We are playing bingo and ludo, whipping our own coffee (there’s no Starbucks in sight), baking bread, and living in spandex tights. Life during the lockdown is an updated version of living in the 90s, finds Akshita Nahar Jain.
As I write this, I have seven screenshots of recipes of banana bread in my phone gallery. There’s one with oats, another with dates, a version that recommends using coconut milk, and two contesting over the quantity of baking powder to get that fluffiness just right. This flurry of Betty Crocker-behaviour is spreading, and I don’t mean this insensitively, but like a pandemic within a pandemic — more and more people use their time at home to cook, bake, and bask in the glory of their culinary feats.
This newfound interest is reminiscent of a bygone era. More specifically, the 90s where we stayed in more (globalisation was an economic term), lived more simply and used our time to do things at a slower pace. Many will vouch that even the Instagram trend of the ‘beaten’ Dalgona Coffee is nothing but a lost child of the 90s.
During this decade, the treadmill was one of the most popular forms of cardiovascular exercise. Cut to the present, and we’re circling driveways and pacing back and forth in living rooms; some lucky people get to take laps around their sprawling lawns. Back in the 90s, popping a VHS / DVD in, to do a home workout was all the rage — Paula Abdul and Jane Fonda were promoting an intense cardio workout at home, and step aerobics, Jazzercise, and the 8-min abs were popular forms. Fast forward to 2020, and I can list 20+ must-do home workouts by celebrity trainers and local gyms offering sweat-breaking sets to keep you on your toes.
While I try to recreate my own 90s dance video, my school Whatsapp group has been buzzing non-stop with requests to play ludo. These night-times, post-a-glass-of-wine requests are a perfect respite when the dreary sets in and you need help to get away from it all. The last time I sat down to actually play a physical game of dice, we were quite literally living in the 90s. Add to that bingo (the American version of Tambola) that has taken over our social media feeds, and the board game Scrabble, which many in my friend circle are playing again. And who can forget card games (of any kind)?
Shuchir Suri, founder at the community-based platform, FoodTalk India, and Jade Forest drinks, an ardent player and brand evangelist, shares about how his new passion for online poker is a throwback to his life in the 90s: “Card games like rummy and teen-patti make me nostalgic about play and learning card tricks from my elders. I learnt the ropes of poker in my early teens from my dad’s friends. During this period of lockdown, I’ve realised that my interests with online games lie with poker as it is not only a sport but a mentally stimulating hobby where you can earn a buck.”
In many ways, the lockdown period feels similar to the summer vacations we spent at home or at our grandparents, albeit updated with the magic of modern technology. We have to do chores around the house (more voluntarily if you have a Dyson vacuum), cook/bake to feed our gluttony (progress from bread to pancakes), and find new hobbies (turn to TikTok, agree to photo sharing challenges, or simply tune into a live session). We seem to be reading more (Museum of Modern Art has released over 100 books from its archives and the National Emergency Library has released over 1.4 million digital books for free). The limited scope for movement and amenities are making us imbibe a simpler way of life, with a 20.20 update, of course.
All this sounds great and it’s easy to get swept by the nostalgia of simpler times. But I can’t help but wonder if we are really slowing down. In the 90s edition of our lives, there were more hardcover books, more journaling, and less tech-induced paranoia; today, we are replacing our rush hour with a Zoom seminar, and evenings for Houseparty catch-up. But what this lockdown has done is remind us of a simpler time that was about a slower pace and closer connections. As we go forward, one can only hope we sustain the taken-for-granted habits like cooking to feed (not for the feed), and conversing with loved ones as the only way to stay connected.