Written by: Ashwini Parihar
The year 2013, walking through the kids/stationery aisle in the local convenience store I came across Hot Wheels die-cast toy cars. What made me stop and take a closer look was me identifying the toy as a replica ‘69 Dodge Charger R/T, the car that Dom (Vin Diesel) drives in the film ‘The Fast and The Furious’. I was unable to resist the temptation to own that replica of a car I admired. It was the first-ever Hot Wheels car that I bought that day along with 4 others. This kicked-off my collection of Hot Wheels toy cars, which has grown to about 500 cars now. But the seeds of such an obsession and passion were laid since childhood.
Years of Imprint
My father worked with the Indian Air Force, he was stationed in Bikaner between 1997 – 2001. I was a toddler then. I retain a few memories from back then. Waiting every weekend for the clock to strike 12 so I can watch a new episode of the TV serial ‘Shaktiman’. My parents tell me how I was such a fan that I would draw huge drawings of Shaktiman on the floor all around my house. Then there was another less popular Mukesh Khanna show that I was a fan of, ‘Aaryaman’, a blatant Star-Wars ripoff. But I didn’t know that then. It was so cool for me to watch him fling those light-sabres.
Another thing that I clearly remember is reading storybooks and comic books. My parents would get me books like ‘Champak’, ‘Chacha Chaudhary’ etc., every time we would travel by train to our hometown during vacations. I also spent my days even after vacations repeatedly reading those same comic books. I always chose to spend time doing this rather than going out to play with other kids. Even when my parents bought me a tricycle, I would ride it all alone on the terrace.
Although I didn’t try to ever jump off buildings to imitate Shaktiman or chase goons like Chacha Chaudhary, or rule the forest like the Lion from all the stories from Champak, they all had a great impact on my persona. I had unknowingly started loving Stories and “Super-Heroes”.
Years of Idolising
My family moved as my father had been transferred to Shillong, and now I had started attending a formal school. I had also started developing an interest in watching the cartoon shows. I spent years watching ‘Tom & Jerry’, ‘Mickey Mouse and Friends’ and other such shows targeted at a younger audience. But soon I became more interested in shows like ‘Scooby-Doo’ meant for teenagers and adults. The credit goes to my elder brother who would always put those shows on whenever our parents would go out. One show that I related to was ‘Pokemon’. The whole character arc, his journey of becoming the best, his quest of collecting every known Pokemon all that resonated with me. I grew up watching Ash Ketchum grow up. I myself took up the challenge to collect every last Pokemon card.
Apart from Pokemon, shows like ‘Spider-Man the Animated Series,’ ‘Batman the Animated Series’, ‘Justice League’, ‘Samurai Jack’, ‘Transformers’, ‘Courage the Cowardly Dow’, were the shows which had the most impact on me. Spider-Man, Batman and Justice League introduced me to a world of superheroes that was much bigger than that of Shaktiman. Shows like Transformers stoked my interest in machinery, gadgets and robots. Samurai Jack made me look at cartoon shows in a different light. Then I did not really understand why it Samurai jack made such a lasting impact on mind but now when I revisited the series, I was able to see the amazing artwork, the great storytelling, the most creative use of a visual medium of animation. Unconventional shows like ‘Courage, the Cowardly Dog’, Samurai Jack, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ etc were the reason that I started loving the animation medium, and now I see the creative and unconventional usage of the medium, pushing the boundaries, thinking outside the box to tell amazing stories.
I kept buying comics through these years as I kept travelling with my family for the yearly visits to our native city of Allahabad. The difference was, I was more interested in Super-Hero books now rather than collective storybooks or anthologies. My most favourite were Raj Comics’ ‘Super Commando Dhruv’, ‘NagRaj’, ‘Doga’, ‘Parmanu’ and ‘Shakti’. These comics introduced me to the impressive usage of “panels” in storytelling. I would spend time reading comics over and over again. Sometimes my brother and I would play Super Mario brothers on a ripoff Mitashi Gaming console that came in with 101 games preloaded. My brother though had bought a few extra cartridges with several games like ‘Contra’, ‘Street Fighter’, ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ which were something that I started looking forward to as I grew more interested. As I grew up reading more comics, watching more superheroes and playing video games, I started idolising characters like ‘Batman’, ‘Optimus Prime’ and ‘Brock’ from Pokemon.
Another thing that I had picked interest in this time frame was toy cars. I used to buy small cars, they were made partially of metal and partially of plastic. They cost Rs. 5 per piece in those days. I was a proud owner of 6 such cars then. My favourite one was a car in dark green metal flake paint which looked somewhat like a Lamborghini Miura.
Years of Imitation
My dad was soon to retire from the Indian Air Force and we moved to Allahabad. The school was getting intenser every passing year. I had less and less time to read comic books, watch cartoons, play with my toys and finish homework and study. I had to use my time more judiciously. But moving to Allahabad had its perks. I inherited loads of toys from my elder brother’s childhood. Most of them were Guns and Shooters. I had lots of toys now. And I spent most of my time playing with my toy cars and guns.
On weekends, we would often visit my dad’s elder brother who lived in a different part of the city. My brother and my cousin brother got along very well, me being too young, was always left alone, not able to fit in their big boys’ group. But this visit was different. A new DVD player was bought and everyone was excited to watch films on it. The cousin brought a pirated copy of ‘The Matrix’. Three of us spent the afternoon watching the 3 films. My life changed! Not only this film was the first even foreign film I had ever watched, but it was also intense in its ideology. It tackled issues of knowing oneself, freedom and dependency on machines, our morale.
I didn’t see all those underlying ideas or was intrigued by the questions it raised until recently, but then as a kid, I wanted to be Neo. I would wear my raincoat to mimic the long coat Neo wore, sticking all the guns inside my pants and pockets, running around my house, jumping around, flying across the hallway, killing imaginary goons. I could always imagine these stories around me and be the protagonist and kept playing all by myself. I would even include my toy cars in the story. When in a high-speed car chase I would be driving my favourite car and had all other toy cars following it, one frame at a time one car at a time, just like stop-motion animation.
I also tried going out to play with my friends during this time though I still preferred playing by myself. I did watch a few episodes of a new cartoon show but during this time I was disconnected from TV. The reason was the takeover of ‘Power Rangers’ and ‘Doraemon’ and similar low quality (my view of them back then), repetitive shows over the great cartoon shows I used to watch. And I spent more and more time with my toys.
Years of Information Technology
The arrival of a personal computer into our household was a turning point in my life.
I had a basic knowledge of how to operate a computer until then. But a computer in my house changed things, my brother spent hours sitting in front of it. I was fascinated by it and every time I would stand next to my brother observing what he was up to. That is how I mostly learnt how to use a computer.
One afternoon, when my brother wasn’t home and I was confident enough to not “duck” anything up, I turned on the computer. I was introduced to a whole new world of entertainment and exploration. I could recognise a few icons on the desktop that I was eager to try. ‘Grand Theft Auto Vice City’ – it flashed as it was loading. I was always a fan of video games from my years of playing Contra and Super Mario Bros. but discovering computer gaming was a totally new experience for me. I was not able to properly play the game as I had no knowledge of the controls. But the coming years brought in games like ‘Prince of Persia: Warrior Within’, ‘I.G.I’, ‘GTA San Andreas’, ‘Need for Speed’ and many many more.
As I grew more and more comfortable using the computer, my brother introduced me to DVDs. Generally, they are just storage devices, but my introduction to them was in two forms, DVD for Games and DVD for films. I would save up my pocket-money to go get pirated film and Games DVDs. I watched hundreds of Hollywood films and played every last game I could get my hands on. I was hooked.
My brother not only introduced me to Films and Games but also to English songs. Linkin Park, Akon, Bryan Adams were some of the early artists I listened to, and it soon expanded to Blues, Backstreet Boys, Enrique, Eminem and lots more. Also, to a person who anyways preferred to play alone and not go outside, this was one more reason to keep doing the same.
Years of Internet
My brother left for college. My dad retired and then out of boredom, started working for Union Bank of India. We moved again. I spent the first year trying to catch up with the new school and its ways, but in my free time, I still played with my cars and guns, read the comics, but most of all I played video games. Two, to be specific.
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas was an open-world game, where you play as a gang member rising through the ranks to take revenge for your mother’s murder and the downfall of the gang you were part of. It gave you the freedom to play the game at your own pace, choosing to go away from the main story and do side quests and if none of that interests you, just wreak havoc on the game world.
Need for Speed Most Wanted was the second game that I kept on my computer. It was a simple car racing game with an engaging story that kept you motivated where your rival cheats and takes away your car and now you need to become the most wanted racer in the city to be able to challenge him and earn your car back. It was an open-world game, but there were races and was more linear. Although simple, the game was so good and iconic in my eyes that I played it for years after it came out. And I’m proud to say that I still have the game on my laptop among other modern games.
But my life was yet again going to change. My parents finally agreed to get an internet connection for the computer. And now, I had the world in my hands.
I had discovered that ‘Batman’ and ‘Superman’ were not just Cartoon or Movie characters, they originated in Comics. Most of the cartoon shows I watched and loved originated in comics. I discovered Marvel comics, DC comics and even Image and Dark Horse comics. I was also amazed to find ‘Garfield’, ‘Archies’, and ‘Asterix’ originating in comics and not in newspaper strips. (like if you look at comics, everything originated from newspaper strips, but you get what I mean) I also discovered many more original cartoon shows like ‘Avatar the Last Airbender’.
As I had internet in my hand, I decided to relive every bit of my childhood all over again. I watched all the cartoon shows from childhood. I read all the comics from Raj to Marvel to DC to indie comics. As I was exploring some Japanese comics, also known as Manga, I came across something that looked really familiar. It was that one cartoon shows that I watched a few episodes of one summer. And that is how I discovered the first-ever anime that I ever watched, ‘Dragon Ball Z’. But more research explained that Pokemon and Transformers were also forms of anime.
Everything seemed so connected to me. All kinds of content I loved watching, playing or reading were all connected to each other I one way or another. Even when I played with my toys, I weaved a story to play with them. One thing that I was sure of was that I loved stories.
Years of Imagination
As my school years were coming to its final leg, I had decided that Design was my calling. But there was much to learn.
As my family moved again, and I took science as my major for Higher Secondary education, a new chapter began. I played video games occasionally, my toys were reduced only to a collection of a few important ones, read my comics every once a while, and watched cartoon shows that I had hoarded on my computer. But the pressure of the studies was taking over. I had less and less time to indulge in everything that I loved to do as a kid. I did occasionally watch some films and cartoon shows on TV, but only a few new cartoon shows like ‘Phineas and Ferb’, ‘Transformers Prime’, ‘Kick Buttowski’ etc. caught my attention. I would sometime discover new video games and would play them.
I did discover something new. More and more shows about science. A show called ‘Prophets of Science Fiction’ caught my eye. The show talked about famous writers and creators like Philip K Dick, H. G Wells, Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne and Goerge Lucas who were legends in the field of science fiction. I had already watched ‘Star-Wars’, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Time Machine’, but now I started reading their books. These books helped me see how all the stories however grand or grounded, were all based in science. All fiction followed science. Science was once fiction and fiction will one day be science.
I started reading more and more science-fiction books, studying more Physics and Chemistry. I could see all the connections. All the cartoon shows, films, comics made more sense. I saw how toys worked, the mechanics. Cars started to make a new place in my heart as they are peak engineering wonders.
Then one day, walking through the kids/stationery aisle in the local convenience store I came across Hot Wheels die-cast toy cars. What made me stop and take a closer look was me identifying the toy as a replica ‘69 Dodge Charger R/T, the car that Dom (Vin Diesel) drives in the film ‘The Fast and The Furious’. I was unable to resist the temptation to own that replica of a car I admired. It was the first-ever Hot Wheels car that I bought that day along with 4 others. This kicked-off my collection of Hot Wheels toy cars.
Years of Integration
Getting into the National Institute of Design, Vijayawada (now N.I.D. Andhra Pradesh), helped me look at my life in a different way. I always thought of all these things I loved as just modes of entertainment. Learning design helped me see what great resource I carried within me and my experiences and helped me use those as inspiration to tell my own stories, be it through comics that I draw or a logo that I make.
It helped me see that I collected Hot Wheels, not just for the sake of collection. It was just like clicking pictures when you go somewhere, or when you’re with family or friends. They were replicas to real cars that I not only aspire to own one day in real life but also that I’m passionate and want to learn about. Since I started collecting these toy cars, I started learning more about how cars work, the engines, transmission, drive-train etc. and further fueled my passion. For the past year, I have been playing a video game called ‘Forza Horizon 4’. The game too teaches you a lot about cars. Every month new cars are added to the game and you get to know something new every new day.
What my design education taught me was to look at things for what they can be rather than looking them at for just what they are on the surface. All these various medium of entertainment, are now sources of inspiration and learning for me. And even though the course has ended, the learning continues. New TV shows, cartoon shows, comics, video games and toys keep inspiring me every day.
Here are some of the cars from my previous Hot Wheels collection. To look at all the pictures that I take checkout my Instagram: @ashwini_parihar https://www.instagram.com/ashwini_parihar/
Written by: Ashwini Parihar