I was delighted to come across this hilarious vintage poster of ‘An Ideal Boy’ which was shared by the facebook page ‘You Know You Grew Up in India in the 90s When…’. I love dipping occasionally into the nostagic photographs and memories of India in the nineties that are shared on this page. I have great affection for that lost period of time during which we did not have internet or mobile phones but life was inexplicably more richer.

The Author and The Hero unfolds over a period of a day and an hour that begins and ends in Madras as Chennai was known then, in March 1991, in those days ‘when life was lucidly defined in glorious shades of black and white, when the world was a relatively simpler place where time flowed at a slower, gentle pace’. Though the novel begins and ends in that time and place in a beloved old library in a poet’s house in a Madras suburb, the rest of the story is set in more recent times in the fictional town of Conchpore.


Image Courtesy: Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/pages/You-Know-You-Grew-Up-in-India-in-the-90s-When/111238285575528

This poster along with similar collages that showed scientists and their inventions, places of historic interest and the unity in diversity of the people of India, all of which were labelled in both English and Hindi formed the main wall decor of our primary school classrooms.

I have mentioned this ideal boy poster in The Reengineers. As a teenager growing up in a closed, old fashioned environment, Chinmay is confused about why his parents expect him to be an ‘ideal boy’, especially when they are far from being ideal parents.

Here are two short excerpts from the novel in this context:

“The red mosaic covered steps along the long corridor outside the school library held some of the most memorable moments of the first fourteen years of my life. It was there that Sonia Shastri broke the handle of my water bottle. Those steps stretched across a passage screened from the playground by a thick curtain of scarlet Bougainvillea through which the sunlight fell in flower shaped patterns on the pastel pink, blue and yellow charts illustrating the uses of petroleum, the greenhouse effect, food chains and ugly posters in fluorescent colours depicting ‘First Aid Measures’ and the characteristics of ‘An Ideal Boy’. The passage led to the Chemistry lab and smelt strongly of ammonia.”

“While the universe was comprehensible at least to the scientists, why was life so difficult to comprehend? Ideal gases existed only in Chemistry textbooks, while real gases were the only kind that were. If deviating from perfection was the law of nature, why were children expected to follow all the rules? Besides, few parents follow the rules that they set for their children. Atticus Finch was an exception, perhaps the only one of his kind.”
From The Reengineers (HarperCollins, 2015)