How do you look at the world if you’re young, Gen-X and have plastic, will pay? How do
Why would anyone,
especially someone from the “twenty-something” generation, replete with
residual teenage angst, feel morally obliged to give you the lowdown on their
dull, grey lives? I keep asking myself these questions but a man’s got to do
what his father didn’t.
We had Nehru, Che, Woodstock, and what have they got? Zara, Chetan Bhagat, and let’s not forget Paris Hilton. We went into raptures when some random aunt in an uncharacteristic burst of NRI generosity brought us a pair of Levis. Or Levees, as they were known back then…. They can saunter into Esprit and pick up whatever the hell they want, throw some plastic on the counter and “do” lunch at Shiro’s before hitting the gym. It’s no big deal. No wonder they’re having quarter-life crises.
Apparently, social historians have wrestled with this conundrum for ages: what does it actually mean to be free, brown and twenty-plus? Trying to make it on one’s own in the big city after a degree from some Ivy League college. Ok, the city is not so big and the degree is kind of average and the college isn’t Ivy League, more like Little League from Nowheresville, USA.
But still, one needs
to know, or so the powers-that-be at Fountain Ink have deemed and I Siri’d up
my iPhone to do the needful.
Which is how I land up having breakfast at the Motorcycle Café on a crisp November morning in Bangalore with Godhuli, a slim, almost achingly fragile young woman of 26, who treats most questions, mundane or complex, with a mock severity that casts shadows in her limpid, brown eyes. The Motorcycle Museum, by the way, is located on the first floor of an old stone building on Wheeler Road and is home to an impressive collection of WWII vintage bikes with helmets, goggles and leather leggings evoking the atmosphere of a geriatric Hell’s Angels hangout.
We must make an incongruous couple: she in her raffishly elegant, boat-necked, mauve sweat-shirt, the flowery straps of her Intemissimi bra tantalisingly visible, (it’s cool to allow your lingerie to show if it’s Italian) while I’m in chinos, boats and a Fab India reject shirt. I can almost read the waiter’s mind as he takes our order; coffee for yours truly, Spanish omelette and toast for her, “Can’t be her boyfriend, too old, can’t be her father, DNA doesn’t match…”
We kick off with a biggie: What’s your take on capital punishment, as in, “where do you hang?” “Uhm, let’s see, if it’s a weekday, I do the usual shit, pick up groceries, go to the library, my socialising is very necessity-driven, because if I’m too pooped to whip up something, I’ll phone a friend to stop by and have a bite. I’m good with suggestions (wry chuckle), yeah, it’s kind of matlabi, I know. But I make it up to my dinner victim ’cos if I’m on assignment, like a restaurant review in the boonies, it’s always a meal for two, so, I guess it evens out.”
“Oh, I don’t watch much TV, I download about a trillion GB which I’ll eventually get around to watching some day; Mildred Pierce is a big fave. I don’t watch Sex & the City but I guess that’s because my roommate in college had it on all the time, so I had to endure it by default. My iPod stays on forever, mainly blues stolen from Papa’s collection. That’s deep, (wry chuckle) stolen blues the sweetest. Though I guess with me, it’s mood-driven: some evenings I just chill with folk, acoustic, indie artistes like James Vincent McMurro, Phrazey Ford, Stevie Nicks.
“I so don’t get Pink Floyd, it’s a gender thing, I guess. Back in school, some of the guys insisted we play Dark Side of the Moon in math class to help them concentrate (yeah, right) and we kind of went along with it to prove we weren’t nerdy. I ended up hating both math and Floyd.”
The omelette arrives with two pieces of toast dripping with melting butter and she tucks in with a gusto that eloquently underlines the fact that carbs don’t matter if you’re blessed with good genes and a high basal metabolic rate. She is so amazingly svelte, she makes Naomi Campbell look like a fat pig.
And now that morning has broken?
“If I have yoga, I wake up at 6.30 ’cos that’s when my personal trainer gets here.”
“You have a personal trainer?”
She has the grace to look sheepish but bounces back with, “Yep and a Kannada coach as well because I feel seriously handicapped by being unable to communicate beyond the basics: like the superficial stuff. I mean, I don’t imagine I’ll be reading Kuvempu in the vernacular anytime soon but I would like to have a conversation with my maid that goes beyond, ‘Come at 7 o’ clock tomorrow’ or ‘Put this there’.”
I’m intrigued by her sensitivity to the help, but I need to cut to the chase: what about sleepovers?
Guys don’t pay
anymore, we generally go Dutch which is fine by me but I so don’t get this
crappy system where someone says, ‘I only had a starter so that’s all I’m
paying for’, which means you have to sit and calculate shit down to the last
paisa, totally uncool
“It’s ironic. Back when I was staying at home with my folks, I suppose all that planning and sneaking around to spend time with my boyfriend probably added sizzle to my sex life. Funnily, now that the fruit is no longer forbidden, I’m probably more concerned about my neighbour thinking I’m a slut because the same guy has crashed at my place thrice this month.”
“I thought that showed constancy,” I interject.
She roguishly smacks me while tucking a stray tendril of hair behind her ear before saying, “It doesn’t stop me from doing what I want but I would spare a thought for the neighbours, more for their sense of propriety than mine.”
And how does she make weekends meet?
“I have to admit there’s this divide with my working (class) friends and my school and college pals. With my colleagues, it’s always joints like Windsor Pub (beer, grease and spicy fish curry/pork fry) or Jaymahal Palace (don’t be fooled by the name) and Opus.” The last-named is a popular hangout with the young and the not-so-young with an emphasis on board games, live music and events.
Is she a karaoke diva or a quiz whiz?
“No way, I mean I think it’s great for people who can sing and have an awesome GK, I just like to listen. With my ‘snootier’ pals, we go to Shiro’s, Sunny’s or the UB City mall.”
Who pays? “Guys don’t pay anymore, we generally go Dutch which is fine by me but I so don’t get this crappy system where someone says, ‘I only had a starter so that’s all I’m paying for’, which means you have to sit and calculate shit down to the last paisa, totally uncool.”
We now move on to a no-fly zone for Gen X: politics.
“I not proud of it but I think we’re way behind our peers in Malaysia, Egypt or even Sri Lanka, for that matter. It’s probably because we’ve never gone to sleep hungry but there’s just zero political awareness or empathy here and on the rare occasions we get into it, it’s some kind of distant academic debate, like the UN mock parliament. It’s, like, totally meaningless.
“I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’ve never been in a riot or experienced the Emergency, but we’re totally detached from it all. I’ll give you an example: when we watched the Rajiv Gandhi assassination on TV, my grandparents sat there crying and I just didn’t get that. I mean, he was cute but end of the day, the guy was a politician, right? I guess you could say we haven’t engaged deeply enough.”
At this point our coffee arrives and it’s almost inevitable that the conversation drifts to Team Anna.