguing. And the title?”

“Simon and Garfunkel?”

“Wrong timeline, mate.”

“Pablo and Leonardo?”

“Too wordy.”

“Tom and Jerry?”

“Bingo! Send me a message when the script’s ready.”

“Sir, it’s the 1940s. Mobile phones aren’t—”

“You geck, send it through a telegram. Or a pigeon. Or any other bird!”

“Sir! What if we make a show about a bird being chased by a coyote—”

“GOD DAMN IT, NO!”

There’s a certain, irreplaceable warmth in the jadoo ki jhappis these shows embrace you with— whether you’re eight years old or eighteen, a part of you still hopes that on a bad day, Farida Jalal from Shararat will magically pop up, and snap everything into place with one “shring, bring, sarvaling”. Don’t stop believing, that’s where the real magic lies. You can change the world, sis, but don’t let the world change you.

On that note, Alexa, play ‘Bachpan ka Pyaar’. No wait, play Shinchan’s theme song. Skip to the “naaAAaaaChO, nAaaaAaaCHo” part—I told you, it’s unmissable :)

Delzeen is a content writer at Her Campus, Ashoka. A fresher at Ashoka University, she plans to major in either English & Media Studies or Economics. When she isn't found playing the keyboard, dabbling in digital art or cycling, she's usually sleeping on her own shoulder, cracking the worst PJs or passionately talking about her love for cheesecakes and instrumental music.
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