Category Archives: Community

The boys pop the champagne. Anushka gets the blame!

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When Anushka Sharma was fried over Virat Kohli’s dismissal and India’s ouster from the world cup, I was not surprised. After all, this is hardly an aberration. Back in 1996, when India crashed out of the world cup semis losing to Sri Lanka, Sangeeta Bijlani, the Indian captain Azharuddin’s girl friend was similarly roasted. Bijlani was charged with much more unsavoury stuff: breaking Azhar’s home, corrupting the good man and subsequently getting him involved in betting. As for all the centuries that Virat scored or the political gains that Azharuddin made while the jinxed women have been in their lives; Come on! Our men are talented.

To be fair to our current breed of country men (and women who echo their voices) , the rhetoric has always been stacked against women. Our scriptures present sufficient proof of women waylaying the good men. Menoka ‘trapped’ an unsuspecting Vishwamitra, Kaikeyi felled the good king Dasarath, Ram had to banish his wife Seeta to validate himself as a king. The common refrain has been men are the supreme human beings; they go about achieving their super-ordinate goals and are generally successful unless a woman comes along distracting him and messing up with the lofty aims. So cultures around the world have placed a high premium on celibacy for men, making overt references to the corrupting influence of women. Any remote evidence of the existence of a wife of Jesus has been systematically wiped out. Islam decreed that women be covered so that they do not distract men going about winning the world. Our own sages have generally stayed away from women unless they were sent to impregnate one on the will of God or were seduced by the Apsaras.

Of course we were wise enough to realize that a man does need a wife or two or more to service his more fundamental instincts. He cannot go about winning the world on empty stomach, spend his nights with inflatable dolls or die without leaving a male heir. A woman is therefore needed. The veiled, inconspicuous character in the background. So marriage takes two human beings and grinds one of them, the woman to nothingness unless she is all but the shadow of a man. Her own identity gets tied to that of the husband or the male partner. She is the invisible half of the relationship who does not get much credit for the man’s success but is hauled over fire for the man’s shortcomings. The converse has not been true. Nobody blames Krishna for seducing a much-married Radha before leaving her for good. Nobody imagines blaming Virat Kohli if Anushka’s movie flops. Or Amitabh Bacchan for an immensely talented Jaya Bhaduri going off the screen.

Yet the paradox is that relationships and marriages have always worked much better for men than from women. Statistics show that married men live longer, suffer less depression and alcoholism and are more successful than their single counterparts. Exactly the opposite is true for women: more depression, less career success and hence less earning potential and reduced life span. Trends that the American journalist and author, Elizabeth Gilbert, summed up as the “Marriage Benefit Imbalance” in her book Committed. The imbalance gets multiplied many times in our overtly macho and misogynistic culture. A culture which refuses to recognize marital rape as a cognizable offence is hardly expected to acknowledge the distinct identity of the wife or the girl friend. And the more strongly they try to assert their identity; the sharper will be the backlash. Anushka is no veiled wallflower who lives in the shadow of her man. She is smart, independent and cerebral and is as comfortable holding her boy friend’s hands as doing unconventional movies. Little surprising that she becomes the favourite roast of a nation which still sings its odes to celibacy and non-romantic love. While expecting warm food on the table, crisply ironed shirts laid out on the bed and the all-consenting breeding machines to ensure the perpetuity of an imperfect race. You brazenly break the stereotype? Then live with the abuse. It was your choice, you see!

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30 Pros of Having a Bong Neighbour

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  1. Never run out of pink Jaylusils– The Bong loves to eat. And he would rather pop his Jaylusil than Jaywalk (or any other form of walk) to digest all the elaborate meals he eats. Borrow one when you need.
  2. Or cough syrup – The Bong’s fear of cold is legendary. So he will always be stacked with generous doses of cough syrup that can cure coughs of any intensity
  3. Don’t mind the fish. Just keep the Room Freshener handy – The fish raises a stink especially if the household loves the infamous sutki. Believe me, you could have done worse
  4. Be treated to Bajarer tholi in multiple colours – How seriously the Bong takes his eating is evident from how seriously he takes his weekly shopping. So he has neatly color-coded bags for the vegetables, the mutton and the fish. Admire the art work
  5. Watch the nakhras of Chapar ma – The Bengali mem sahib loves her maid in waiting. And for some reason the maid’s original name is forgotten and she is fondly called Chapar maa after a largely absent Chapa. Chapar ma almost wields as much influence and has as much style as mem sahib.
  6. They own the neighbourhood library under one roof – Every respectable bong household will have the ‘Boi er Almari’. The phoren returned bong will insist calling it ‘Almirah’. If you are borrowing a book, make sure you return it wrapped in brown paper. So that the favors continue
  7. The tantalizing aroma of Kasundi – Or the mustard sauce. It is worth making friends with a Bong for just this. You are forgiven if you smuggle it out under a shawl
  8. A pretty, fiery Bong teen for a neighbour – Brush up on your Karl Marx and your annual marks before dating her though
  9. And her Mom – The Bengali boudi who wears back-less blouses and sports large Bindis will make most men go weak in their knees. It isn’t a crime to ogle as long as you do it tastefully
  10. The good Dada – The Bengali dada is the most affable neighbour if you can tolerate his psychoanalysis of every incident occurring in this universe. From Pinochet to Pinochio he has an opinion on everything. Barring that, he is pretty harmless.
  11. The melodious morning alarm – Every Bong household has atleast one person who can sing. So you wake up to fusion Rabindra Sangeet. Well better than Honey Singh’s vodka anyday
  12. Someone who can tell you how Bymkesh Bakshi is pronounced – So that you claim your intellectual right to watch the sleuth in action
  13. The India’s got talent household – Not just a singer. An average bong household will also have a painter, a writer, a dancer, a debator, an orator, an alligator. Ok the last is a typo
  14. No sweat over your PhD thesis – You only have to keep dada in good humour. And never call Boudi aunty
  15. The introduction to the mysterious world of Bengali dak naam – You will hear the doting Bengali mom call her kids by an amazing variety of names. You may finally start piecing together why a boy is called ‘Pompa’
  16. Even the dogs have elaborate names – What do you call your dog? Tommy. Learn from the Bong boudi. She will have a 108 imaginative names for her beloved dog
  17. The mishtir thala – The Bong will feed you with special Kolkata sweets on every good occasion. Which is usually 12 times a year. Because his kids will keep acing all exams.
  18. The occasional torko – To fight or quarrel are above Bong sensibilities. But yes he loves his refined torko. If that degenerates into a fist-fight, it isn’t really the same thing.
  19. The football fundas – Never slip on the difference between Messi and Ronaldo again. The Bong guys have all the stats
  20. The walking versions of Quora.com – Have a question? The Bong has an answer. Period
  21. Referee the Ghoti-Bangal debate – If you have a neighbour from East Bengal and one from West, you will be caught in the constant verbal exchange between them. You can choose to be martyred. Or choose to watch the fun
  22. The 50 lessons of being a bhadralok – Learn the nuances of babugiri from the Bengali bhadralok. Complete with the koncha
  23. Learn to play the dhak – Move over guitar, playing the dhak is uber cool. Every Bong can or atleast pretends to play the dhak. Pick up a treat.
  24. Caste no bar – The liberal Bong will not mind who you are, where are you from. As long as you love him
  25. Generous dose of Sabdhanis – The bong uncle lives in eternal fear of being robbed, mobbed, kidnapped or teleported. His many locks on his door will inspire you to be a little more cautious too. A handy trait in today’s world
  26. The annual function is taken care of – Outsource all the annual day cultural stuff to your Bong neighbours and put your feet up. They are good natured and broad minded enough to accommodate one Daler Mehndi number. They will draw the line at Mika though.
  27. You will be relentlessly tortured about the proper meaning of nyaka – But thank your stars that that’s where most Bong expletives stop.
  28. Sail through all local quiz competitions with your neighbour in tow. The collective bong GK shames the Wikipedia
  29. The Dada vs Dada fights – You have your Sachin. He has his Sourav. The fights can be entertaining ways of beating the blues after India’s loss in every third overseas match
  30. No gain without pen – The Bongs love their literature. Outsource all your writing (you may get away with sneaking in the laundry list) to him and catch the afternoon nap

52 reasons why we do not understand men

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And you thought women were inscrutable!

1. Why they never leave the seat down but threaten divorce over the seat not left up?

2. Why does he have an opinion on everything?

3. Why would he have 10 solutions before you finish your sentence yet blame you for not listening?

4. Why despite being such great map readers they always arrive harried?

5. why are they all macho during the day but wouldnt get up to check a noise at night?

6. Why they will flex their muscles unless you have to shift the furniture?
7. Why they will endlessly gossip about gossiping women yet claim they do not gossip?

8. Why will they secretly apply your sunscreen yet argue over you spending too much on cosmetics?

9. Why will they be the first to fill the mirror slot yet blame you for getting late?

10. Why is ‘lets be friends’ to them always an innuendo?

11. How between thinking about women and football they claim to solve all of the worlds problems?

12. Why can they fix the world but not your hair dryer?

13. Why do they pretend to know everything until the kid has exams?

14. Why would he date hot girls but marries someone who can make round rotis?

15.Why does he consider himself eligible bachelor for anything secreting estrogen?

16. Why is he always confused? Despite the gps!

17.Why is his ego fragile enough to break even if the person you are praising is the family dog?

18. Why does he actually buy Axe bottles while scoffing at the ads?

19.Why does he spend hours before the mirror and then ruffles up his hair to make it look casual?

20. Why would he ogle at Sunny Leone but expect his would be bride to be pure.( as if he is marrying a bottle of ghee)?

21.Why is manliness such a touchy subject?

22. Why despite claiming to ace Mathematics, he overpays the milkman?

23. Why can he remember the hot girls number but forget the keys?

24. Why will he happily give up the corner seat in a bus but not his corner on the sofa?

25. Why will he don Yellow paints and root for Brazil yet wonder why is Messi not playing?

26. Why would he always fall for your best friend?

27. Why despite backing female issues, they will fret about the cheeni kam in the morning tea?

28. Why will they endlessly speak about their biceped past but not lift one exercising leg in the present?

29. Why will they hate your mother?

30. Why will they be so scared of their own?

31. Why will playing Angry Birds on mobile be a man thing?

32. Why will they have helmets in all colors yet blame you for the shopping bills?

33. Why do they blame all their faults on Eves apple?

34. Why is coming first so important even if it is a game of leisurely ludo with the computer?

35. Why will he never commit but see red if you date other men?

36. Why would he be obsessed about other mens’ car size, salaries and wives?

37. Why would he still call women the jealous sex?

38. Why would he pretend to be a gizmo freak but not know where the restart button is?

39. Why is the obvious to him always so complicated?

40. Why at 50 he still fancies a chance with his nieces dance teacher?

41. Why he tells long stories about winning marathons but never completes a round in the morning jog?

42.Why can he not get sarcasm?

43. Why the only signals he can get are the traffic lights?

44 Why is s ‘see you’ a ‘sexually potent’ conversation to him and he assumes it will lead to an intimate elevator date?(Any resemblance to Tejpal is coincidental)

45. Why does he claim to solve the Rubik Cube but can never beat you in tic tac toe?

46.Why does he love jargons? Like Dissipated pressure for a punctured cycle?

47.Why does he snatch the remote but snores through half the match?

48. Why will he claim to be a soccer expert while never being able to explain offside in simple words?

49. Why would he be an expert in everything and still call the mechanic?

50. Why would he then bully the poor mechanic who clearly knows better?

51.Why would he say he has no problem with your guy friends and then be superbly awkward around them?

52. Why do not they just go to the loo together and sort things out?

Do not give me a day. Give me the universe

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  You have given me a day. Stood outside my home with a red rose. Given me gifts that promised me transformation, happiness and nirvana. You invited me to dainty events where you lavished attention on me. You were perfect. And i was touched. But not moved. Because i am greedy. And ambitious. And demanding. Everything my mother was not. Everything you thought the woman shouldnt be. But living in an imperfect world, i developed and now enjoy a zest, a lust, a hunger for more than a labelled day. For more than women seats. For more than the corner you condescendingly offer me. I want the universe. The open skies. The rough waters. And while i thank you for your protective hand and your word of wisdom, i still say No thanks and go to face it all on my might. I make mistakes and i demand acceptance. I knock on doors and I demand them to be opened. I take off the veil and demand the sunlight. I look up and demand the appreciative glance of the world. I walk with you and demand the space. The wide, open world. Not secluded spaces where you want to keep me safe. And exclusive. For i do not ask for exclusivity. Not  trophies. Not your attention. Not your curiousity. Not your patronage. Not your well-meaning labelled day. My ask is simple. All i ask for is the universe.I blog with BE Write

50 Reasons to date a Bong Boy

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A number of people have been writing to me asking why I do not speak for the men? Well, why not?. I mean without men, who would fix the pipes and inspire all the beer jokes? Ok enough of my counter chauvinism, there are a lot of reasons that men are great. And because its Durga Pujo time I guess its ok to narrow down a bit and bat for Bong guys in particular. Here are 50 reasons why dating a Bong guy is a swell idea. And now there’s a bonus 51st!

  1. How can you not like someone who has such adorable pet names(daknaam) as Golu, Gogol,  Gablu?
  2. Man You know your Man U – How can you resist someone who loves something as fatafati as football?
  3. Buddy over body – The bong boy is the nice, sweet friend. He will carry your gym bag even if he does not have the gym-toned body
  4. He has a Maa who makes awesome food and you will get invited to enough of her home cooked meals
  5. He has a Maa who dotes on him so much that you do not have to feel guilty about neglecting him once in a while
  6. His relationship with the other maa-the chosmaa is just as endearing
  7. He is a little less brawny than the Punjabi boy. A little less wily than the Tams. But he packs in all the goodness in between
  8. Write club over fight club – he would not be seen around a fight club but his writing makes up for the lack of fighting
  9. He will sing for you – The rare male who has been trained in music and sings in tune
  10. His qualifications would cover pages –Chances are he may have more degrees than you can remember
  11. He writes better poetry than the average Bollywood lyricist
  12. He is snobbish and you would once in a while enjoy turning up your nose with him at the rest of the world
  13. He will have a long list of fun relations and they have adorable names such as Phool mama and phool masi(Flower Aunt. Flower uncle)
  14. He is extra chivalrous. He wouldn’t let out a cat whistle at the girls
  15. Most girls would be his confirmed sisters(This is tricky- listen carefully to the ‘dada’ intonation). You can be both relieved and tensed at thisbong debate
  16. No ugly boxing champ posters on his wall. There may be one Stallone with dreamy eyes
  17. He will zealously help you with the homework
  18. He has won atleast one debate on ‘Pen is mightier than the sword’ – he debates with a lot of oomph
  19. Yes he is the archetypal argumentative Indian. He would have an opinion on everything. And you would love debating with him
  20. He loves his fish but does not fish for money- He doesn’t marry a girl for the bank balance, usually!
  21. He is the rare metrosexual man – so no hangups about going into the kitchen and putting on the apron
  22. The suave Bong is liberated, smart and cosmopolitan. There are the opposite extremes too. So choose wisely
  23. He is senti and that can make you mental. Handle him with care but you wouldn’t mind the mush once in a while
  24. He drools over all the s’es so even when you are quarrelling, it is musical
  25. Pick a bone over break a bone for him. So at the worst you will have slaughtered fishes not broken limbs on his trail
  26. He has won atleast one of Bournvita quiz contest, Mastermind etc etc. What a thing to brag about!
  27. He hates KBC because it commercializes quizzing. After seeing Sr bacchan hem and haw you agree with him
  28. He secretly loves Bollywood though his favourite movies would always be inscrutable Hollywood movies.
  29. You can borrow vintage Hollywood DVDs and put them on your CD rack if only to show off
  30. He would have a really difficult to pronounce name but you can shorten it to a cool Anglicized one. All Bongs are a little Angrez at heart
  31. He would introduce you to the hippie crowd at Park Street
  32. And to the bohemian intellectuals of Presidency college
  33. His friends would refer to you as boudi even before you have thought about marriage. Irritating yes but kinda sweet too
  34. The Bong guy may come across as gentle and harmless but in matters of love he stands up for you
  35. A lot of divisions that matter so much in rest of India do not matter much in Calcutta. Here the only classifications are left, lefter, leftest
  36. His leftist tendencies could be romantic. The Yogi life isn’t so bad
  37. He would prefer Pondicherry to Paris for a holiday and you may end up liking the offbeat choices
  38. He wouldn’t bash up your bro, he would logically explain why he is the right guybong boy
  39. His once in a year Durga Pujo dress would be dhooti-punjabi. And that is drool worthy!
  40. He is terrible at the disc. But his dhunuchi and bisorjon dance rock
  41. At some point of time he would have tried his hand at a rock band and he would own atleast one of a guitar, harmonium, table, ektara, tanpura, violin phew!
  42. You would discover adda on the rocks and that is the next best thing to happen after Adam and Eve’s time in Eden
  43. He would get drunk on Bangla but a drunk bong is more entertainment than menacing
  44. Most creative things in this world have been produced by inebriated Bongs
  45. He is not looking for a trophy wife. So you can junk the salon routine once in a while
  46. He could fly off the handle if you mispronounce that Russian novelist’s name- trust me better than boyfriends who fly off the handle over  messed up Russian salads
  47. Your children would get really uncommon names, thanks to his love for the exotic. Never mind that the poor kids would spend a life time getting the spelling right
  48. He will get or bake you the most delicious desserts for your birthday. Seriously!
  49. While you are just getting saturated with all the sweetness, he would surprise you with the uncharacteristic fury. When you have dared say that the Tams are wiser than the Bongs.
  50. He would have a long list of diversions – theatre, books, football. Easier competition than other women!
  51. The Bong boy is little mirchi, a trifle misthi and mostly fun. If you can tolerate his idiosyncrasies life with him would be kinda nice and calm. With occasional surprises

Single. Not ready to mingle

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Weekends are the best times to be single. Yeah. You have the freedom to do crazy, normal, boring, silly things- no consensus, no guilt pangs. Join a paintball fight, visit an artist’s village, go trekking with a random group or catch up on sleep. Sounds like heaven? Sounds like hell. Ask a single man or woman. The pressures of a perfectly balanced world. Couple dates on weekends. Yash Raj crooning on microphones. Cosy couples on bandstand. Friend with super hot girl friend. Friend with hot dude. Envy. Heart burns. Wallowing in self pity. The entire world conspires against single people. Especially single women. Ever wonder where all the female versions of marriage jokes. There aren’t many. As females, marriage and families have been grilled into our psyches. A hyper macho society makes it worse. What! No man with you? You can’t rent a house. Your neighbours look at you with suspicion. You are endlessly questioned in family functions. Your much married friends give you sorry looks or worse still go on a zealous match making drive. Not accepting that  staying single may be a perfectly happy, sensible choice for some. Because it has taken us 5000 years to not realize that getting hitched is not a function of time. It is a function of finding the right person. That it is not a compulsion. But a choice. You do not hit the panic buttons at 25 that you have not settled down yet. The alarm bells should start ringing if you settled for the wrong guy. Because in a country where marriage traditionally take a lot of toll on women, a bad marriage, a less than right marriage can turn the screws on you. The other day, I was reading  an article on Chinese women and marriage- there the average age of marriage among educated women has crossed 30. Women in Asia are postponing marriage or choosing to remain single rather than trade freedom, happening lives and bright careers for marriage. Yes the right guys with whom you can have all these and a fantastic marriage are a less available breed in the chauvinistic, masculine culture around us. And unless they come along it makes sense to not mingle. Being single in the city could be fun. Don’t let anyone, including the nosy neighbours and the super concerned friends, tell you otherwise.

Stay Silent. Stay Criminal

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A child is abused. You stay silent

A woman is molested. You stay silent

Your morals are on sale. You stay silent

Predators on the street. You stay silent

Domestic Violence. You stay silent

Or maybe you don’t. You speak. In the numb frozen corridors of your office, in the comfortable AC lounge of your home. From the safety of Facebook. From the anonymity of twitter. There you debate. You ask. What were the child’s parents doing? What was the woman wearing? Who accepts bribes, not me? What was he doing on the dark roads? Was she the one who was divorced earlier? You analyse. You find reasons. Sometimes you are genuinely angry. But the anger stops on the walls of Facbook. Drowns in the noise of your car. Gets replaced by the next breaking news.

So you turn the music a notch higher when you hear the girl in the next building screaming. You walk past the sad little boy abused by his monstrous uncle. You know about the shady deal but would rather become a silent accomplice than be the whistle blower. Unless it happens to you. The screaming girl is your sister. The little boy, god forbid is your child. The corruption costs you your job. You are the one cornered in a dark street. And then you scream. Angry. Passionate. Hurt. And you wonder why isn’t the world speaking up with you. Where are the witnesses, the helpful  passers-by. Why don’t they stop. Why don’t they pick you up. Cant they see you lying there bleeding.

And then the gag falls off. But maybe it is too late. Everytime you walk away saying it is not your problem. Every time you shut your windows. Everytime you are a silent spectator. You contribute. You contribute to making the Frankensteinian monster. You feed it. Let it grow. And then oneday it turns on you.And then there is no escape.

Or wait –there is. You have to take off the gag. You have to  take off the blindfolds. The earplugs. You have to see evil. Hear evil. And then speak out against evil. If you think you are alone you aren’t. A million strong crowd is standing behind you just waiting for that one individual to take the step. A Gandhi or the Mandela may be too big examples for us ordinary mortals. But the power to be extraordinary, to be brave to step out to speak out lies in all of us. Listen to your conscience. Next time you hear the woman next door screaming, knock on the door.. You see a girl being harassed on the street- step forward, raise an alarm. You know a child is being abused. Walk in to the principals office. The more you keep quiet the more the monsters will grow. Most crimminals are insecure cowards. A small voice from you can stop them in their tracks. Speak up.

And before I sign off I quote Tagore –The one who commits the one who is the silent spectator. Equally deserve to be singed by your hatred. Take a stand. Kill the monster.

Of India and the stereotypes – do not criminalize all the men

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When I read Michaela Cross’, the University of Chicago student, account of her visit to India I felt a range of strong, conflicting emotions. I felt angry and sad and apologetic. I felt revulsion. I felt resentment to the men who had reduced our identity to a pervert nation subjecting women to a demonic hell. But as I read through the article, I also felt let down. By a view of Indian men that paints a unilateral photo of perversion an misogyny, reducing the identity of a varied nation to a nation of rapists and eve-teasers , erasing the many positives we see around us and making us all feel ashamed of our wickedness. Because it is not just the failure of the Indian men. It is of the women too. Who have raised them and taught them. Who have loved them. Of the entire country which lets a tourist, a foreign student be assaulted while we watch silently. Of a five thousand year old culture that evaporates to leave behind a dirty residue of lecherous men. While I do not wish to play down in any way Michaela’s experiences, I do wish to put my hand up and say a vehement no to the stereotyping. Yes I have seen foreign women being harassed but I have also seen my friends rushing to help them. I have seen rickshawallas taking the unwary visitor for a ride but I have also seen an honest taximan in a worn out uniform returning bags full of dollars and expensive laptops. I have read reports of unthinkable crimes against women but I have met excellent men who are warm, sensitive and respectful. If the rapist at the hotel defines India, so do the honest taximan, the helpful friends and the good hearts who go out of their way to help visitors find their way, trying sign language where communications break down. Crimes against women aren’t a peculiarity to India. And while this no way exonerates my nation, I have faced racial jibes and harrasments in upmarket London and the well-polished America. I have not painted those countries with a uniform brush because a group of boys threw a bottle at me at Belfast or I sat cowering in a late night tube at London while a drunk group hurled abuses at me. Instead I cut through these experiences and discovered the warmth of London or the expansiveness of America. Ofcourse India is a much more difficult to fathom place. The country lives in many centuries, in several layers. And hopefully Michaela will find the strength to cut through the layers and find the gamut of experiences which together make India. Else we would be doomed to be stereotyped by the actions of a few men who are by no means atypical of a pluralist, multi dimensional society.

The Peter Pan Generation

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Peter Pan. I think there is no greater symbolism for our generation. A group of 25-35 year olds who are so scared to grow up. I had always thought that this is a queer problem that I face – the typical aversion to mortgages and childrens education worries, the disproportionate love for the hand written Tees and the torn jeans and a general desire to be secluded from the worries of the world. Till I started asking around. And happened to read this very nice article in a UK daily- describing our generation as the one of Peter Pans. The gen y, genZ intersection and some gen X leftovers. Who have had relatively more pampered childhood than our parents. Grown up on pepsi and Barbie and Leo toys. Been educated at the best places. The luxury of postponing responsibilities as our parents continue to work. No joint families or demanding uncles. Not much of the marriage imperatives as we lead independent, self contained lives with many friends. Not much of a necessity to buy a house as our parents have painstakingly built up property portfolios. And we lead nomadic lives anyway. And so things like marriages, children, mortgages seem like unwelcome intrusions. In our happy bachelor pads with graphic painted walls. And half eaten pizzas. As we start earning well while we are still in our early twenties, we have all the financial freedom to indulge ourselves- the weekend trip, the adventure game, the shopping sprees. The child in us gets fatter and happier. A set of friends who grow up with us perpetuate the ever youth syndrome. TV ads cajole you to stay young. Why a 50 year old SRK is still playing Video Game heroes and singing silly songs. Madhuri and Sridevi go about pretending to be 30 year olds. Am I complaining? No. At the corner of the head there is a nagging worry that I may suddenly grow old and wrinkled and be no longer welcome on the adrenaline rush bike trip. But the worry miraculously disappears as the next back-slapping hangout comes up. And the tattered jeans from 10 years back still fits. As long as the credit cards hold out. And the gyms keep pumping up the energy. We can afford to be the Peter Pans. Mortgages be damned.

The umbrella test

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There have been numerous Bollywood songs with the humble umbrella at the centre . One song tied the umbrella to the spirit of the nation, claiming we as a country put aside its plethora of problems to happily share or even give up umbrellas. But ofcourse cinema has not often done justice to India. If you believe Bollywood, you would be led to think that our colleges are full of gorgeous kids in designer clothes who dance in sync to any random song. If you believe Hollywood we are still a nation infested with cholera and copulating snakes. But there was an element of truth in the umbrella song. Or so I grew up believing. A small town upbringing in the nineties gave you a tinted view of the world. Because there people did share umbrellas. Or ate tiffin sitting together. Or played silly games. And sharing umbrellas is no mean feat. It is a ready test of one’s character. Because there standing in the heavy downpour, your new shoes sloshed in mud and your precious school bag getting drenched, being a good Samaritan is difficult. But then the sight of that poor friend trembling in the rain or even that strange kid getting helplessly drenched melted your heart. And you extended the umbrella. Till sharing became a habit. Or even the occasional giving up of things. So I grew up believing in the umbrella test for character. How does one behave when one has the umbrella in hand? Because in the heavy monsoons the humble umbrella metamorphoses into an object of power. Ask the question on a larger scale and you can test the character of a city or a nation. And sadly Bollywood has again got it wrong. For nobody offers an umbrella these days. And the strangers you offer to share it with leave without saying a thank you. As I waited umbrella-less for a rickshaw in the first Mumbai rains, men and women with umbrellas wielded the umbrellas like a sword to cut through the crowd and get to the autos first. I shook my head. Umbrella courtesy has obviously reached its lowest point. Maybe it is more fashionable to offer a coke these days – you can see your face go up on the cola’s walls with much less discomfort. And meanwhile I am getting a raincoat- I can then be selfish without the pangs of umbrella guilt that only afflict romantics a little out of sync with time.