Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sizing up Europe's men

This appeared on this week.

While on a business trip to Europe last week, in addition to the usual breathing in the foreign air, soaking in the marvelous architecture and coming to terms with bizarre menu options, I couldn’t help but notice the sartorial segregation of men at work. From the airport to the hotel and from coffee shops to restaurants, three major circles of businessmen were evident: Europeans, Indians and Americans. Spotting Indians is rarely challenging but even for the remaining two categories, one didn’t even have to be in the vicinity to overhear the accent. You could tell them apart by the way they dressed.

It’s incredible how trends vary so much by continent. The European look was the most hard-hitting of them all. It was the skinny look all the way - slim fit shirts with buttons that looked like they’d pop if anybody dare inhale, even slimmer pants paired with funky cardigans, edgy belts and intriguing scarves. Eyewear was reminiscent of Mad Men, shoes were elongated with tapered toes and there wasn’t a dull colour in sight. If there's anyone who can pull of a baby pink or a snazzy purple shirt with steel silver pants in an office environment and still impress the crowd with a presentation on emerging trends on mobile apps, it's those from Western Europe. They even rocked colored sweaters and man bags.

Americans, although sharply dressed, majorly lost points on the edgy quotient. They stuck to conventions – dark, plain or striped suits with shirts in expected colors paired with power ties and aviators. The very adventurous one’s had on a sports coat. Score! When they walked alongside their European counterparts, it was hard to not notice the yards and yards of additional fabric that was used to construct their pants. The ones with pleats gave the illusion of being bubble pants. Skinny who?

Indian businessmen weren't too far behind the Americans. Some stuck to standard boring suits, the rest showed up in neutral coloured shirts and pants that didn't seem to get along with those shirts one bit. Black shoes, black socks, black laptop bag - you get the drift. Formula driven isn't so bad in theory but oh so lackluster and blah when it is across the board.

Dear Indian businessmen, I don’t mean to be harsh and I know you probably have gotten thumbs up on your dressing style by your colleagues and your mom thinks you look like a rock star but look at it through my unforgiving eyes and you might just cringe. I have one word for you – GQ. Flip through those pages with half as much dedication as you flip the financial magazines, take those tips seriously, infuse some pizzazz and you might just like what you see in the mirror. A touch of style never harmed
a man.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Perpetually late? You ain't alone.

An excerpt from my novel.

I embarked upon the newest journey of my life by boarding the right train strictly following my old man's instructions. The flashboard at King’s Cross station indicated that my connection was late by five minutes giving me a break from obsessing about the first five minutes at work. The opportunist that I was learning to be from Riya, I decided to jump in line for a steamy cappuccino. I could survive on caffeine, did I mention? Caffeine and love was what I’d tell potential love interests but mostly caffeine. Tapping my feet, I impatiently calculated the process in my head: twenty-five seconds to order, forty-five seconds to process the transaction, stop gap of sixty seconds while the cappuccino was being made, another sixty seconds for picking up the drink and running to the train bringing it to a grand total of three minutes and ten seconds with still one minute and fifty seconds to spare in which I could find me a seat on the train next to a cute guy with a pierced tongue and tell him all about my brand new job at Hues. I had a thing for pierced tongue and it wasn’t just curiosity. But the grandma in front of me with her red lipstick and huge pearls had a different agenda in mind for me – to prove how naïve I was and how misplaced my calculation was. It wasn’t her order of four drinks that I was particularly opposed to. It seriously aggravated me when people were not well-versed with the contents of their handbag. Minutes of frantic search and fumbling later, much to my grief, she pulled out a cheque book. I think I’d written my final exam paper faster than the time it took her to fill that cheque which she so lovingly did. But wait, that wasn’t it. Suddenly, she had a light bulb moment and she decided to apply for a frequent buyer card while ensuring that the four drinks she had just bought would indeed be registered in her credit on that card. I was about to take a U-turn and run when I finally heard, ‘What drink can I get started for you, miss?’

My take-offs were generally flawless. It was somewhere midway through the transit where I tended to screw up. If there was one class I needed to go back to, it was time management because I missed the connection and after all the drama, somehow I reached the office by 9.25. Twenty-five minutes late on my first day. Shameful was not the word. Story of my life. I held the coveted record of never been able to reach on time anywhere. It was never a deal breaker though. I always pacified myself saying that once I had achieved the impossible and stumbled upon a career I fancied, I’d be a changed person. Brand spanking new. But here I was, on day one of my first job that I’d tried so hard to get, late just because I couldn’t resist one more frothy drink.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Swiss snaps

I got no Swiss bank accounts to gloat over, sadly. But I do have some Swiss treasure... memories of this gorgeous country. Some images from my recent trip below.

The fatal fete

An excerpt from my debut novel, Live from London.

The party was a riot. Everyone we’d invited had come bringing more uninvited people along as was the norm in dorm parties, turning it into an event the size of a prime minister’s address. Free alcohol needed no invites, I guessed. We were rather pleased by the number of people dressed up for the theme at such a short notice. It was an impressive sight. Nemo was making out in the corridor with blue crab; giant turtle and sea horse were drunk and singing; a gang of seals was making a mess in one of the bedrooms; dolphin had started on the karaoke machines without Riya’s permission and was singing along; an eel-lobster duo had locked themselves in the orchid-themed bathroom; a whale had launched an unsightly food attack and a hundred varieties of fish were dancing in the backyard.

I hadn’t smiled and hooted so much in ages. The spontaneous karaoke sessions, embarrassing people with ridiculous costumes, shaking a leg on catchy beats, cracking up at funny jokes, gorging on junk food; it was a fiesta. The clock struck two in the morning, five hours after the party had started, and no one seemed in a hurry to call it a night. It suddenly occurred to Riya that one of the neighbours had complained about loud music in the past and the deadline to dial it down was 2 a.m.

‘That’s it, guys! I’m killing the music. But here’s to board . . . ’ She tripped while carrying out a dozen board games stacked over each other from the game room. Her alcohol tolerance level was way lower than what she thought, which always resulted in her crashing. Not that anyone in the room was in their senses. People howled and attacked the board games.

Another hour later, it was almost time to wrap up when somehow someone dared someone into doing something wild and that’s how everyone got onto the truth-or-dare game. My feet were aching severely from the high heels, the generously greased food made me want to throw up and three shots of tequila had me buzzed. I was in no mood to play ‘dare’. I just wanted to go home and lay supine. But that was far from what happened.

After all the drama and cheering and screaming, it dawned on me that somehow I had been dared in front of fifty people from college to sing on Britain’s Got Talent, the reality TV talent show. I had been dared, and I had lost.

I brushed it off as one of those things that none of the drunks would remember the next morning. But, much to my shock and stern disapproval, I had managed to become the topic of conversation for everyone who had come to the party as well as the rest. Sarah, I suspected, was taking the lead in spreading this piece of non-news like wild fire. Sarah was my only friend who was very highly accomplished. She was a professional ballet dancer, a student of MENSA with an IQ of 145 and could put most learned people to shame when she discussed macro-economic policies in the Third World countries. Gorgeousness oozed from her. She stood tall at five feet nine inches with a slender frame and sexy auburn locks. Her periodic articles in The Sun, our campus newspaper, were thought-provoking and brilliant. She was on the board of The Sun and I would never have guessed how capable she was of misusing her power, until now.

Riya giggled and showed me the latest issue of The Sun that was bound to bring utter darkness into my world. There it was; an oddly charming picture of me with messed-up hair wearing a grey tank paired with graphic pyjamas, playing my red guitar while jumping on my bed from one of our slumber parties under the headline ‘Senior from Literary Arts to go on Britain’s Got Talent’. It got me severely aggravated and I could feel fumes rising from my head. My knee-jerk reaction was to kill Sarah, strangle her until she could breathe no more. But the world around me thought of it as the most exciting piece of news they had heard all day. I heard giggles, cheers, ‘congratulations’ and words of inspiration. I wanted to bury myself.

What followed was nothing short of a movement on campus like no other I had seen in a long time. Everyone was dreadfully determined to send me on that show. WHY?

Photo credit:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hail H-visas

This appeared on yesterday.

It's time for fashion week committees to overlook the conventional seasons and take note of the political season because it's the hottest of them all. In various parts of the world, decade old rulers are been overthrown as new stylish blood makes its way in. Here in the US, the presidential race picks up more steam every day. The reasons include everything from outrageous claims to outrageous proposals and everything in between by race runners.

Here’s one intriguing story. A Republican candidate recently suggested, hold your breath, that the U.S. negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement with India. The politico in the spotlight is Jon Huntsman. If you must ask, he's a center-right conservative or what I call fully flexible. Of course that's only the case before adequate caffeine has kicked into my system.

The million dollar question is, does the state he once governed (Utah) sound more inconsequential to you than the politician himself? If you have trouble remembering his American name, get this. He has a Chinese name too. Hong Bopei. I want two names!

While you mull over that, here's the scoop. The latest trend, just like no-show socks for men, is presidential candidates submitting job proposals to create more employment opportunities in the nation. Mitt Romney (the robotic presidential candidate) submitted one. John Boehner (house speaker) did. So did Jon Huntsman and surprise surprise, India was tossed around like olive oil in a mixed green salad. He made a great point that since 95 percent of the world's customers live outside U.S. borders, opening more markets for American businesses spark immediate growth. He also suggested that Washington must immediately start discussions with India to end in a bilateral free trade agreement strengthening US and India’s relationship. Of course I agree, given the limited foreign policy knowledge I possess. Which reminds me, it's time I quit the 'I have more foreign policy knowledge than Sarah Palin' group on Facebook. It was an impulse; it's done her no harm and done me no good.

Jon also said that in New Delhi amongst other cities, US competitors are making the hard choices that will help assure their children have better lives. I'm willing to bet my new SLR that he hasn't had time to catch up on what hard choices New Delhi has been making recently from Kiran Bedi’s ghoonghat act to Rahul’s MIA act to Sushma Swaraj’s dance act to the PM’s silence act. Someone give him access to Indian mainstream media, please.

But let’s get to the meat. Imagine a bilateral trade agreement between India and US. Taxes, tariffs and quotas - all lifted, reduced or restricted. Imagine. No H1. No H visa! H-visas are the iPods of visas. Entire ancillary industries have been created, from lawyers and body-shoppers to fortune tellers who thrive on this visa. One day, all gone. I shudder to think of what will the immigration population obsess with. It's the single most common factor that binds millions of Indians in the US.

But let me not get ahead of myself here and get all carried away with proposals by the Manchurian Candidate, as the media refers to him. Chances are, most Americans haven't heard of him and never may. Hail H-visas!

Here is the link to the article on

The last laugh

This appeared on in August '11.

If you haven't been keeping up with news from Capitol Hill, get this. Exceptional performance by people of Indian origin in the White House from the Director of Social Innovation to the Intergovernmental Affairs seems to have persuaded Mr. Obama to engage Indian stand-up comics in special White House events. In an upcoming reception, seven Indian comics are scheduled to perform.

OK, I made that up but it can easily happen. There's been an explosion of ethnic comics in the US in the past decade and at the forefront of this trend are South Asian Americans.

When my non-Indian (Filipino and South Korean, to be precise) colleagues started throwing around jokes by Russell Peters and Aziz Ansari and made me the target, unabashedly so, I knew I had to do a deep dive and get ahead in the game. Looking for Filipino and South Korean comedians sounded like too much work so I went the Indian comedian route and voilà, was I in for a treat. Not only did I stumble upon humor that made me laugh so hard my neighbors came knocking, but it was more universal than I'd imagined and gave me plenty of fodder for payback.

I caught up with one such comic in LA. Declared by Russell Peters as one of the only two U.S. based Indian "comics to watch," Rajiv Satyal, of, is the small, bespectacled Indian guy from Ohio whose witty and TV-clean act covers everything from racial (not racist, as he graciously clarifies) issues to soap bottles to his favorite topic - himself. He has repeatedly performed in sold-out shows across the U.S. and from Switzerland to Oman to India. Ethnic humor, he claims, has been evolving at a rapid pace, but South Asians in this country are not running out of material. He confirms that every Indian comedian worth his salt isn’t restricted to doing ethnic humor – quite a few are humorists who happen to be ethnic.

Indians in the US have long been on the receiving end of jokes but the tide seems to have turned now. You can spot them being comfortably on the giving end of jokes as well. From Aziz Ansari to Arj Barker and several in between, the comedy space is quickly getting filled with some zest.

They’re funny, a tad irreverent, their accents are impeccable and their observations about events in general and ethnic groups in particular qualify them as equal opportunity comics. Rajiv says a lot of South Asians are not only funny, they’re also broadly appealing - brown fits snugly between black and white and they appear to seamlessly bridge the gap between the Caucasian majority and the colored minorities.

For all those who want to be funny in real life, he points out that not many women care to be around a joker perpetually. But try to get out of your comfort zone and put an entertaining spin to your observations and opinions and you might just get women flocking to you.

Here is a link to the article on

Live from London by Parinda Joshi: book reviews

Links to my -
Times of India -
The Vault -

Book reviews:
* a partial list below

Review on The South Asian Times - a US newspaper
“The novel is essentially a tale of the London lady who must reconstruct her life for what seems like the third time in these 204 pages-but with most difficulty in a country she has always been so disconnected from. This isn't your average, run-of-the-mill novel-and it certainly isn't one with farfetched elements governing its credibility. Rather, the struggles of the protagonist as they relate to her familial life are very well described and believable. The reader is able to garner a complete sense of Nishi's thoughts as a direct result of her often over-analytical ways.”
“Joshi employs clever language and literary elements that turn otherwise ordinary situations into escapades.”
“Live from London is able to harness the most basic yet important parts of a typical Indian student's life-love, family, career and social etiquette-and touch on all of them in an authentic way. That is perhaps the best selling point of the novel.”
“Joshi uses Nishi as a sole representative of issues that South Asians would enjoy reading about because they can relate to them.”
“As a result of the realism portrayed throughout the book, Joshi's work and writing can be complimented. That element is essentially what transforms a novel full of otherwise ordinary events into an epic journey through the protagonist's life. Add to that the author's story-telling methods, and the book ends up as a quick read.” Complete review here Volume 5 Issue 8

Review on the blog - A Chronicle of Dreams"The author captures the moments with candid humour that often belies the tribulations and pain beneath. The conversationalist style coupled with a fast paced storyline makes for a quick, entertaining read. I would recommend this book for those looking for a good story well told, who want a modern fairytale with its sad moments." Complete review here

Review in The Sunday Guardian"Set against the backdrop of the British music industry, it has all the elements—fun, friends, gossip, romance, struggle and emotions — that would get you through the course of a three-hour flight." Complete review here

Review on the blog – Life under microscope"I just loved this book. In fact it’s one of the best chick lit books from an Indian author after 'Almost Single' by Advaita Kala. The book has all the ingredients of a typical masala Bollywood movie and I wouldn’t be surprised if some producer /director got the rights of this book and made it into a movie. The author has a very chic and sophisticated writing style which gives the book a whole new refreshing feel to it. " Complete review here

Review by
“The author Parinda Joshi has a decent writing style that makes the narrative descriptive yet makes it flow smoothly. The story is packaged well with an interesting premise and a refreshing feel. To conclude, pick this up when in mood of a breezy read. The book would not let you down.” Complete review here

Review on Flash News Today"There are scenes of stolen moments and funny repartees to develop the romance between the two. The story is alive and very contextual. It talks of dreams – dreams that seem far fetched but a little nudge in the right direction makes the dream come true. The author maintains a positive voice even when the protagonist is in despair." Complete review here

Review on the blog – The Hungry Reader“My take on the book was that it is a refreshing change from the innumerable books penned by Indian authors on the scene today. This book did make sense to me in some parts and I enjoyed the wit and sarcasm that seeped in at times. Live from London has a great storyline. At times I felt that the narrative was rushed but that I can overlook if the overall structure is good enough. This book is nonetheless a breezy read if you want a break from the literary fiction genre.” Complete review here

Review on
"In short, I loved the book. Although this is Parinda's first book, her blog is total fun too! Live from London is written in two different settings - London and India and I relished both points of view. It was actually done quite well and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the different angles of the story and the depiction of the big, fat Indian wedding blending in with Nishi's spirited personality. The book has cute romance and the usual chick lit elements that makes it a fun read. The story became more alive with other vibrant characters and some interesting twists and turns and moved along at a pace that entices the reader to keep reading. Overall I was very impressed with Parinda's debut novel and highly recommend it to everyone!" Complete review here

Review on
"Parinda has done a tremendous work with the emotions. One, while reading the book, can actually feel the situation and can feel oneself spell-bounded by the magic of emotions. This is the best thing I liked about Parinda’s book. In the end also, when Nick meets Nishi in her dressing room, then also Parinda played very well with words. On the whole, story was breathtaking but ending could be something better." Complete review here

Review on"I never expected such a good book from Rupa Publications. Author Parinda has written a good one. A really good debut effort. The content and plot is something very different and can't be easily found in the stable of Indian writing." Complete review here

Review on

"My fav part was also the strong undercurrent of subtle and mature humour that one could feel while reading. No childish jokes or desperate attempt to sound funny and no in your face humour. Strong yet subtle one liners, clever description of scenarios and characters." Complete review here

Review by a reader on“This medley of love has ample of humor and romance and drama to keep the readers interested. There were many instances I could connect with. Even the characters were funny and quirky and relatable. I’m sure there was ample research or background check done by the author before setting the plot. Good work here. There is potential in the author’s writing skill and definitely a taste for ideation. I hope she grows further with her writing.” Complete review here

Review on the blog – Myspace
"To say that the book was refreshing would be an understatement. It was a huge welcome change from the regular campus capers, which have bored me to death so far! Parinda has done her homework well, because she has captured the music scene in UK and USA quite accurately. And the supporting characters lend extra charm to the story. There are chuckling moments too, running throughout the book." Complete review here

Review on

"Light-hearted, free spiritied, adventorous, all things sugar and spice for Nishi, a girl caught in the music world, her passion, her dream to succeed, well written in this book. You will thouroughly enjoy Nishi's journey and maybe even get inspiration to follow in her foot-steps!! A good entertaininer from start to finish, hoping More Nishi adventures from the author.The author has also captured the essence of London and Mumbai and that will strike a familiar chord!!! " Complete review here

Review on"The book is an out-n-out entertainer with sporadic doses of humor, romance and introduction to some interesting new hindi words (with translation for those who aren't acquainted with the language)." Complete review here

Review on the blog – Scribbled by GB

"I just completed the book and here I am typing the review of it; fresh and green. 'Live From London' by Parinda Joshi was truly a page-turner, I should say. I loved every wee bit of the book." Complete review here

Review on the blog – Rav’s world
"The book isn't all about the love story but also about struggles, family, friends and success. It also reaffirms our faith that whatever happens, indeed happens for good. It was a pleasure to enjoy something different in this book." Complete review here
Review on

"A light and fun read with well defined characters and a smooth story flow. I absolutely loved Nishi and her journey. A great debut from the author." Complete review here

Review on the blog – Observer’s Paradise
"Professions that haven’t been the norm in India have had a huge appeal factor in the recent past. A career in music is one such profession. With the influx of reality music shows, a huge number of young bees find themselves fantasizing about being a pop star. The main character of this story, Nishi Gupta, is one such girl: talented and ambitious." Complete review here

Review on
"Journeys always make for a good story. There's exposure to an extensive cast of characters in London and 'modern' India as it is now widely referred to as. It's written well too. It made me want a boyfriend just like her's although I'm not one bit certain I could handle him. Bit of a jerk. I'm no fan of bad boys. Or am I? In conclusion, a fun and breezy read. Don't walk into it expecting the world and you won't be disappointed." Complete review here

Review on the blog – The Broken Nib
"To her credit the author has built upon the character of Nishi Gupta really well. Being in my early twenties I could easily relate to it. Nishi is smart, sassy, confident and defiant. The book is enjoyable and makes for a light and pleasant one time read. If you are apprehensive about getting bored on your next train journey you might consider taking this book along with you." Complete review here

Aiiiight people. I hope that helps. Feel free to hit me up if you have a question or just wanna say hi. And if you get around to reading, please post a review. Toodles, Parinda

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Superman - that's you

This appeared on yesterday.

You’d think being a successful Hollywood star would more than suffice to surpass most people’s wildest dreams. Not for James Franco. I was at an event recently where he was promoting a movie (yes, I breathed the same air, and no, I didn’t faint) he’s written, directed and produced, titled The Broken Tower. Incidentally, he plays the lead role. It took me more than a few web searches to believe that he’s not just a charmer, a superstar and “the sexiest man alive” as a popular magazine once declared him. He’s also an author, painter, performance artist, has attended six universities including Columbia and Yale and might enroll for his second PhD next year. All this while working on several big banner movies including one with a certain Ms. Pinto. And hosting the Oscars and volunteering for a charity.

He isn’t the lone contender in the ‘overambitious Hollywood glitterati’ category: there’s Seth MacFarlane and Neil Patrick Harris for starters.

But India, of course, has an answer for these distinguished men. Farhan Akhtar: Filmmaker, script writer, actor, playback singer, lyricist, film producer and television host. More recently, Aamir Khan can lay claim to more simultaneous identities than a ventriloquist.

What’s with these talented men with inordinate superhuman qualities that make the rest of them look bad? And how on earth do they have it all? The bottom line is, with some raising the bar so high on overachievement, when have you really ‘arrived’?

Now gentlemen, this is more trouble for the average man than he might fathom. Women look and learn, and by extension apply twisted logic, set up similar expectations from their other halves or boyfriends and demand nothing less. If not writing, then writing cheques for them/their friends and families; if not directing, then cooking; if not producing, then doing repair jobs around the house; if not acting, then acting as a personal chauffer; if not a six pack, then at least sartorially inclined; if not a playback singer, then being able to be the life of a party; if not a comedian then, well, that one is not optional. You get the drift.

So dear men, with deepest sympathies, I suggest you fasten your seatbelt and shift to the fast lane. You’ve just been enrolled into the overachiever race without your consent, and protesting will not work. You might as well enjoy the ride. Don’t be tempted to think it’s it an early-life crisis, and you might get quite get a kick out of where it takes you.

Here's a link to the article on

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chasing the fantasy

This appeared on today

It hasn’t been much longer since Thor, the American superhero film based on a comic book character got released. The Norse powerhouse is still going strong at the box office. As with every other superhero film, this too had invaded my personal space via obsession by all the men in my vicinity. But the pirates are here to save me that trauma now.

I’ve been gleefully unbitten by superhero films bug but I’m afraid the mode is unsustainable. If nothing else, I need them to safeguard my dignity during water cooler discussions. When someone’s passionately talking about how cool the mosaic design of Asgard, Thor’s mythical realm is, I don’t stand a chance with how skittish I found the tone of Bridesmaids movie. It’s not just superhero characters that gets men glued. It’s a variety of characters that capture their hearts. Year after year, Hollywood has delivered one or more such mega blockbusters to get the men hooked with their collection of action set pieces and thrill a la amusement park rides. The variety is immense but the patterns aren’t all that unpredictable.

If you look at the past decade, 2000 was the year of the mutants. X-Men hit it big. 2001 started a new era of sorts with Hobbits and Wizards taking center stage until 2003. The spectacular Lord of the Rings trilogy released each year 2001 onwards, which I tried to like except that the faceless evil continued giving me nightmares. Wizards weren’t much further behind. 2001 and 2002 was their year as well with two films on Harry Porter. I think my threshold for fear might be way lower than someone half my size because even the Harry Porter movies sent shivers down my spine during half the scenes. Zombies made an appearance in 2004 in a couple of films whereas wizards remained strong for two successive years around then. Finally, the pattern was broken in 2006 with the uber sexy pirate Captain Sparrow who won over through negotiations and wit instead of weapon or force, both on and off screen. Wizards returned again the following year and have continued, albeit with weaker impact with each successive film. And then, a new phenomenon hit the world. Those bloodiest blood suckers! 2008 and 2009 have been the years of vampires and werewolves but with any luck, Twilight killed those and we’re done for good. Before we knew it, it was zombies again with Thor.

Will the zombie phase continue? The genre seems to be slowly devolving. Zombies combined with vampires? Zompires? God I hope not. Captain Sparrow is chasing the fountain of youth in his latest but if critics are to be believed, this movie is nothing to speak of and it might just be the end of the series. What else could come up? Gnomes? Just kidding. Cowboys? Ninjas? The Hobbit series starts next year and with Orlando Bloom, it’s sure to gain cult status. If characters in real life were half as interesting, we wouldn’t be leaning so much on the fictional ones. Glenn Beck, Charlie Sheen and Rebecca Black – what say?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Stereotypes Inc.

Lately, I’ve been getting the feeling that I know a lot more people than I actually do. Except that most of them are semi-fictional. It’s got more to do with my interpretation of these people than the reality of it. One or more characters in the new age Indian novels I read, protagonists in the latest Hindi movies I watch, contestants in reality shows on MTV I’m hooked to, a handful of Indian celebs, you get the drift.

I wouldn’t say we’re a nation full of stereotypes. Or maybe we are as much as any other nation is. US media has blatantly drawn from these formulas as is often visible in roles our peeps play in television series and movies. Series like ‘Outsourced’ are huge beneficiaries of these formulas. It’s trickled down to people too. I often overhear conversations like ‘we need to hire more Indians to fix our technology issues’ (and I can’t decide if it’s because we’re more do-ers than visionaries). Or joke after joke on Americans speaking with an Indian call center employee with a thick accent and a totally non-believable American name. We don’t thrive on pseudo-names and identities, do we?

It isn’t just the US media. Certain stereotypes projected by Indian mass media have been in existence for a while now. The girl who wears short skirts invariably flirts/is stupid/pouts and can’t ever be a scientist. The coder dude at a software firm is often boring/gullible/loser and can’t ever smell good. The annoying boss is always ugly/bald/paunchy and can’t ever dance well. The god-fearing roommate in dorms is often a wimp/poor conversationalist/broke and can’t ever be trained in martial arts. The pushy punju aunty lives so she can get people married/be materialistic/perpetually silence her husband and can’t ever be skinny.

Newbies break free from age old moulds and chose new paths but soon form a cluster of people who fit the new formula and before you know it, stereotypes have evolved. The photographer dude is always the urban alpha male with an enviable lifestyle. The radio jockey girl is cheery and animated. The girl working in a creative field in urban areas essentially over-indulges in smoking and alcohol. When a married man cheats, the girlfriend is invariably shallow, sexy and materialistic. The guitarist dude who’s into alternative rock is in all probability a rebel with long hair. Young journalists are habitually obsessive compulsive critics of everything.

Stereotypes are important in fiction and cinema for characters that are so familiar, the need to describe them is not felt for the reader/movie-goer to understand the type. I’d think that the time to use stereotypes is when a person makes a very brief appearance and you want to quickly convey exactly what this character is like without having the time to fully develop it. The time to avoid stereotypes is . . . well, all the rest of the time. Stereotypes are often a sign of uninspired, unimaginative or lazy writing. Agree?

A party in the desert

This appeared on few weeks back.

If you’re quite the jet setter and looking for the next compelling reason to travel with an exclamation point, like watching a volcano erupt or being a part of a carnival or seeing the cherry trees blossom, here’s one. Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, commonly known as Coachella is a three day mega annual festival with a lineup, as they say, to impress the snobbiest of music snobs, starting this weekend.

Coachella regularly features in the top ten music festivals across the world amongst others like Glastonbury in UK, Fuji Rock in Japan, Primavera in Spain, etc. It is hosted in the Coachella Valley, about two hours east of Los Angeles.

Being a two time partaker, it continues to lure and enchant me. It’s got enough artsy edge and runs smoothly over three days and nights. And it’s got something for everyone. It features several genres of music including alternative rock, indie and electronic music and there’s ginormous sculptural art to add punch to the remarkable line up. It’s not uncommon to see bands like Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Kanye West, The Black Keys, Interpol, The Chemical Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Duran Duran and several other eminent and the not-so-famous ones be on top of their game and give stellar performances. And then once in a while, you’ll see, like I did, Madonna ask the crowd “Should I take my pants off?” Don’t ask me how that ended for it caused a stampede and I nearly got crushed. The location unquestionably adds the mystique factor. It’s against the backdrop of the Mojave Desert and with 60,000 die-hard music lovers and 40d Celsius, it’s as hot as it gets.

Dozens of tents are spread out across this vast area so simultaneous performances don’t bleed into each other’s space. It’ll make you walk miles between stages to see what you want. But with all the alcohol you’ll end up drinking, it won’t hurt to get some exercise and fresh air to counterbalance the debauchery. For those who can’t deal with the crowds, there’s an exceptional VIP area with leather couches, a fancy bar and even a powder room for the ladies and you never know which celebrity you might run into there. By the end of day one, the environment gets electrifying and contagious and you’ll love the vibes you get from fellow attendees. Whatever you do, don’t camp if you want to avoid the inevitable running into drugged up or sloshed people.

If you’re like me and not overly familiar with all the bands, you’ll leave the festival on Sunday armed with an entirely new repertoire of good music from a variety of genres that you may not have known about outside of the festival.

At the end of it all, you will be in a daze, sleep deprived and exhausted, your legs will ache from walking a ton and your thumbs will be tired from texting, you'll be hung over and might feel like you've lost your hearing ability from the speakers blasting music but you'll have experienced something phenomenal.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Yo! It's slang time

Epiphanies have a tendency of occurring when you're sleepless, miffed and have a bird's nest for your hair or may be its just me. I was on an international flight recently, which much to my dismay, had turned into the likes of a chain smoker, taking numerous breaks from flying every few hours. Between trying to meet my movie target for the year, food that seemed flavored with sedatives and countless security checks at every stop, somewhere on the Asian skies, the in-flight instructions seamlessly changed from English to Hindi. That's when it hit me. Hindi, our beloved national language, the language that unites us, the language that we binge on, the language our moral police swears by, needs a few new interesting and may I add, young, entrants.

I jolt awake as "deviyon" and "sajjano" felt on my unwary ears. Trust me there wasn't one single devi (me included; I pride in having no self delusions) on that flight and you can forget about sajjano. I gave 'em all a good look so I know. Just us mortals. I get the respect element that's characteristic of the culture but come on! Wouldn’t it be so much nicer if it could get updated to something more colloquial and modern? It doesn't go with the red mini skirt and red lips uttering those words anyways. Then there’s "kursi ki peti". 'Seatbelt' and 'kursi ki peti' are reminiscent of an old hindi movie, twins separated at birth, one slick and one downtrodden. "Samaan kaksh" for overhead compartments is a whole different ballgame. It reminds me of a secretive room in a grand Mughal palace overflowing with gold and silver coins and precious pearls. "Kripya" gets the same verdict; too heavy duty to be used for a cushy request to lift window shades. It should be reserved to plead to deities for getting away with murder or something. Strangest of all, "electric upkaran". I mean, if you've taken the plunge, might as well go all the way.

No offense intended but I say we learn a thing or two from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) which is ever so evolving, adding new words to reflect effervescent changes in society and language. Words added to OED in the recent past, believe it or not, include bouncebackability, lookism, cyberslacking, threequel and blamestorming.

Internet and mobile messaging have drastically changed languages introducing a whole new set of popular jargons and abbreviations that form the Urban dictionary. Social media has taken this to another level now making it a way of life. As the Cheetah Girls once sang, "one world, one heart, one song, now and forever". One song, it should be.

I don't mean to imply that we go all out like Cebu Pacific Air (from the Philippine's) and get their hostesses to dance to Lady Gaga's while demonstrating in-flight safety instructions. But if there was a test, I bet those traveling on Cebu Pacific would prove to be a more attentive lot. Just saying.

Dance baby dance

This appeared on today.

I was at an ice hockey game recently. Just as I entered the arena, the referee dropped the puck between two opposing forwards and off began a terrific adrenalin pumping game. It was the usual: the barely there goals, the screams, the fights, an almost broken tooth on one of the wingers, caramel popcorn; the works. There was nothing there that I hadn't seen before or so I thought.

During penalties or stoppages, the Cheerleaders or Ice Girls as they're popularly knows as, would storm out like an avalanche on their skates with cleaning gear, their midriffs bared, sweeping the ice that’d pile up on the rink. While the male audiences around opted for sleaze infused verbal outbursts ("yeah clean it hard baby"), my eyes rested on a certain cheerleader doing the rounds. It took me two rounds of them sweeping to figure out the interest factor. She was our very own! Desi facial features (I was in the front row and got a good close up once as she stormed passed me), long dark hair and however much I try to steer clear of stereotyping, what appeared to be classic desi curves. So bizarre!

The concept has been alive in the West way too long for anyone to give it a second thought. I’d once come across a six year old cheerleader with such kickass moves, I suspected she might turn into a one girl army and put the pro ones out of business soon. It's no pom-poms and pep rallies here; its big business. Some high schools offer it as a credited course and several colleges offer scholarships for it. I might get in trouble for writing this but they make it look like they practice more than the team they cheer for.

It's been a rather new thing for India since IPL came around. With movie stars and industrialists stepping forward to have stake in cricket teams, it was hardly surprising that some elements of entertainment were introduced. As with anything new and provocative, this also got its share of bad publicity, outrage and condemning. But resilience is built upon surviving criticism and fighting back as Shahrukh Khan had displayed by referring to cheerleading as a 'sport'. I don’t get why there’s no room for Indian cheerleaders on cricket teams though. From item song extras to dancing on the field, the transition has been seamless for the exotic ones. The thick whitening lotions for men and women won’t let our obsession with light skin die, will it?

But this reverse trend had me part cringe, part rejoice. Like most other significant or otherwise developments in the world, I probably slept through the shift when one, possibly several Indian girls strived to make a mark in an unusual profession on foreign soil.

Later that weekend I googled that ice hockey team's cheerleader webpage. As is the fate of half my stories, she wasn't Indian, just looked the part. Yeah, I tend to go too far.

Here's a link to the article on

Thursday, January 6, 2011

India: a survivor's guide

My post on today.

My American friends, Fussball and Zealot (names changed to convey personality traits) had just returned from a long vacation to India so I invited them over for dinner to hear about it.

They'd spent 8 weeks mostly traveling through hard-to-reach spots, everything from Leh to Gangtok to Andaman Islands. Fussball looked five shades darker, quite a deviation from his ultra pale complexion, which meant one could spot him in pictures now. Zealot looked happy with a deep inner glow, which meant her dream of hanging with Lamas on monastery porches had probably come true.

After the initial download of 'in awe' stories about the “breathtaking beauty, unique history, incredible architecture, scrumptious cuisine and hospitable culture” came the fun ones.

Fussball spared no details about all the conclusions he had drawn which he now wants to pass on as wisdom to other fellow travelers to India:
 Male passengers on overnight trains have mastered the art of synchronized snoring. It's deafening and frustrating but at least it's well choreographed. Carrying popcorn to toss in their open mouths can help momentarily.
 Use ‘Kumar’ as your last name while keeping your American first name intact and you’re guaranteed exceptional service in hotels, restaurants and public transport.
 In metros you’re just one of them but in rural areas, if they try to touch you, take your picture with their phone or run behind you, don’t fret. Return the favor and you'll either amuse them or scare them away.
 Inquisitiveness runs deep in the country so be prepared to divulge details anytime anywhere on everything from current relationship status to what you gain out of chewing on gum all day.
 Queues aren’t all that hard to figure out. Abandon all courtesies, “actively queue” and defend your position lest someone and his entire clan get ahead of you.
 If you lack horns and a tail, get real and don’t expect traffic to flow around you. Shout or get your vehicle to shout. Loudest one gets the right of way.
 Get your facts right. Ask someone if they speak Hindu and you might hear "I also speak Jewish, Islam and Christianity."
 There are times when “excuse me” may not work but “arrey bhaisaab” almost always does. You just gotta emote and say it right.
 Never question the inexplicable kick some guys get out of urinating on monuments. Dark corners of palaces, monuments and even temples across the country unmistakably smell of ammoniac. Move on.
 They are surprisingly empathetic to your digestive problems which you will have soon as you land. Blame your low immunity and food gluttony for that one.

Zealot had a rather sweet set of conclusions that included phrases like ‘joy in her heart' and ‘song on her lips' and was mesmerized by the exotic nature of it all.

Needless to mention, despite all the entertaining anecdotes, Fussball got served no dessert that night and Zealot got more than her share of it.

Here is a link to the article on