FORGOTTEN HEROES

I BET 90% OF TODAY’S YOUTH HAVEN’T HEARD OF PETER, PAUL & MARY aka P, P&M. I CAN ALSO SAFELY BET THAT EVEN A FEWER % OF PEOPLE HAVE LISTENED TO ONE OF THEIR CLASSIC SONGS, PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON. WITH TODAY’S POPULAR MUSIC GENRES BEING METAL HEAD-BANGING AND HIP-HOP, THAT’S HARDLY A SURPRISE. BUT I, AS AN EXCEPTION, LISTEN TO ALL DIMENSIONS OF MUSIC. “MUSIC IS THE FOOD OF THE SOUL” AND I LIVE BY IT. FROM ARABIC, KOREAN, TELUGU, OPERA, ROCK, METAL… I SUPPOSE YOU’RE GETTING THE HINT!

 

ANYWAYS, PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON. IT WAS A FAMOUS SONG DURING THE HIPPIE ERA. ALTHOUGH SOME ADDICTS LIKE TO ASSOCIATE IT WITH BONG SMOKING, BUT THE TRUE MEANING OF THE LYRICS WILL CERTAINLY STRIKE A CHORD IN MOST OF US WHO HAD HAD A NORMAL CHILDHOOD. NO, IT HASN’T GOT ANY HEAD-BANGING, ANY FILTHY OR COARSE WORDS, NEITHER ANY REFERENCE TO THE DARK SIDE OF HUMANS. IT SPEAKS ABOUT CHILDHOOD AND THE WAY WE INTERPRET THINGS AND THE SUBSEQUENT LOSS OF THIS BEAUTIFUL PERIOD. WE ALL LOVE SUPERHEROES OR GLITZY CHARACTERS. SAME GOES WITH OUR CHILDHOOD TOO. WHAT G.I. JOE MEANT TO THE BOYS, BARBIE DOLLS MEANT TO THE GIRLS. ALTHOUGH I HAVE SEEN CASES OF VICE-VERSA TOO, THAT’S A DIFFERENT MATTER ALTOGETHER. 😉 DO YOU ALL REMEMBER HOW WE USED TO ADORE THEM? THEY OCCUPIED A SPECIAL PLACE IN OUR SHELVES AND IN OUR HEARTS.  THEY WERE OUR HEROES/HEROINES THAT WE COULD PLAY WITH. MANY A QUARREL ENSUED AMONG US AS TO WHO IS THE MOST POWERFUL, WHO’S GOT THE BEST LOOKS AND STUFF LIKE THAT AND BELIEVE ME, THEY WERE QUITE SERIOUS ISSUES FOR AN 8-YEAR OLD. I FOR ONE HAD A HUGE COLLECTION OF G.I. JOE FIGURINES. TANKS, MISSILES, GUNS, SHIPS… I HAD THEM ALL. MY PARENTS HAD MADE A DEAL WITH ME, MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL TO BOTH OF US. I SCORE THIS NUMBER OF MARKS IN THE TEST; I GET THE LATEST G.I. JOE. OTHERWISE FORGET IT! MAN, THOSE WERE THE DAYS OF REALLY PASSIONATE STUDYING. WITH G.I. JOE IN MIND, NO ONE COULD STOP ME! THE ‘HERO’ IN THE SONG IS A DRAGON NAMED PUFF, ALBEIT NOT MADE OF PLASTIC BUT A LIVING ONE. AND THE BOY’S NAME IS JACKY PAPER. THE FIRST STANZA DESCRIBES THEIR ADVENTURES IN THEIR OWN FANTASY WORLD: HOW THEY USED TO ROAM ABOUT THE SEAS, GAINING RESPECT FROM KINGS AND PIRATES ALIKE. I ALWAYS FALL IN A SEMI-TRANCE STATE ON HEARING THOSE LINES FOR THEY CO-RELATE EXACTLY WITH MY CHILDHOOD FANTASIES. THE COUNTLESS BATTLES WHICH I WON WITH MY G.I. JOE’S IN THE BATTLEFIELD, MAKING ALL SORTS OF SOUNDS WITH MY MOUTH TO SIMULATE A MISSILE OR A GRENADE FLOAT IN FRONT OF MY EYES. MY PARENTS ARE LIVING WITNESSES OF THESE INNUMERABLE ‘WARS’. THE EXACTNESS OF MY STORIES WITH THE LYRICS WAS A STARTLING REVELATION FOR ME.

 

DO YOU ALL REMEMBER WHEN WAS THE TIME OR DAY WHEN YOU GOT BORED OF YOUR HEROES? I DON’T RECOLLECT THE TIME, BUT IT CERTAINLY HAPPENED IN A NOT-SO-LONG-AGO PAST. THE SUBTLE TRANSITION FROM BOYHOOD TO TEENAGE HAPPENED AND WE STARTED NEGLECTING OUR CHILDHOOD ROLE MODELS. IT WOULD SOUND STUPID TO EVEN THINK ABOUT THE ‘FEELINGS’ OF THOSE CHILDHOOD FRIENDS.WE LEARNT IN SCIENCE A LONG TIME AGO THE DEFINITION OF LIVING AND NON-LIVING. AND SPECIALLY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM, ALL FOR THE PURPOSE OF MAKING US ‘RATIONAL’ HUMAN BEINGS OF THE FUTURE. G.I. JOE IS MADE OF PLASTIC, SO IS UNQUESTIONABLY A NON-LIVING ‘OBJECT’ ACCORDING TO SCIENTIFIC THEORY. THAT’S WHERE THE SONG TAKES A TURN, AND THAT’S WHY I LOVE POETRY. JUST FOR A MOMENT, FORGET ABOIUT WHAT YOU LEARNT IN SCIENCE AND THINK ABOUT THOSE EX-HEROES AS REAL PERSONS. HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF SOMEONE SUDDENLY DESERTS YOU ALL OF A SUDDEN? THE VERY SAME PERSON WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO BE YOUR LIFE-LONG FRIEND AND COMPANION DESERTS YOU NOT BECAUSE YOU COMMITTED A MISTAKE, BUT BECAUSE HE/SHE GOT BORED OF YOU. NOW THINK ABOUT THOSE G.I. JOE’S AND BARBIE DOLLS; THEY MUST HAVE SHED TEARS AT YOUR SUDDEN DESERTATION. “Painted wings and sealing wax make way for other toys”… JACKY USED TO PAINT HIS DRAGON TO KEEP HIM BRIGHT AND SHINY. WITH JACKY MOVING AWAY TO ‘OTHER TOYS’ PUFF HUMBLY ACCEPTS HIS FATE AND MOVES TOWARDS A NEGLECTED PORTION OF THE ROOM, WHERE HE SPENDS HIS DAYS WAITING TO BE THROWN WITH THE TRASH. HIS BRIGHT GREEN COLOR HAS FADED TO PALE GREY, AND HE NO LONGER FIGHTS COURAGEOUS BATTLES OUT IN THE HIGH SEAS. THE FATE OF MOST OF OUR TOYS WAS ALSO THE SAME. I USED TO POLISH MY G.I. JOE’S EVERYDAY IN ORDER TO PREPARE HIM FOR THE NEXT ‘BATTLE’ AND EVEN USED TO NURSE HIS WOUNDS WHEN HE WAS INJURED. WHEN I HEARD THOSE LINES FOR THE FIRST TIME I FELT AS IF SOME DISTANT BUT FAMILIAR VOICE WAS CALLING ME. I RUSHED TO SEARCH FOR MY PAST. I ASKED MY MOM,”WHERE ARE MY G.I. JOE MODELS?” AT FIRST SHE JUST STARED AT ME FOR SOME TIME, PROBABLY WONDERING WHY HER GROWNUP SON SUDDENLY NEEDED THESE THINGS. “SON, ARE YOU OKAY?” I COULD PICK UP THE TENSION IN HER VOICE. SHE MUST HAVE THOUGHT THAT I WAS GOING MENTAL. “NOT FOR PLAYING MOM! I NEED THEM FOR SOME OTHER REASON”. “OH I THOUGHT…NEVER MIND. WHY, DON’T YOU REMEMBER? YOU YOURSELF HAD STUFFED THEM IN YOUR ROOM’S UPPER CLOSET TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE NEW DESKTOP IN YOUR TABLE.”

I CERTAINLY THOUGHT AT THAT MOMENT THAT P, P&M WERE PSYCHICS OR THEY PRACTISED VOODOO. OR ELSE HOW WERE THEY ABLE TO SAY THROUGH THAT SONG WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED TO ME? AFTER RUMMAGING THROUGH THE THINGS IN THE CLOSET I FINALLY SPOTTED HIM. AND THE SONG VIVIDLY DESCRIBED HIS CONDITION TOO. THE G.I JOE WHOM I USED TO POLISH EVERYDAY NOW LAY AMONG THE COB WEBS, DUSTY AND NEGLECTED. HIS GREEN UNIFORM HAD INDEED FADED TO PALENESS, JUST AS THE SONG DESCRIBED. I’M NOT SURE IF MY IMAGINATION WAS PLAYING TRICKS, FOR IN THE DUSTY DARKNESS I SAW HIS FACE BRIGHTEN UP AND SMILE AT ME. THE RE-UNION OF TWO OLD FRIENDS, I’M SURE HE WAS OVERJOYED. AND SO WAS I. HIS ONE ARM HAD BECOME LOOSE AFTERALL; HE WAS A WAR VETERAN, AIN’T IT! I AT ONCE SET ABOUT NURSING MY OLD FRIEND, JUST LIKE THE OLD TIMES. AND I PROMISED TO HIM NEVER TO ABANDON HIM AGAIN, NO MATTER HOW OLD I BECOME OR HOW MANY MORE “FANCY TOYS” COME. THIS HAPPENED AROUND A YEAR AGO. AND IN SPITE OF MY EVER CHANGING LIFE, I HAVE KEPT HIM BESIDE MY TABLE EVER SINCE. MY OLD G.I. JOE MIGHT NOT BE FAMILIAR WITH THIS NEW WORLD AND ALL THE NEW FANCY TOYS AROUND HIM. ALL THAT MATTERS TO HIM IS MY LIFE-LONG FRIENDSHIP AND HIS DETERMINATION TO PROTECT THE WORLD FROM THE UNJUST.

 

THE SONG HAD TAUGHT ME A LESSON. BUT ITS IMPLICATIONS RAN DEEP. PERHAPS THAT’S WHAT P, P&M WANTED FROM THEIR LISTENERS; A MOMENT OF SOUL-SEARCHING. PEOPLE ALWAYS PREACH NOT TO HANKER AFTER MATERIALISTIC WEALTH. WHILE THAT IS TRUE TO SOME EXTENT, BUT DOES MATERIALISM ALWAYS MEAN ASSOCIATION WITH “NON-LIVING” THINGS? I WON’T AGREE TO THAT, esp. AFTER THAT DAY’S REALIZATION. IN MY OPINION, WHETHER A MATERIAL IS LIVING OR NON-LIVING SIMPLY DEPENDS UPON THE AMOUNT OF ‘EMOTIONAL QUOTIENT’ ATTACHED TO IT. SO, A PIECE OF PLASTIC CAN HAVE A GREATER SIGNIFICANCE IN OUR LIVES THAN A PERSON OF FLESH AND BLOOD. IT IS SCIENCE WHICH GAVE US ‘LIVING’ AND ‘NON-LIVING’ THINGS BUT IT IS POETRY WHICH SHOWED US THEIR DIFFERENCE. IT’S A MYSTERIOUS WORLD AFTER ALL.SOME PEOPLE MIGHT OPINE THAT THE SONG WAS COMPOSED DURING 1955-60’s, A PERIOD DURING WHICH MOST PEOPLE WERE MOVING TOWARDS PACIFISM, HAVING BEING SCARRED BY THE RECENT WARS, SO IT BELONGED TO AN ERA LONG GONE BY.  WHILE THAT MIGHT HAVE CONTRIBUTED A BIT TO ITS OVERALL ESSENCE, A CLASSIC LIKE THIS ONE PERVADES ALL SENSE OF TIME. IN FACT, THIS SONG IS ALL THE MORE RELEVANT IN TODAY’S TURBULENT TIMES. AND IF SOMEONE LISTENS TO IT, HE/SHE WILL BE FILLED WITH THE SAME NOSTALGIA WHICH I HAD EXPERIENCED. “A dragon is forever but not so little boys…” G.I. JOE AND BARBIE DOLLS WILL OUTLIVE US IN THE COURSE OF TIME. THEY WILL BE AROUND HERE LONG AFTER WE HAVE GROWN OLD AND LEFT THIS WORLD. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE FOR US TO RE-LIVE OUR CHILDHOOD, BUT IT’S POSSIBLE TO LOOK BACK UPON OUR CHILDHOOD AND TAKE CARE OF THOSE THINGS WHICH WE OFTEN USED TO NEGLECT. TRY TO IMPLEMENT SOME OF THE INNOCENT QUALITIES OF THAT BEAUTIFUL PERIOD IN OUR PRESENT LIFE, FOR I’M HUGELY OPTIMISTIC THAT IF ALL OF US GIVE IT A TRY, IT WILL SURELY MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE IN 🙂

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