My Camera & My Chai: Mary, the Cat & Clean Air


How many of you are young enough to remember that classic song by Mary Hopkins – “Those were the days?”

Those were the days my friend/ We thought they’d never end/We’d sing and dance/Forever and a day?


Dammit! My grey hair is showing!

Yes, my friends… All my young friends. Let me tell you of the days of my youth. No, we did not have much on television. We did not even have too many products on the shelves. Our choices, from a capitalist, consumer perspective were limited.

You may pity us. No mobile phones, no Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, blah blah blah. We used to write letters to each other by hand, then we would neatly fold the paper, put it into an envelope, lick the sticky side of a postage stamp, paste it on to the envelope, trudge down to the post office, and send it off. Phase Two of this process involved waiting for the reply, and attempting to read the scrawl.

Because messaging was not instant, we would write long, descriptive letters.

We would either walk, or cycle to the post office. We would not get our driver to drive us in the car to the post office.

Whaaaaat? I hear you say.

Oh yes. We would drink tap water. No bottled water. Or, we would drink water from earthen pots, called a ‘gghara’

How primitive, I hear you say? Erk, Eek, Yuk.


As I mentioned, we would cycle – or walk.

On legs, I hear you say?

Yes, I say. The sky was blue.

Blue? You ask. What is that? A colour? Noooo, the sky is grey.

Yes, blue, I say. We didn’t have products on the shelves. No air purifiers, no pollution masks.

Seriously?, you ask. How did you live?

Oh, we didn’t need them, I say. The air was clean, the water was clean.

Sigh, I go. Remember Mary, I say – Those were the days my friend/ We thought they’d never end/We’d sing and dance/Forever and a day?

Who is Mary? You ask. What days? Why would you sing and dance? It is a love song. Yes, love for the old, cleaner days.

Oh very young ones! You are dancing on this earth for a very short while.

Do you want to live behind a gas mask?

Oh very young ones, what would you have?


  1. Those were the day, Rajiv, yes, those were the days! The days when from a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, you had to wait 3 weeks for a letter to come from Europe… the days when the only way to travel to Europe (if you were lucky) was 23 days on a ship… the days, when the milkman and the baker knocked at your door… the days when going to school took about 40 minutes to ride 5 miles, we were lucky we had a bus… Oh my, am going to stop there, Readers don’t think I am an antique… We had a nice and healthy life, no worry about pesticides or whatsoever, it was as if nothing could happen to our Earth. Those were the days and now, the days are as they are… What will be tomorrow?

  2. This is the second time I’ve heard Cat Stevens this week and he brings back lots of memories. No doubt the past seems “better” at times. We are just inundated with change now; it’s overwhelming at times.

  3. As we face the dreaded election here in the US nostalgia is a good thing. I have a box full of letters from my boyfriend (now husband) when we were separated by an ocean. I was missed him so while looking across the beautiful chimney toped roofs of Paris in my little garret. So I eloped to come back to him in NY. No more letters now.

    1. Sherry, those were the days indeed. My dad was posted in a place called Kalimpong, many years ago. it was a really beautiful place. I visited him one winter, and I would have my tea in the morning, looking at the sun rays as they bathed the Kanchenjunga mountain. This was a non-family station, and my mom stayed back in Delhi with the kids. I was in hostel. But, for those three years, they wrote to each other every day. Every day

  4. Firstly, rocking the mask!
    And secondly, those really were the days!
    I despair of the youth of today, reliant on technology to such an extent! My kids included! And the thing is development in the world means that if you don’t give them the opportunity to use it all,they fall behind in so many ways.
    My only concession us that I still get them to go out and do physical activity. Football,street dance, dhol and bhangra classes too!

      1. Bhangra… the rhythm flows in our blood!! My Pops is a fantastic dancer even today, at 70! He used to dance with a team in Mumbai when he studied there in the 60’s and was asked to choreograph for the movies… but dentistry was more preferable to him!!! 😊

      2. Oh wow.

        Where is Mumbai, by the way? I know of Bombay…. but not this Mumbai place….

        Oh, I can’t dance at all.. or sing..

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