I’m in a certain frame of mind at the fag end of a work day. Standing in my terrace, head’s imploding with epiphanies as waves of cold night zephyrs keep hitting against the chest. Rocketman is playing in my ears. The line “I’m not the man they think I’m at home. Oh no no no…..” play over and over, in my head. Probably because I’m living away come from home, in a new city and could use the comforts of a set of lyrical nails running over the itches of home sickness. But why was I listening to Elton John and not a familiar earworm like Tanhayee, when grappling with solitude? That’s because this song plays over an episode end of Californication, where Hank feels alone and apart from his loved ones. I simply loved Californication and maybe even ended biting up into its aura more than I could chew. As a result,I not just love Hank now, but look up to him to an extent of imitation. Scratch that, internalisation.
That’s probably why I had subconsciously come to outgrow(temporarily) the emotional referencing to Dil Chahta Hai, in a situation like this. Fake and not organic some might argue, such conscious mapping of outbursts to cultural intake. But when common parlance, cuisines and wardrobe can be susceptible to such influence, this doesn’t seem far fledged. Agreed they’re epidermal strokes, at a hardware level. Apples and oranges. An Indian in a Zara sipping a Glenlivet on the rocks is still an Indian, largely. But someone, who summons the spirits of a 1970’s composition of a British meth addict, to address his state of mind in a dingy Indian lane that resembles a dust bowl and smells like feet, after a vernacular conversation with someone close, is a creature of some transnational complexity. It’s not good or bad, organic or fake. It’s just a lot of upkeep, to keep one’s core individuality from getting coloured in a crisis of such myriad choices.
Let’s now try and deconstruct something very basic, like the perception or the idea of an attractive woman and it’s systematic shift in shape and size at the hands of time and trends.
Take the times of my great grandfather, a little more than a century before. He would have assessed his wife’s appearance in comparison, to the few hundred women past their puberty in his side of the town and behaved with her in a manner that was debonair back then. Naively walked a certain way while she looked, talked a certain way, looked a certain way and smelt a certain way even, based on the collective input of men he looked up to with envy. Cinema was yet to spill over to the streets. Televisions didn’t exist. Phones were a Victorian luxury.
My grandfather’s time coincided with the advent of films into lives and popular culture in this part of the world. Singing men with shoulder length tresses were sex sirens. Railways made hitherto unconnected frontiers, affable. By the time of his wedding, the sample space to yardstick his wife would’ve grown from just the immediate routes his cycle could take him, to the adjoining towns the bus went.
By the time my parents got married, cinema had married into politics; indelibly trickling into day to day life; with tickets and votes flying congruently. Men not just had women from their vicinity to check out, but from other states and ethnicity as well. The sample pool to yardstick one’s partner had grown in size. So earlier, if a guy in Chengalpet was just exposed to women from his area, to base his attraction for a woman who gave him that funny feeling just above his navel. He now, not only had women fraternity from uptown Chennai, but from Kerala, Andhra,Karnataka, Delhi and Bombay to form a collective sample to fashion his attraction for the opposite sex along with the gyrating sirens who toyed with him from the silver screen confines. He was spoilt for choice.
Coming to think of it, I feel I would’ve been better off born a few decades earlier. Because the speed at which the world’s spinning, I just can’t keep up with, without constantly stumbling upon or spilling over, with little time for picking up or cleaning up after. I occasionally flatter myself to be this analog guy in a digital world, but that’s just euphemism for inability to cope up with the multitude of apps and networking fads that keep mushrooming every fortnight to render me a dinosaur. And let me not even begin about how screwed up it is to just find a woman attractive. Every happening place I’m in on a Saturday night, I’ve got women- indigenous and foreign. Then I’ve got actresses and models photo-bombing into my life from their carefully curated Instagram accounts. Almost each one of them looks positively minted out of gyms, hazelnut coated with absolutely no human flaw to relate to or notice, occasionally talking ironical stuff like “the joy of accepting one’s self” with surgically corrected faces. So I just can’t make up my mind on a girl’s desirability without ruminating briefly on the images of Priyanka Chopra, Ileana, Eva Mendes, Sonam Kapoor, Trisha. an ex girlfriend, Jessica Biel and a colleague. Leave alone love, I can’t afford lust at first sight. There are so many facial symmetries, so many complexions and so many body types to cross reference to find a middle point of personal taste at even such a very shallow level. I’m not just spoilt for choices, but spoilt somehow by them.
Ten years before, hunger would’ve had a simple fix- to eat. Now, the buck doesn’t stop there, it extends to “what to eat” and culminates in “where to eat”. It’s a beautiful time to live in. No two ways there. Don’t let my dogged pragmatism suggest otherwise. The idea of being a global village isn’t anymore an Utopian aspiration, it’s a tangible reality. I’m a cab ride away from Mexican food. And possibly, Tesla away from Mars. My only concern is, how does one continue to remain peaceful and rooted while walking facewards, into an avalanche of options. At any given point, there’s endless content to consume, endless news to take in, endless information to process and endless possibilities to a stimulate a experience with the intellect,mind and appetite continuing to remain finite concepts.
Our core personality is an extension of our predispositions, school of thoughts, likes, dislikes and inspirations that we pick along the way. This part responds to stimuli in an indelible manner. A stain once left here, remains forever. That’s why we’re consciously molded by the society to be receptive to a certain thoughts and wary to some. This part’s the sanctum sanctorum of our being, the anchor that keeps our shit together through thick and thin.
Then comes the external personality. The one that we project to the world around. This makes instant impressions, not indelibly though. This place is the combined colour of recent experiences and influences, that managed to leave a mark beyond the momentary. So it trips on Woody Allen during misanthropic phases, listens to Rahman to cheer up, wears monochromatic pastal shades to imitate David Duchovny, keeps a stuble to appear deep and commemorates a cold night with the occasional Marlboro. It then trips upon another set of personas, another season, another flavour and it becomes their collage.
The core personality doesn’t let in things that easily. In fact it shuts itself down after a point, to remain predictable and rigid. What it however takes in are strong influences along the way, that question its very fabric of being or the ones that make a convincing argument for an alternate course. The external personality is a naive and boisterous entity in comparison. Its impressionable and responds to what’s loudest, latest and relevant and assumes an accommodating form to stay relevant to a particular state of mind or a season.
The external personality is the one that’s not only just flamboyant, but more accessible from a surface level to an individual. So it barely comes as a surprise when over time, one mistakes it to be his core personality and starts making consequential decisions from here. Unlike the core, the external personality is a finite-brittle space, that tends to clog beyond a point, when confronted by a barrage of stimuli. And at this juncture, when it doesn’t know where to draw the line, come the treacherous roads to identity crisis and insecurities.
While it’s wonderful to soak in the endless possibilities that today’s world has got to offer, it becomes a responsibility in equal parts to choose as to what to let in and what to surface graze, as these seemingly innocuous experiences go on to endow us with some sensibilities that stay with us for time to come. With habits, cultures, practices and influences from every nook and corner of the world making a steady influx into our living rooms, we’re going to remain inevitable global individuals. Knowing an indulgence from immersion; imitation from immersion and inspiration from imitation would go a long way to allow one to have his voice, amidst the cacophony.
global, stay local. English.
Not so bad to listen to english songs, inspirations good. That can scale up, imitation not.