It was a daily ritual. I would walk over to Karan’s house and sneak in through the back door so as not to disturb his parent’s afternoon siesta. And we would tiptoe into the carpeted ‘computer room’. One of us would switch on the UAE imported a/c and wait for the hum to settle. Then we would approach the desk.
Gently unzipping the lacy, plastic dust covers, I would hold my breath as Karan removed the last barrier between us and pure MS-DOS bliss. Karan was used to computers. He had an Atari Gaming system from around the same time as American kids. And his parents had invested in a PC right from when the first ones had rolled out of factories into the Arabian markets.
But for me, those afternoons in Karan’s small bungalow were my first encounter with PCs. And thinking back about the jet black, gleaming, convex glass screen, which booted with a small beep, still gives me goosebumps. At 10, to me, the PC was the most magical device I had ever seen or experienced. The black screen would reveal a tiny, green, blinking dash on the extreme top left; then Karan would type some mumbo-jumbo on the typewriter-like keyboard and lo: massive numbers would start rolling across the screen, dashes would fly everywhere and then there would be a calm. Karan would insert a small black rectangle into the box under the screen, turn a small plastic handle, type into the keyboard a little and this time the numbers would whir some more and the screen would tranform into a 14” window of another world.
I would dream about these worlds at night. Nights filled with flaming monsters from Doom, cats and dustbins from Alley-cat, alien spacecraft from Raptor, floor-traps from Prince of Persia, distant travelers and knights from Daggerfall.
I do remember having very strong preferences about which games I liked even in those days, bu I didnt have much of a choice, t since I didn’t have a computer of my own till 11th grade. Most of us didn’t. Only a lucky few had a PC at home in pre-liberalised India. And if you were not from a metro, you chances were even slimmer. But I was different from a lot of other game-addicts in one particular way. I was only interested in the computer as long as it gave me access to games. I loathed all other aspects of it. The programming, the jargon-filled gibberish that was BASIC or MS-Dos. I never felt any kinship, any deisre for these things. But I did like Wordstar. And MS-Word. I liked the clatter of the keyboard under my fingers. The way that it is clattering right now.
Our childhood shapes so much. My love affair with computer games continues unabated. It is probably my worst addiction. And I love blogging.