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.