We’ve been old mates, glasses and I! And when I was visited upon by the first installment of friendship, fancy dealerships were not in vogue. The optometrist, who pronounced my fate in terms of twin minus fours, also scribbled the name of a ‘reliable’ outlet which I suspect was partly owned by him. We found it tucked in the middle of a lane that opened on dingy streets at both ends. The counter top swarmed with an army of ‘frames’, the likes of which had adorned the countenances of Subhash Chandra Bose and M. K. Gandhi. A corner of the showcase housed humongous sunglasses endorsed by the latest Bollywood heartthrobs. However, this was a No-Entry zone for students, the myopic and the less affluent. I being a heady cocktail of all the three was quickly decorated by a pair, lustily decided upon by the salesman and my guardian. The very next day I stared at the sharpened outlines of the world from behind a pair of spectacles which sat askew on my nose. Sadly, no traces of that spectacular image remain under the sun.
Over the course of next few years, the nondescript optician continued to join my ears to my nose with textbook plastic sticks and circles. Then sometime in the middle of 1980s, Kapil Dev and Kris Srikkanth started rewriting the rulebooks. Michael Jackson unleashed an army of ghouls with his era-defining thrillers. Arnold Schwarzenegger travelled back in time to wipe out the leftovers of traditions. And I donned a pair of sunglasses over my eyes powered by semisoft contact lenses.
With the prescription glasses no more a necessity, I launched an impassioned hunt for the trendiest eyewear. Copycat Ray Ban Wayfarers and Aviators were the order of the day. To the horror of my parents, I quickly collected a number of them. Soon, however, I started getting plagued by red shot eyes and pounding headaches. It was not hard to pin down the culprits. I had to abandon my whim to a rising cacophony of admonitions emanating both from my family and school.
I chanced upon a pair of mercury-quoted glasses of nameless origin, circa 1992. It seemed to have nearly flawless glass that never caused discomfort. The gear stuck with me for several years in what would be the longest stint I can remember and almost became a signature before I left it behind in a stuffy hotel of Jaipur.
As we rolled into Y2K, true Ray Bans started surfacing in the second rung cities of India. I became the brief owner of a pair of Predator
sunglasses, immortalized by Men in Black, which I lost in a minor biking skirmish. Pinched by the stiff price I’d paid, I stayed away from the expensive brand for a considerable time till a few years back, while driving down from Shirdi under a scorching sun, I discovered to my delight that I could use the Ray Ban as a filter that instantly cooled the appearance of the world to my camcorder. Needless to say, I remain a fan of quality optics and a cool pair of Ray Bans is always towards the top of my wishlist along with books, photographic accessories and smartphones.