An image too precious

Can you pick out three individuals from your life and think about  your image of them? Now then, I’m unsure whether you are going to share your list with me or not, so let me pull up a fairly generic selection from our collective experiences. Does that work?

The chap who knows that you – and countless others – have a crush on him

Your man, the dude, has caught you fawning over him. And you, like your other similarly smitten classmates/colleagues, haven’t mustered the courage to tell him that he looks like a billion dollars. So, what does the dude do? Raise the bar. Not for you to jump over, but to outdo himself. He brings on more enigma. A clever line here, a smirk there, and of course, making himself a little scarcer than he already is.  You end up convinced that he deserves all the adulation no doubt. But if there’s even a hint of curiosity inside you, you have to know more about him at any cost. You try to dig out more. If your dude is happily settled (not necessarily married, mind you), he’ll probably insulate his personal life from work; if he’s foraging about, he may likely play hide and seek. He will only present to you that side of himself that you first fell for. You finally decide to get closer to him and try to chat up a little more. Not much comes out of him. You gradually start wondering if you are really talking to a human. If you are not persistent enough, you let go and wash down your consternation with, wine probably? If you are of the other type, you take him head on, and say “hey, is this how you are all the time?” For which, the dude may say, “how?” You know he’s up to his evasive tricks when you say, “hell, I wonder if there’s anything more to you than just show off”. If that ticks him off, he will say, “bhenchod, dimaag ka dahi ho raha hai mera! Just what do you want?”

Whatever happened to the suave and smashing young man you salivated over? He still may be one, for all you know. But didn’t fit your image of him, right? Did we hear a burst??

Your sarcastic bossimgmgmt

So you have this manager who can never spare a sweet word for you. Even if he’s approving of your work, it will be with a sneer. Hard to say if he has complimented you. Like, “this is wonderful! Some precious talent you have, huh?” Now you don’t know if means that your talent is really precious, or if you have been hiding it all these days that nobody has noticed it.  But the same chap talks very cordially with others at his level. He’s probably nasty with juniors then. Maybe he has some soft corner for you after all. You think he will look out for you if you continue to deliver. You are cruising along, when one day by a stroke of bad luck you goof up in your work. And he has a go at you. With a vengeance. You then feel that you shouldn’t have given him the benefit of doubt at all. A few days later, you are at a dinner do with him, among others. The wound has healed. You think he might socialize with you and talk general things. But not a peep from him. You then walk up to the group he’s talking to amidst laughter and quietly blend in, whisky glass in hand. And in no time you hear him say, looking your way, “guys you need to involve our buddy here a little more in the strategy meetings. We need more people who can think. But hey, tell your wife you may get home late in the days to come huh? Let her not get worried” You are like, “really? Did he just show some concern, and also appreciate my work?” You try to catch him when he’s alone a few minutes later. He throws half a glance your way and moves away, appearing to responding to someone

Your favourite movie star

She’s vivacious, intelligent and dignified. She sounds just so right in all her interviews. You catch her at the inauguration ceremony of a huge store. She certainly all that she is known to be. You manage to shake hands with her. She is all smiles, but did she meet your eye for half a second even? Of course she has to satisfy a hundred other fans. But hell, what’s a handshake without proper eye contact? Do you mean anything at all to her? You wonder, what if you write to her. Would she respond? Yes, you should try that. You go home and turn on your iPad. Your fingers are raring to tap the keypad. But you just aren’t getting the words. And then something dawns upon you. How’s a fucking email gonna help when she gave herself away in real time!

City its people maketh

Where in India do you think you would do well and feel good about it?

One of this year’s urban thrillers, Powerplay by Parinda Joshi has its key protagonist, a high flying investment banker mulling over his ill luck in getting a companion for himself, having been on the lookout in all the cities he’s travelled to. However he deals with cognitive dissonance by attributing his failure to a variety of reasons.  His usual grouse against women from Bengaluru is that they are pretentious. Now, one would want to say it’s just a figment of our man’s imagination. I’d say, wish to.

Pop quiz. Quickly list out the three most famous epithets earned by Bengaluru.  Garden city, pub-city, hi-tech city? The latter two seem to be quite an inviting proposition for the uninitiated.  But then, who really is? The city has indeed witnessed a gold rush of sorts, with IT and BPO jobs opening up by the day. And so you have millions of ‘tech’ jobs, with millions of takers and a few more millions at the brink of landing that job. Bengaluru is no California, though the techies would have us believe that the comparison can’t be more appropriate. More on this in a bit. Revisiting the epithets, what’s the idea that you conjure up? A city with countless watering holes, which lets you party hard (but not so hard either), without a care in the world? And going by similar logic, a city that offers a varied choice of dope and women? The October arrest of the gang of six that included internationals , indicates a steady market for stuff. While flesh trade is not institutionalized unlike some other metros, that women are baited and more shockingly, harassed and assaulted is for everyone to feel. Yes, this is the Bengaluru that much of humanity is making a beeline for.

The reaction of the average Bangalore woman to accusations of pretentiousness would surely be militant and defensive.  ‘What the f*c* does he know about Bangalore?’ ‘We make the silicon valley of the east’ ‘We are the most cosmopolitan’  ‘Dude, get a life’ and so on. Mind you, the aforesaid reactions would most likely be in English and not in the vernacular. She’s a fraud analyst for a Canadian outfit, and has seen all of the country but on a map. She’s a mind counsellor who’s at wits end for having to contend with three other counsellors down the same lane she lives in. She’s a fashion designer and crafts clothing for the slim and sickly while praying for some magic cure to her obesity.  She’s a wedding planner, and insists that sangeet and mehndi are the way forward, even for the most conservative South Indian families.  Single and confident, she struts out of her flat that would be happier with some natural light, flags a rickshaw and lands up at the nearest mall. Levi’s jeans, tops from Marks and Spencers, Sketchers sneakers, you get the idea. She talks English, a very beautiful Indian one customized for the woman on the move. ‘He’s so cool and you know he’s a bike freak?’ ‘There’s this guy who comes up and says “you seem to be lost, can i drop you somewhere?” He’s sooo faake you know!’ Quiz them  on news and books, and pat comes ‘ooo, you’re the stud types haan?’

The men are those of substance. Yes, they do consume a lot of it. For the less adventurous, pub hopping with double bellies of suppressed barley water as in a cannon,  wading their fancy motorcycles through the sea of traffic, taking off on ‘long rides’ to Nandi hills, and screaming all over the social network may be the extent of living up the urban life. I used to think of it as a factor of age, but there appears to be this sense of vanity and supposedly urban character across generations.

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One may wonder if all this is indeed peculiar to Bengaluru or a matter of urban Indian preferences today. Yes and no. As the city has progressed from the sleepy old town of yore to a bustling metropolis, there definitely has remained a residue of the classic past. Bangalore has been trying  valiantly to stand its own against the bigger metros like Delhi, Bombay and Chennai with its distinct scientific temperament, and a culture of moderation. Other than the Indian Institute of Science, you have the National Centre for Biological Sciences, the University of Agricultural Sciences and the very popular IIM and IIIT-B. With a truly cosmopolitan DNA, the city is a perennial favourite for international pop and rock acts, and has a vibrant literary circuit. So much of coolth associated with Bengaluru is a derivative of just these things, complemented by a pleasant weather. But a diehard Bangalorean would see that, this is in many ways the very undoing of a beautiful city. IT and ITeS opened the floodgates of employment to scores of hopefuls from across the country. For many of the millions who have now made the city their home, this breeziness attracted them from far. Once in, they mostly found it difficult to blend in with the suave and global outlook and started a subconscious movement of asserting their cultural identity. Here’s how you can see that the average Bangalorean of today wants to be associated with the western urban identity of the city but refuses to acknowledge the real ethos which Bengaluru stood for. And here’s how you  have people who appear more knowledgeable than they are, people who have heard about more music than they have heard to, and who speak English neither for love of the language nor life, but as an adhesive that holds their facilities from coming apart.

As the city has thus metamorphosed, there is little now that sets the city apart from its counterparts across the country. Trade and employment takes people to the farthest reaches of the world. Urban life is now pretty much indistinguishable from city to another. What was said of Bangalore may well be the case with Bombay or Delhi or Pune. It’s an India thing then. This is a veritable indicator of lifestyle priorities of the generation Y. As lifestyle takes precedence over living, there will be a lot more clamour to land a job that pays, be it brain-dead or morally compromising. Shallowness will prevail in the guise of depth, love will continue to go on sale, and many such seemingly unwelcome developments will take centre stage. Funnily enough, my neighbour will probably be ruing the state of the nation, as would his neighbour be too. But then, it is self above nation today. One can only spare time for a thought.