Monday, June 19, 2017

The Filmy Factor

If you haven’t watched many movies during your growing-up years, whatever little you saw remains special, right? I’m sure this happens to you. There you are watching an old movie and suddenly - wham, you are transported back in time. Like food and scents, movies make sure something or the other jangles your memory cells. It could be anything. Like a movie on your sixteenth birthday. A movie after board exams is equally memorable. As is a movie with mushy ‘corner seat’ memories. 

As I rewind my cinematic reel, my first literal ROFL moment was while watching Jaane Bhi Do Yaron on our Beltek television. The story of two bumbling journalists from Beauty Photo Studio remains a memorable black comedy. The recent flyover collapse in Kolkatta was a reminder that when it comes to builder-babu nexus, little has changed. Who can forget the scene where a tipsy Om Puri drags the casket of a dead D’Mello, or when Om Puri mumbles in his Punjabi laced Hindi, “Oye Draupadi Teri Akele Ki Nahin Hain, Hum Sab Shareholders Hain”. Unlike the quintessential ‘dishoom dishoom’ culmination, JBDY climax was a classic Mahabharata and Ramayana cocktail with a dash of Akbar. Served with great comic book flair, “This is too much. Ye Akbar Kahan Se Aa Gaya?” was epic.

Then there was Masoom. Our parents probably heard, ‘Lakdi Ki Kaathi’ song and imagined that Masoom was perfect kiddy watch. Moreover, the little girl who played Naseer and Shabana’s youngest daughter was a family friend from Kanpur. Clueless about the infidelity angle, I hated Shabana for refusing to accept Jugal Hansraj. His blue eyes, a tapestry of torment and pools of grief made me miserable. When thick streaks began rolling down during ‘Tujhse Naraaj Nahi, Hairan Hoon Zindagi’ dad took me out for an ice cream. Downright silly, but for some reason I haven’t forgiven Shabana till date. Such was the Masoom impact that Shabana’s wronged wife act in Arth did nothing to salvage her image for a long time.

Silsila (1981) remains memorable for my first mother-daughter tiff. It was my birthday and instead of allowing me to celebrate with friends, mother insisted we watch a movie. Those days, my mother was a big fan of Rekha, while my righteous teen angst saw Rekha as a home breaker. In an interview to Stardust Rekha had said that she saw Jaya shed tears from the projection room during a love scene between Rekha and Amitabh during a trial show. Both Filmfare and Stardust were abuzz about how Yash Chopra had managed coup in bringing the two women together in the epic confrontation scene. It was also Bollywood's first foray into Netherlands and tulip gardens.

Growing up in a small town, there was a lot of talk in school about Dimple and Anil Kapoor making out in a stable in Jaanbaaz. When the VCR guy sneakily delivered the Jaanbaaz cassette, the print was poor and visuals sketchy. During the much hyped ‘Jaanejaana’ song, all I saw was Anil Kapoor winking at his pet horse, the horse grinning back and Dimple exposing her tantalizing long legs in a huge pile of hay stack. A step ahead from two flowers, the scene was pretty chaste, though sensuous given the times. Dimple brings me to Saagar where I sat happily sandwiched between school friends waiting for Dimple to drop that towel. Disappointment again, for we saw nothing except a glorious sunset.

Given that there was no getting away from tight home reigns, Qayamat Se Qyamat Tak remains etched for most of us in school and college. ‘Papa Kehte Hain’ was a rage – it had become a metaphor for our age and emotions. This was also a time when Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik had created magic with their fresh vocals. While on our annual summer trip to Mussoorie, ‘Ghazab Ka Hai Din’ playing on the car stereo made me see the hills in a new light. So in Mussoorie, I unconsciously veered in Juhi’s Rashmi mode – two plaits, coy looks and chirpy talk. Needless to add that the boys on the Mall Road appeared in Aamir’s Raj mode – Akele Hain To Kya Gham Hai.

Then there was Mr India, which I remember for reasons other than Sridevi’s sky blue sari minus an underskirt. Those days, balcony in single screen theatres was expected to have decent crowd and the seats weren’t numbered. And yet, a group of boys were throwing peanuts over our heads. When a match stick landed in my lap, a big fight ensued. Dad called the manager, the screening was halted and louts evicted.

Moving one, there were others like Arth, Mirch Masaala, Bazaar, Golmaal and Khoobsoorat, but I don’t remember them for anything other than their cinematic appeal. As memories come flooding, one post won’t do justice to all the drama associated with films. Losing house keys during Amar Akbar Anthony, running to the loo (upset tummy) during Sharaabi and buying tickets in black for Karz remain memorable. Remember ‘paanch ka dus, dus ka tees’ touts promising corner seats? 

In today’s age of multiplex, we will perhaps remember movies for different reasons. It could be a bomb scare when the entire hall was evacuated. Not finding parking, getting stuck in the mother of all jams and missing the movie could be equally memorable. Ditto for being harassed by a traffic cop after movies. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bottoms Up

Imagine Mumbai without Vada Pav and Berry Pulav. Chennai without steaming idlis and filter coffee. Or Delhi without butter chicken and Old Monk. We know what happened to Lucknow without Tunday Kebabs, right? Likewise, Gurgaon is all about fresh beer. Beer is so integral to Gurgaon that we would rather be called Beergram instead of Gurugram. Don’t believe me? Hop on, and I will tell you about our ‘beer necessities’.

For starters, we in Gurgaon survive dust storms, civic apathy, extreme weather and traffic jams just by being Beer Happy. With pubs in every nook and corner, fresh breweries are our very own Aggarwal Sweet House. Our Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR). Our Sarvanna Bhawan. But with fancy names like the UpTown, Striker, Manhattan, Vapour, Open Tap, Prankster, Walking Street…...the list is endless.

With beer flowing in our veins, we are Budweiser than others. Because we know our beer more than Gordon Ramsay knows his food. Which is why, the way to our heart is to engage us over the charms of chilled beer. Just so you know, we in Beergaon, don’t believe in soups. Chilled beer is soup for our corporate souls.

Don’t judge us. We wish each other a ‘Happy Beerthday’ and a ‘Berry Happy Mother’s Day’, simply by visiting the nearest brewery. Most pubs are an ode to originality with loud music, dim lights, giant screens and framed pictures that proclaim ‘Life and Beer are same – Chill for best results’. You visit one and you will have a feeling of ‘Deja Brew’. If you are a visitor on a Friday evening, don’t have ‘high hops’ because despite 5436 breweries in town, you won’t find a table. In case you manage to grab a bar stool, it’s time to ask the attendant, “What’s up brew?” Then you burst into cheers when he presents you with an array of tasters ranging from Apple Cider, Fresh German, Peach Ginger, Melomel or Belgian Wit. You taste them with such seriousness as if you are about to vote for a permanent security council seat at the UN, which is a lot of crap because after one pitcher, you don’t really know which one you are drinking. Then you place your order to show off your bladder capability – a glass, a mug, a pitcher or the entire beer tower. Care for some fun? Ask the guy with gallons of beer in his prized beer tower to drink 8 glasses of water instead. Capture his expression. Priceless.

So, it was all berry good until the highest court of the land played party pooper. The new law about keeping liquor vends away from highways made it ‘un-beerable’ for Beergram. Just when we thought we were at a ‘pint of no return’, excise officers, traffic police, NHAI and PWD got busy with ‘Jugaad’ to ensure that Gurgaon is up and bubbly again. With such supremely honest departments working in tandem, I’m sure Gurgaon will finally raise the ‘bar’. 

The verdict is to be pronounced any day. And soon we will indulge in our ‘unstopub-able’ past-time. Hello? After slogging for long hours and surviving ‘beer pressure’ as corporate donkeys, is it any surprise that we look forward to our happy hours? Common people, with temperature flirting with 45 degrees, you can’t grudge us our daily beer. Remem-beer, that's how we are. ‘Lager’ than life. Hopefully, life will be ‘Brewtiful’ again.
 Beergram can barely fight back its cheers.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Battle of Legs?

Every once in a while, an incident washes up our shores where the dominant social order reflects in our social behaviour. Recently when the British PM, Theresa May met Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, the front page of Daily Mail read ‘Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it’. It didn’t take long for the media to swerve in the familiar path of misogyny. The focus was on their nude stockings, red nail paint, pointed stilettos and crossed legs. The paper indulged in an ogling spree, calling them the finest weapons at their physical arsenal. 

‘Finest weapons at their command? Those pins!’

The article referred to one pair of legs as ‘long extremities, demurely arranged’ and the other pair as ‘flirty, tantalizingly crossed….a direct attempt at seduction.’ Poor Theresa and Nicola! They had to use their legs instead of brains to resolve the complicated Brexit issue. Yes, Theresa May has legs. So did Tony Blair. Even Obama. Trump has legs too.

Let’s play fair. The article was written by Sarah Vine, a woman journalist who defended by saying it was a ‘fun piece’. If David Cameron can be mocked for looking portly, why cry ‘sexism’ when the shoe is on the other foot? Equality, after all, cuts both ways, she asked.
Well, the columnist has her right to pen a ‘fun piece’ and indulge in what she finds funny. And some scrutiny of public figures is natural, even expected and overlooked. But I doubt if the paper would joke about David Cameron’s paunch or a receding hairline on the front page featuring a strategic meeting. This is not to wish that Cameron should have been treated the same way but the fact that he wasn’t smacks of duplicity.

Anyway, this is not the first. In keeping with the double standards, the US Presidential campaign was a text book case of misogyny. Little surprise that during the campaign, top sellers included misogynist goodies with lines like, ‘Hillary will go down faster than Bill’s pants. Trump that Bitch. Good Luck Hillary, don’t blow the job.’ In addition to that, cable news made jokes about how Hillary’s voice made men cross their legs. And what’s more, Reddit groups repeatedly laughed about Clinton supporters voting with their vaginas. Flip the coin and wonder what Trump supporters voted with, eh? 

It’s an unending series. I remember when French girl, Marion Bartoli climbed through the crowds to hug her father after winning the title, a Radio 5 live commentator thought it was the right moment to say, “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘you are never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight’?” Rather nauseatingly, the commentator didn’t have anything to say about Andy Murray’s face, but he was deeply disturbed by Bartoli’s looks. As it happens, social media took it a step ahead. A blogger taunted, calling Bartoli ‘too ugly to rape’. Suddenly her accomplishment paled in comparison to her appearance.
The sub-text was obvious. Sexism. 

It was same old ditty, albeit with different lyrics when Serena Williams won a title. She was body shamed for showing her nipples. In fact a twitter poll asked how many saw Serena get 'hard' while playing and 71% responded in the affirmative.
 Whether it’s Serena Williams, Sania Mirza or Smriti Irani, every time a powerful woman makes a point, it disturbs the dominant social order. Rather inadvertently, successful women get shamed socially in order to keep them in their ‘place’. And hell hath no fury, if a woman achiever like Kangana Ranaut asserts herself. Then she’s playing a ‘woman’s card’. Bring on her periods, her past affairs and tell her to leave the kitchen if she can’t face the heat. 

All said, it’s a fact that women are judged for their appearances. Both, by men and women. It’s so deep seated that we don’t even realize how it becomes a part of our psyche. More often than not, each time a woman achiever asserts her position, the dominant social order comes into play by pronouncing judgment. Sometimes in the name of safe-guarding community interests. Sometimes in the name of making jokes. And sometimes in the name of free speech. Excellence, as Oprah says, is the best deterrent. 

Photo Courtesy: Guardian News

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

UPswinger by Modi

Elections in India are quite like playing cricket, and quite as unpredictable. Winning a state requires a distinct strategy that is not facsimile of another when it comes to reading the pitch, planning a strategy, fielding the players and selecting a captain. It’s a team effort. 

With four wins in five state electoral matches, Captain Modi established his pole position in Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring Uttarakhand. His triple century against main rivals, Samajwadi Party, Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party was seen as a resounding ‘Modi wave’ that swept the Hindi heartland. Barring one loss in Punjab to the Congress led Captain Amrinder Singh, the BJP also managed to steal a last over victory by outmaneuvering rivals in Goa and Manipur. With an incredible win of over 406 of the 690 seats on offer, they can now hope to win 2019 National Cup under the hawk eyed guidance of coach Amit Shah. 

Match Strategy

In UP, they say, people don’t cast their votes, they vote their caste. But if this was entirely true, Dalit centric Bahujan Samaj Party and Jat centric Rashtriya Lok Dal would not stare at political obsolescence. Which brings us to the moot question: emerging from a defeat in Bihar and Delhi and the aftermath of demonetization googly, how did Narendra Modi register such a spectacular sweep? 

What the media did not tell us was being planned for over more than a year by the coach, Amit Shah. There was organisational restructuring, an offer of primary BJP membership to potential workers, youth mobilisation,  canny ticket distribution and effective use of social media including more than ten thousand WhatsApp groups. The net practice under the Hindutva umbrella included hundreds of nukkad meetings (street plays), parivartan yatras, youth conferences, Swabhiman conferences (for SC/ST), traders meetings, motorcycle rallies and Kamal Melas.

The speedy implementation of welfare schemes like Ujjawala which aimed at providing free LPG connection to 5 crore BPL households, Jan Dhan accounts, insurance at a premium as low as Rs 12, promises of farm loan waiver and interest free loans struck a chord with rural voters. The overall strategy was to woo the middle class by development and the poor by financial inclusion. Poverty, after all, has no caste or religion. 

Finally, demonetisation and surgical strikes portrayed PM Modi as a decisive captain who was playing aggressively against corruption. The jury is out on the merits of demonetization, but politics is all about perception. When people feel that their leader is fighting for them, data and numbers are rendered useless. While PM Modi was seen as a visionary who played risky shots, the fragmented opposition came across as defensive team of opportunistic players. 

Why Rival Teams Were Stumped

In all fairness, it is easy to be wise after an event, or a match. Truth is, no political observer could envisage this TsuNaMo in the absence of a Chief Minister’s face. As for Akhilesh Yadav, anti-incumbency, deteriorating law and order, fast turning UP wicket, in-fighting between his team players and running between the wickets with a tentative Rahul Gandhi ensured that SP was on the back foot. You can not sing '27 Saal UP Behaal' one day and 'UP Ko Ye Saath Pasand Hai,' the following day.  People are not idiots. As for Behenji, with her traditional Dalit vote bank deserting her, Mayawati was stumped by the EVMs – the educated voting middle class.

We all know that if team Congress wants to contest the 2019 Cup, they have to re-invent, strategize, and look for captains who play shots according to incoming balls and not anti-Modi shots on every ball. As Ricky Ponting says, “Every batsman surveys the field before taking the strike and the fielders get imprinted on his mind. But in my head, I only see the gaps.” The Congress Party has to look for those gaps. Renting causes, jumping from one campus to another and disrupting matches is unlikely to register wins. Taking a cheeky run, the Congress Cricket Club is looking like an old bra – no cups and hardly any support.😉

As for AAP, a much hyped team in this series turned out to be a damp squib. In their hurry to go pan-India, AAPs attempts to win Punjab fizzled out with Bhagwant Mann out on a duck and a team collapse in Goa. The silver lining for a relatively young AAP is that they managed enough seats to sit as the main opposition in the Punjab state assembly. 
Despite all the euphoria over the Captain Modi’s knock, it cannot be denied that anti-incumbency provided a tail wind to the UPswing. The truth is that anti-incumbency cuts both ways. If SP was at the receiving end in UP, it was Akali Dal-BJP in Punjab and in Goa.

Matches Ahead

After his 4-5 sweep, striking a note of inclusiveness, Captain Modi said that the five states win would lay the foundation of a new India by 2022. But a week later, the appointment of Yogi Adityanath, a hardliner UP CM surprised many who cheered for team Modi’s development agenda. Little surprise that Modi’s message of ‘Sabka saath, Sabka Vikas’ was overshadowed by overt Hindutva push. One hopes that all sections of society will represent team UP and that development, not polarisation shall remain the driving force.

On the political pitch, the UPswinger will provide Modi the courage to go for some unpalatable reforms, roll out the GST and perhaps bat for Uniform Civil Code. The increase in Rajya Sabha numbers will brighten their chances of choosing their ICC Chairman, I mean, the President of India. 
Even though it is likely that the BJP will add more states in its kitty, it would be premature to grant them the 2019 Cup. Jobless growth, education and health in shambles, and a sluggish economy are huge challenges. While inflation and corruption are in control, government policies have failed to provide employment. If villages are facing rural distress, cities are facing large scale lay-offs. The global environment is not helping either. 

Regardles, the opposition teams might go for all-except-BJP teams pan India. Given that most batsmen from challenging teams are facing serious injuries, Modi is likely to lift the 2019 Cup. Moreover, its not Modi they have to defeat, its the people they have to win. Win people to win elections.
But like cricket, the only thing predictable in elections is the unpredictability. The matches are more than hundred weeks away. And a week, they say, is a long time in politics.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Perfect Click

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned; in a photograph that is. If her hair is not right, her double chin pops up, or if her tummy-bulge shows - a barrage of silent abuse come the photographer’s way. For some reason, most men behind the camera are unable to grasp the simple complexity of it all.

So I’m picking up my cousin and her husband on the way to a family wedding. When I reach their apartment, the couple is nowhere in sight. Her husband calls to say that he is ready, but wifey will take some time. After ten minutes, when my petticoat string begins to suffocate me to death, the apologetic couple arrives. 

My cousin’s husband, a jovial army-man, lightens the air with his cheerful ho hum. I notice that his witty fire power is met with a glacial silence from his wifey. Oblivious of the frost in the car, the amiable army man begins to dig a trench for himself, one shovel at a time. ‘We were ready at eight but she wanted me to click her pictures. Which is why we got delayed,’ he shoots. 

I understand. The side with the simplest uniform wins the war. For women, getting wedding ready is a stressful affair. There are safety pins to tuck, sari pallav to adjust, pleats that don’t fall in line, jewelry hooks that refuse to behave, earring screws that disappear under the bed and last minute pictures to click. When you take hours to get ready, the outcome deserves social media validation.

‘See,’ my cousin scrolls down her phone. ‘I look like an aunty in all the pics.’

‘Haha, not my fault. I click what I see,’ her husband digs deeper. 'Jaisi shakl hai vaisi photo ayegi.' 

Pin. Drop. Silence. All I hear is the buzz of the traffic.

I try to thaw the frost by indulging in some rear seat girl talk. Misery, after all, loves company.
‘You are not alone darling, it’s the same story here. Each time I ask my husband to click a picture, he messes up big time. Either my eyes are closed or my hair doesn’t look right. When my hair looks perfect, my face looks horrific,’ I say. 

Water gushes out of the dam. My cousin shares her trauma in a low voice, ‘First he forgets to pick my sari from the dry cleaners. When I select a new sari, the blouse doesn’t fit. Instead of helping me out, he starts the timer. Ten minutes to eight, seven minutes to eight, five minutes to eight. See, I couldn’t even blow-dry my hair.’ Then she turns around and asks, ‘the curls look tidy, no?’
‘Love your curls. Always envied them.’

The sun begins to shine again. Partly. She says, ‘I wore a sari after a long time. Thought I’ll nail Instagram today. Will have to make do with the selfies.’
Yup dear.  
Always believe in your #selfies. 

While we are having a hushed conversation, the good man is on a suicide mission. He forgets the Murphy's law of combat - Never mess with a loaded weapon. The trigger for his funny bout is perhaps the guilt of arriving late. He chuckles, ‘Talking about selfies, do you know she clicked dozens only to delete them all? Haha, women are so picky about their selfies.’
‘I wish I was as picky about my man as I’m about my selfies,’ she shoots back.
‘Stop it, you two. I’ll take your pictures once we reach the venue,’ I offer. 
‘Great,’ she says in a hushed tone. ‘Seriously, what’s the point of his training and degrees when he can’t even click one decent picture?’
Point. No point, I mean.

Once we reach the venue, the ice begins to thaw. We have a gala time clicking pictures before we greet others. All is well with the world. 
On our way back in the car, the frost returns. Still wearing his sunny demeanor, the army man asks me, ‘Minutes ago she was laughing and giggling. What happened to your sis now?’ 

I can't blame the army man for his naivete. Instead of a tactical retreat, he has landed himself in no man's land. Looks like he is in for a long night in the trenches.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dressed in Hyperbole

Let’s say, your friend uploads a picture on social media. After her 1226 friends are ‘blown away’ by the ‘eye popping awsomeness’, what can you possibly say that stands out? After all, you have to create an impact. Seek acceptance. Remember, all your friends will read what you’ve written with deep interest as if they are studying English adjectives for school exams. Simply liking the picture means little, unless your friend is vain enough to check all the 742 likes. Also remember that ‘Beautiful’ is boring, ‘Lovely’ lame, ‘Awesome’ passé, ‘Stunning’ done-to-death and ‘Gorgeous’ clichéd. 

You can shout in capitals. YOU. LOOK. STUNNING. Or add extra alphabets - Sexxxxxxy. If that’s done, you can say Super Sexy. And if that’s done too, you can be a little hatke and say OMG Maar Hi Daloge Kya. Don’t forget to add half a dozen exclamation marks for that eye popping effect. 
The most dramatic outpouring is a tribute to originality even if it means an orgasmic ‘Yes, Yes, Yes’. So much for a lame exercise, because the odds are that whatever you write will have little effect on your friendship. Unless, of course, you call her a wild Babboon.

Welcome to the social media hyperbole, where simple is boring and superlative cool. Which is why I like Whatsapp where one emoticon 👌can pretty much convey the Absototofantabulosomeness of it all. 

So, I’m watching this video sent by a friend whose son is dabbling with stand-up comedy. After I say it’s hilarious, even though it’s pretty ‘meh’, I scroll down the comments. One lady who is who is ‘Literally Splitting at the Seams’ hasn’t smiled in the past one week. Another who is ‘Literally Dying’ is devoid of a funny bone. Silly me. If folks can ROFL, they can literally die. That’s the way a internet cookie crumbles. But for a generation that has recently learnt to ROFL, it’s tough. How do you process ‘Donkeys Balls’ which basically is an expression of disgust? 

It’s strange, but we never felt short of adjectives before the onslaught of social media. My heart goes out to food bloggers who cannot describe their labour of love as ‘Delicious’ because it is so un-appetizingly old-fashioned that their dish runs the odds of turning sour. ‘Tasty’ doesn’t work either because it amounts to saying nothing. And now that ‘Yummy’ is going the tiresome ‘Awesome’ route, how does one describe the lip-smacking scrumptious dish? Never mind. Don’t sweat it. We’ll find a way. Till then, make do with Yummilicious and Tastyyy!!!!
The easy way out of this hyperbole mess is to wear a funny cap. If you can say something witty, you don’t need to dress in hyperbole, add extra alphabets or unload a bagful of exclamation marks. 

The trigger for writing this post is a short story I read on a blog. It’s an emotional story with an innovative twist towards the end. And I’m wondering how to praise and seek acceptance on a public platform. Given that there are fifty odd comments and being repetitive is not an option, I scroll down the comments. One lady says that her heart is pounding, eyes are watering, and that her brain is literally exploding after the unexpected climax. Literally exploding, really? I give up.

In an article, writer Charlie Brooker says that the online world has subconsciously converted everyday conversation into a form of exaggerated entertainment. Nothing wrong at all. But you have to, “Perform, entertain, exaggerate. Oversteer and oversell, all the time. And of course in this increasingly binary world, if good equals amazing, bad equals catastrophic. Any disappointment, any setback, anyone who steps out of line – all instantly labelled the Worst Thing Ever.” 

Indeed, if exaggeration is the official language of the internet, innovation is an inherent need. Go ahead and add an extra ‘s’ in Yesss or convert it into an Yasss for that feeling of wholesome agreement. Pre-fixing a ‘Super’ will do too. As will adding an ‘iest’ to whatever you are feeling. Just don’t say shittiest blog post ever. And no Donkeys Balls either. 
I might die, like literally.

Image Courtesy:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

No Theme for a Dream

There are moments when I miss being crazy about someone, something. Anything. It’s not that the Dil doesn’t dhak dhak. It does. But it just doesn’t say dhak-dhak-go.

I’m talking about fandom. Not being a fan of any celebrity or a team, I’m clueless about what being an avid fan is. And I’m not exactly proud of it, heavens no. I mean, I’ve seen my son save money to go to Europe to watch Arsenal play. And I know of friends who will happily endure hail and sun to watch their favourite star. 

What then, could be the reason for this cold detachment? Is it because my Leo smugness stops me from being starry eyed? Or is it genetic? 

There are, of course, reasons for doubting my genes. As a teen, I remember the excitement when Hema Malini was shooting in the vicinity. When giggly friends flashed their autograph books, I succumbed to peer-pressure. Eighties was a time when most men would do anything to get a glimpse of ‘dream girl’. So the following day, when dad was getting ready for work, I tried my luck, “Papa, Hema Malini is shooting close by. Don’t you want to meet her?” 
To which he said, “Why should I meet her? She can come and meet me if she wants.” 
I thought he was joking. But he added solemnly, “But only over the weekend.” 

As I huddle across a bonfire of memories, I’m reminded of meeting Rajiv Gandhi at Vigyan Bhawan and Vinod Khanna at an airport. While other girls etched the moment in Kodak, I couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to push my way to get a picture. 
This is not to say my childhood was devoid of silly crushes and heartthrobs. Like regular teens, there were posters of movie stars and sportsmen for they joined the dots between dreams, hopes and aspirations. Yet, for some reason, adulation in all its waxing and waning shades lurked only in the shadows. 

Cut to present. We are watching Australian Open on television. The husband is cheering for Federer, the son for Nadal. When Federer wins the first set, the young man goes into a shell. The tension is palpable. If Federer wins, we go out for dinner declares the senior. Why not go out for dinner regardless of the outcome, I say. Since I want peace to win, I repeat, ‘Haha we are here to watch good tennis, both are equally good, both deserve to win….blah blah’. There is glacial silence. So I say I’m kidding, I have my favourite too. But I won’t tell. I look more sheepish than sheep. Finally when Federer wins the line call and the trophy, the young man finds refuge in his room. No dinner for me, he mutters. And the senior FedEx fan is happy for the entire state of Haryana. 
So much for good tennis.

Why get emotionally involved with someone you’ve never met? I really couldn’t care less if Salman goes scot-free, behind the bars or fathers a new baby Kardashian. I really couldn’t care less if Raees crosses Dangal’s earnings, does better than Sultan or wins an Oscar. All I want is a good movie or a great game. No heartbreaks, no heartaches.
That said, Indians are perhaps the most emotionally involved fans in the whole wide world. Priyanka Chopra confirmed this in her recent 3076th interview with an American talk show host. Above all, a South Indian fan is the very definition of the word ‘fan’. Nowhere in the world do hundreds of people die of shock when their idol dies. The rest of the world, including Justin Bieber fans can never dream of constructing his temple or tearing his posters if he names his baby Taimur.
Whatever it is, look at the bright side. If you are not a Jabra fan, you never have to get stuck in a stampede when SRK waives at you from the Rajdhani. You never have to skip dinner because your favorite team lost a nail-biter- unless it’s India. On second thoughts, eat less, why skip? And you never have to suffer a panic attack when you see your muse in flesh and blood.

It’s final. As I wobble into antiquity, I’m not running after anyone. Not that it matters, or they care, but if ShahRukh or Salman and Federer or Nadal want to drop in for a cup of tea, they are welcome home. But only over a weekend. After ten, before eight.

Image Courtesy: