Such Feels

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I should take these writing sabbaticals and treat myself to experiences that not only make me cringe but also make me feel compelled to return to the shallow remains of this page.


No, that wasn't the title. That was my loud thought bubble.

If you've ever been to a Punjabi wedding, and the chances are strong if you're from North India or have spent some substantial time up North, you'd know the embarrassment they're (provided you're not my cousins, who at some point have just given in and join in the embarrassment). You'd understand better if you're a Punjabi, living in South Delhi and been attending these in the name of 'social outing' with your family for the number of years of your existence. Now, there's a certain trade routine to this shit. You begin by yelling around at everyone at home and everyone yells at everyone for losing their heels, not having their fineries ironed and losing jewellery. If you're my grandfather then you'd probably be yelling at all of the members at your family for running late (and so not cool at that). Once you do actually make it out of the house, you'd struggle to find headphones to listen to some sane music off your iPod or mobile device considering you're aware what you've signed up for while eating bhaji (anything other than bhaji makes me curse the couple involved, like bro why do you even care? Who the fuck eats mithai? What are we, Baniyas?)

We arrive at a god awfully set up, super lavish venue decked with nothing short of 'exotic' flowers, imported all the way from Mysore and not the phool mandi at Chhatarpur, because boss, saade veere di wedding hai (and some such ambition)*. I digress but the whole thing is one affair which would have gone smoothly if you wouldn't have shown up, in fineries or not. Besides, you spend a whole lot of time there staring in your mobile/iPod's screen and cursing the lack of WiFi around. If you're truly unlucky, you'd land up in a no reception zone where there's no scope of sending Snaps to your friends about how godawful your life is. Within an hour or two, you'd have eaten enough crap and consumed enough drinks (and hopefully hard alcohol with an open bar- because car-o-bar isn't very inclusive of young Punjabi women, minus spouse/fiance/pet cat) for you to not give a fuck if your lipstick's off or if you're drunk texting someone and that someone is your single girlfriend. The point is, you hit that chord on the curve of not giving a flying fart where you can't return. You're uninspired about life and generally at some point begin thinking about why did you have to be born Punjabi, the one that comes with mostly negative stereotypes (if you're in academia; hegemonized* by Keralites and Bengalis) and if they're right. If you're me, at this stage you'd get another drink- whiskey of any kind on the rocks and down it straight only for you to not be responsible for the collective jokers of the community- at the wedding and in the entertainment industry. By the time you come home, you're regretting the high heels, drunk texting and are so grumpy and full that you want to collapse, but all the spring roll that you consumed while sipping that whiskey keeps bothering with that activity.

Anyway, cut to chase- for the last few days and the week before I hit the bed in Banaras (and damn, I miss Ramada's bed) I have been in and out of academic conferences. Now let me tell you, what weddings are to Punjabis and Baniyas, conferences are to academics. I'm sure for all those of you who have relatively sane-er family and friends pursuing academics, you'd have heard from them that most people look forward to food than the papers. Although, Bengalis tend to disagree. I hate to use the word 'pretentious' but somehow, the appropriate response to everything that went down this week at the university was nothing but that.

My School has a higher percentage of Bengalis studying here than all of the population residing in CR Park. I digress, but I wouldn't because that's precisely what inspired this. In the music conference that I've been a part of, at some point I did feel out of place. I felt as close to the white academicians while I requested my hammered brain to not react, with all the Bengali ethos that came along. The issue with a conference that involves performing arts is that at some point it bends to favour the dominant community. So, if it's a music convention organized by ex-Berklee graduates, they will tend to fuss over certain something and have a certain take on the music. Out of the three nights that culminated in a musical performance, two of those were Bengali- one being folk music night and the other being popular Bombay cinema night. The first out of these two had me running sick with the condescension of the performers even before they began. I pushed off by the time sound check was over. I wouldn't go into ridiculing the weather and their decision to pull on layers of thermals and sweatshirts et al over saree but I do have a problem with their attitude while treating employees of the university from the backend, the support staff assisting them set up their rig. Tonight, the amount of Bangla-ness that precedented has exceeded the affect and the times at all the Punjabi weddings I've attended in the last 23 years. It was a good example of how do we turn pan-asian to a community specific event. Torture is the term, I'd like to bring in use to describe the state of affairs wrt musical performance tonight. The saving grace for the last four days has been food, which had started to bore me, by dinner on the second night. I skipped the dinner on the third and lunch on the fourth to land up just in time for my role- being responsible for Sound and compering the event on the last leg of the live performance.

At some point during the dinner, I walked out to make a few calls. By the time I returned, the smokers had turned to singers. They were drunk-stoned jamming at the entrance of the venue where the dinner was being served. Now, for those of you who have had regular friends, have job, went to school/college, did vanilla all your life, this is routine. People meet, they get high and they jam. Except, this was seen as a 'successful party' which interpreted as a highly hegemonic gathering which turned popular Bombay cinema music in folk Bengali boatmen songs that all the Bengalis and the stoners were dancing to. They were singing it in unison, just like nani-dadi would, at Punjabi sangeet and the ladies of the house (bua, masi, chachi, maami and so on) would join in to dance and sing. Only thing missing from the scene were uncles attempting to vaarna at everyone dancing with the numerous 100 rupee notes. It was oddly similar to most weddings that I've been to, even when I have not understood the language (say, Urdu) in the entirety. There's a certain sense of being adaptive and for those sharing these customs, music, dance- a sense of inclusion. While it was all fun, drinking and dancing, I felt at discomfort. Perhaps, this is low-art, not acceptable to me what Yo! Yo! Honey Singh is to all of them present there*. A large chunk of the crowd dancing to their local music, bhadralok would honestly have no idea what the aunties and uncles are singing with Punjabi folk music but it is largely on our tongues due to the heavy influence by the music directors and the lyricists to supplement the music of the 'Khatricate' (think Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar and the likes) brand of cinema coming out of Mumbai. Which, understandably makes it acceptable for the community and the music to be disgusted and looked down upon, because it has seeped into our daily lives, of those who were not willing to have it this way. I'd say my argument is same for what went down tonight. In a way, it's shoving someone's folk traditions down the other person's throat in the name of celebrating a general, overall music conference which had nothing to touch upon the Bengali music except for the various 'high brow' names who were on the panel to speak.

At the end of the day, who renders the bhadralok capable to judge the rap and lyrical capacity of Sukhbir and not the Punjabi to mock the 'urr' as opposed to 'udh' while killing my favourite hindi hymn of all times, with bad Bengali pronunciation while singing? Why is that the colonised becomes the coloniser in this circle? I'm not saying that they can't do this basis I am not appreciative of folk boatmen traditions yet if I open my mouth about jugni, why am I being reminded of 'my' type of people coming from the same land? Who gives them the authority to claim their art is superior to mine and even if they have the authority, how do I take them seriously, if their art is as uninspiring and as forced as they compel me to indulge in it without any better reason than a strong popular vote? On what can we judge the art being high-art and low-art? These terms and generalizations that we endorse are largely out of personal preference and a slow external factor of the overall reception. So, if the club going bitches and the 'rich, Punju kids of South Delhi' like a certain brand of music it is trash but your Bangla renedition of 'Urr jayega Hans akela' is applause worthy?

The similar plane between conferences and weddings is indeed it's ability to get you drunk and numb so that you can come home and regret your decision of not staying in the bed with a book and a jar of iced Diet Coke. All that outside of it is highly painful.

Now accepting open letters addressed to that cultural swine, which is yours truly. Kindly knock me for email address before you decide to share this post on your friend's wall with the words- 'Eta ki bokachodi blog holo. Boycott korchish!' (Fuck you very much.)

On a bloody quest to be the snazziest thing in academia, after Bappi Lahiri (who is a Bengali). "ਹੁਣ ਵੇਖ ਲੈ ਓਨਾ ਨੂ !" (Hunn vekh le ona nu!)


My mother told me in all seriousness- 'Twitter pe trend kar raha hai' and I was convinced my uncle's wedding was trending only to find out later that these are legitimate lyrics and not my mum's advanced knowledge about the hashtag business.

I sat with someone for a filler while the band was sound checking and this person pointed out the number of Bengalis in the room, everyone (close to 15 adults) excluding me and proceeded to look for a synonym to explain the majority of the populous. "Hegemony" I suggested, to which she gave me a constipated no and went on to explain how the word 'hegemony' is abused everywhere. For me, I've never quite used it anywhere except for the university itself where everyone's favourite word seems to be hegemony in operation. Pretentious much?

I brought up Yo! Yo! amongst my other failed attempt at bringing humour. It was largely responded with an uninterested and a strong shake of head 'NO!'. Okay. You can't have humour and your post modernist argument together. I'm happy with the former. The Punjabi in me has almost given up trying to keep up this facade of how thrilled I am to be this passive, unattached and only attracted to Bengali folk music person. Bring out Chaar Botal Vodka. I got work to do.

Speaking of weddings, I'm digging this montage. Also, can someone please book him for my birthday? Thanks boo. xx

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