Being desi means I can laugh at whatever tickles my fancy

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Being desi means I can laugh at whatever tickles my fancy

Here's where some of my own contradictions throw me off, a bit


Nivriti Butalia

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Published: Thu 17 Aug 2017, 10:14 PM

Last updated: Fri 18 Aug 2017, 12:15 AM

I always have trouble with patriotic stuff. I don't not think I'm patriotic. That's nonsense. I just don't see why we are expected to make a show of it. Being asked to display my patriotic side in people's faces makes me uncomfortable. Not my style. And just because some Gandhi topi-wearing - sorry, Nehru cap-wearing - mantri decided we should stand for a zabardasti-ly played national anthem before a movie, why should I stand? All that gets my goat. I will sit if I want. I'll stand if I feel like it. That's also freedom to me. To choose. What's mantri man's beef?

Last week, I was asked by a family member if I wanted to make a little clip, hold camera in landscape mode and record myself answering 'what freedom means to me'. A lot of people were being filmed, I was told. Those motley clips would then be stitched together and uploaded on the FB page of one down-and-out political party. I wasn't interested. Thanks, but no thanks. I am not enthusiastic about filming myself spouting predictable, corny lines and keeping a straight face. But Jai Hind anyway.

Here's where some of my own contradictions throw me off, a bit. Unless it's not a contradiction, just a tic, then we're okay.

So, a colleague asked me to chip in with 30 bucks for an Independence Day feast. Of course! Happily. Oh, and wear something Indian, she said. Again, happily. I love saris. I love salwar kurtas. I love Indian textiles. They're the only proper clue I have of what it means to be Indian. Not that you have to be Indian to love saris and kurtas. But I didn't have to appropriate my sari love from any other country. It's not like how I love say, Japan, and sushi.

Other stuff I love about India is not country-specific. I feel I am Salman Khan, only being human. Not particularly Indian.

But okay, what gets me feeling patriotic, what makes me feel Indian? Hmm. the flypast. The planes on Republic Day, yes. Those tricolour contrails they leave behind over Raj Path. Woosh! I like that. So, put down saris and airplane lines. Nothing else, really.

I don't love the Bombay locals. God, no. I don't love that the trains are this great class leveller. I mean, sure, I do and they are. That's all very nice. I just don't want to stand in one. Spare me.

Being Indian. What else does it mean to me? Well, if this counts, I took offence last week when I was - to prove a point - singing out of key a 'song' you may have heard - and don't all nutters go nuts at my calling an anthem a song!: sujalam suphalam malayaja sheetalam, shasyashymalama matarama, vande mataram! And this person I was with said, carry on. So I carried on. I continued my speaking-singing: Subhrajyotsna pulaki-tyamini. here's where I was interrupted and this person tells me: "ok, now you're just making that up." Miffed, I badgered on, louder: Phullakusumita drumadal...

So there! I was offended. I had to sing that at the school assembly at 8.15am every day for years. You don't forget that stuff. So, I guess, I'm chalking that to feeling Indian too. The pride in a beautiful anthem with tongue twisting Sanskrit. I love that. I liked AR Rahman's also, of course. Goosebumps at some point.

I love a whole bunch of other things Indian (like khandvi). But I also know that there are equally lovely things in Pakistan: respect - tameez, great food, cinema, film, Pakistani TV shows - which by the way, along with their Coke Studio, are hands down, much, much better than our c*ap.

Indian stuff, well, does it count that I love the jugaad that is in my blood. Doubt though: Is it a genetic thing or a nationalist thing? I'm sure jugaad exists in plenty on the other side of the border too.

I loved how when I moved to Dubai, it dawned on me that 'they,' my Pakistani friends, also think of themselves as 'desi'. Jugaad reminds me of how much I laughed last time I landed back in India - always, by the way, a fantastic buoyant feeling - home.

So, I was in a non-queue (or an Indian-style queue) at the Delhi airport. The line wasn't moving. I was irritated. Who wasn't? People were cutting the queue, forming three lines instead of one. You know the scene. And you know how much you want to take a swing at someone with your hand baggage. In all that irritation and badly formed non-queue, there was one jugaadu fellow who said he was feeling faint so he asked if he could please go ahead. So everyone, heart in right place, allowed him to move up. He scampered off ahead, endlessly pleased with his cleverness, turning back to flash this impish smile, thrilled at having fooled the losers behind him into believing there was anything actually wrong with him. I thought it was hilarious! How he pulled it off. I envied his smarts. He put me in a good mood. Everything I love and don't love about India is exemplified in those immigration lines. Some guy randomly rapping another chap on the shoulder asking, Bhai sahab, aapko Idea ka helpline number pata hai? (Bro, do you know offhand the helpline number of this telecom company that you may never have heard of)? India is hilarious. Being Indian to me means never running out of things to laugh about. Horn OK Pleaj.
Nivriti likes 'human-interest' stories ?and has a thing for the quirky, oddball stuff

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