If the title sounds familiar, you must be watching Smallville with great attention to detail.
A lot of us, growing up have fond desires that we are never able to fulfil. As a kid I had numerous hobbies – reading, badminton, tennis, philately, numismatics: you name it. But in each of my hobbies I stopped short of having what would be uber-cool, mainly because of my upbringing. I was always taught to save money and spend with caution and never to have my grasp exceed my reach. Coming from a middle class family I couldn’t really afford expensive hobbies. To cite an example I had a Badminton racquet (a DSC Colt, to be specific) that had cost me Rs. 135, which as per the conversion rates of those days must have been worth around US $4.5. This was the most expensive racquet I had owned and more importantly, it was bought with money I had earned. I had always dreamt of a better racquet like a Yonex or a Carlton with a graphite shaft or with a graphite body, but such racquets never cost less that Rs. 1000. Heck, even the high-end models of Silver’s seemed out of reach. So it was my desire to buy one when I grew up.
Ditto for tennis, where I had a Symonds’ wooden racquet that I really liked. Tennis balls in India used to cost around Rs. 50 each, which was very expensive. Whenever I played tennis with my friends we did so on a clay court where it was a struggle to see the lines and we played with threadbare tennis balls that had been handed down by my friends’ fathers after weeks and weeks of play. But we still had fun. My dream those days was to have a Silver’s Headley, an Indian racquet that cost around Rs. 700, because I simply couldn’t dream of getting a Wilson or a Dunlop that would cost no less than Rs. 2000.
As an aspiring philatelist every kid has a dream – owning a Penny Black. Unfortunately this was an even more ambitious dream than my other ones, given that I had never come across a person owning a Penny Black, so this was the stuff of legend for me. I had no idea how much it cost, but it surely couldn’t be something that years of pocket money could afford. Philately has a sister hobby, numismatics and though I had no specific dreams there, I had a fascination for coins of the old and rare variety. Here luckily I wasn’t so hard done and I had access to some outstanding Indian antiquities thanks to my grandparents. The numbers, though were quite small.
I was an avid book reader as a kid. It never was about novels, though. I could read anything you gave me – a book on general knowledge, a book about past civilizations, a book to study, a telephone directory, anything. This bibliophilism served me very well as I managed to read all my study material while preparing for my engineering entrance examination. That was no small feat considering that I must have had to read not less than 50 books for this. But if there was something that I lamented, it was the lack of story books as a kid. I really cherished the handful that I had won as prizes in different contests at school.
And so time went by and I joined my first job in June 2000. When my first paycheck came in July, here is what I did. I went to a sports goods store and bought myself a Yonex Carbonex 7000 DX, a graphite-bodied Badminton racquet that I absolutely love even today, apart from the fact that isometric racquets came up after I purchased this. I guess it felt so much better to buy it by myself rather than have my father buy it for me!
During those days dotcom startups were the in-things. There was one rather interesting startup called Ticklewit, whose business model I never succeeded in deciphering. Ticklewit published a variety of puzzles daily – crosswords, quizzes etc. If you succeeded in cracking those you got points. And you could redeem points once you had accumulated at least 1000. The redemption was in the form of gift certificates for an erstwhile company called Fabmart. Not one to let this opportunity go, I got started and made a significant amount of money by doing something I loved – more than Rs. 20,000/- in Fabmart gift certificates. Given the type of merchandise that Fabmart offered, I built up a significant collection of books with this money. Another dream fulfilled.
Given the expense of tennis in India I held off buying a tennis racquet. Moreover I wasn’t really sure that I would get a good racquet in India. But when I got a chance to travel to London in October 2001, I bought a Wilson Europa there. Unfortunately I never got to play with it very much, so I gave it to my brother so that he could make better use of it. When I moved to the US a few years later, though, I purchased a Wilson nCode n6.1 and boy! Did I use it!
Then it came down to philately and numismatics. With some rather smart hunting and judicious spending I managed to lay my hands on not only the Penny Black, but also the Two Penny Blue, the Penny Red (perforated and unperforated), the Bull’s Eye (30 Réis and 60 Réis) and the entire Trans-Mississippi Issue, including the rare Black Bull. And it sure felt good.
So I guess it is okay to have a ton of unfulfilled desires as a child. If you want something with a passion as a kid and that passion survives the test of time, when you are finally able to bring it to fruition the results are truly sweet to savour. I never regret not having any of these as a child, because when I finally was able to get them I got more than I had dreamt of and I felt it was well worth the wait!