‘Having a blast’ is a very ordinary thing to do!by Vinta Nanda October 16 2021, 8:28 pm Estimated Reading Time: 10 mins, 57 secs
How often have we all said, “Hey, let’s have a blast”, or, “What a blast we had last night”, writes Vinta Nanda.
When a friend, sibling, or an acquaintance talks rubbish, have you never said, “What have you been smoking?” - If you haven’t then you’re a freak.
So, now I’m combing through messages, chats, and all the daft conversations I’ve had on various social media platforms, to figure out if I have said something that can be dangerously misunderstood by an agency and have me implicated. Living in this country, where India as well as Bharat exists simultaneously, is becoming frighteningly labyrinthine. Clearly in India, a particular set is perceived as hedonistic because it celebrates every other milestone in life, from a birthday to getting a new job, listens to and moves to world music and likes to party, as hard as it works, in exotic locations – it’s called ‘raving’. In Bharat, processions with people dancing to the beats of drums, and nowadays to the beats of Bollywood music played by DJs perched on trucks, during festivals like Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri dare not be called celebrations because they should be known morally, instead, as cultural events.
A couple of hours after Aryan Khan was arrested on the 3rd of October, I was talking to a business associate, a Delhi-ite, on a call, and I told him that I’d like to keep complicated discussions for another day because I am in shock. The guy told me in the most derogatory tone, “Why are you in shock? Everyone knows that Aryan Khan’s mother is a drug addict, why then would her son not be? It doesn’t surprise me, so how can you, who is a part of the industry, be in shock?”
Honestly, his matter of fact-ness jolted me, so I asked him, “How do you know that the boy’s mother is a drug addict?” The guy told me, rather accusatorially, that he’s flabbergasted! If I haven’t seen videos of a model, that are running viral for over a year now, in which she clearly informs us about what she witnessed during one IPL after-party, then I am a weirdo! I had to tell him that I have, as a matter of fact, seen those obnoxious videos - but that made him shriek in a shriller tone than before, “And you’re still doubting that his mother is a drug addictttttttt!!!”
I ended the call telling this fellow that I’ll call him the next day and I didn’t do that obviously. I’ve decided to knock all these freaks out of my life because even though some of them have educated in the most respected institutions of learning, their brains lie in their backsides, and reverberate with excitement in the wrong place at the mere mention of Bollywood, to tickle them and make them lose all sense of reason and logic. People, ironically some belonging to the media, who pretend innocence about how the paparazzi works – especially when it comes to the industry of entertainment - find it much more pleasurable to enter a Shah Rukh Khan’s house through the camera lens and write an imagined story in their heads, than finding out what the truth is. It’s no wonder, then, that the so-called Whatsapp University and YouTube channels springing out of the remotest corners of the country and populating new media with humongous amounts of obscene content produced by inquisitorial people are so popular.
The next morning, I encountered a lady in the elevator of the building I live in, and without provocation – I’m terrified of getting nabbed each time something newsy happens in Bollywood - she muttered this to herself (loud enough for me to hear): ”High time! High time these Bollywood parents get their act together. This is the limit - don’t these people realize that they are ruining the lives of their own children yaar – tut-tut-tut?”
Thankfully the ground floor arrived by the time her piercing eyes met my gaze - the mask these days helps to hide the irritation I feel - so I leaped into my car and told my driver to drive away fast. These people don’t understand that I’m at the outermost ring of the fringes of Bollywood and have never really watched how my far removed colleagues, friends and acquaintances, my country cousins if I may say, raised their kids. The fact that all of them work hard and 24/7, I know.
But, in the car, I couldn’t stop myself from asking my driver this: “Yadavji, jab mein cigarette peeti hoon ya phir kabhi friends log ke party se thoda drunk hoke ghar aati hoon, toh aap mere baare mein kya sochte hain?” (Yadavji, what do you think about me when I’m smoking a cigarette or am a little drunk, while returning home, from a party at friends’ places?)
He said, “Madam cigarette peena accha nahin hai, lekin daru toh mein bhi khushi ke waqt thoda jyada pee leta hoon” - (Madam it’s not good to smoke but even I drink a little ‘too much’ when I celebrate).
So I asked him if his wife drink alcohol and he told me that she does, and in fact, oftentimes more than him. That settled, I asked him why he thinks smoking is not a good thing and he took a long pause before he told me that it doesn’t look good on a woman. After another long pause he added, “Lekin aapke upar accha lagta hai Madam. Aap toh Boss ho! Aap lady nahin ho na!” (But it looks good on you Madam. You’re the boss – you’re not a lady). I was relieved.
Fact is, that while we may live in the same city, we inhabit different worlds. Those who have lived in Mumbai for long years, the rich, the not so rich and the poor, have leveled out with each other to a large extent but the nouveau in the metropolis, the rich, the not so rich and the poor, are usually taken aback with the way life rolls out here. They become voyeuristic and are afraid of the influences that befall them, so they maintain a distance from the mad hatters and also advice their kith and kin to do the same. This is the same city where, a few years ago, who you were and what kind of a life you led, was never an issue as long as you were helpful, compassionate and kind to everyone.
I recall, years ago, one of my ADs felt up a female actor at a party and I reprimanded him. The actor of course never wanted to see his face ever again, however, the ADs reaction when I told him that was rude. He said, “She can go to hell! If she’ll dance like a slut, then she should know what the consequences are!” I had to ask him to leave the job because he was remorseless but he couldn’t be bothered. He was from Haryana, new to the city, and here in Mumbai to experience the hedonism he had imagined in his head as fantasy. What looks like a slut to one, is a woman letting her hair down and having a great time to another.
More people arrive from different parts of the country every day, looking to find jobs and liberate themselves from their shackled lives elsewhere; some plunge into the freedom they feel and many that hesitate, fear and falter, feel embittered and become judgmental I’ve observed. And the freedom I’m talking about here is not about drugs and debauchery that primarily defines hedonism, but it’s about the safety one feels in conducting one’s life without a million eyes staring at you when a piece of music plays in your head and in reflex action you jive at a marketplace just like that! It’s about the liberty you experience when you are able to be who you are – Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Parsi, single, married, divorced, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender or pansexual, to party, to sing and dance and to love yourself. What I am talking about, here, is the comfort of having a ‘blast’ without feeling guilty.
India is two worlds, and we have no choice but to deal with it until frequencies meet. While Bombay wasn’t really anything but one strain of life until the 1980s and 1990s, Mumbai has become schizophrenic because of the demographic changes that have taken place over the years. More people have migrated from the small towns, from the so-called Hindi belt, seeking livelihoods, and the numbers have tilted – a reverse cultural shift has taken place in the last two decades.
It’s sad to see the city decay, not just in terms of infrastructure, but also of the mindsets. My stoner friends from the hinterlands, whom I used to call the Desi Morrisons and Joplins, those who knew better than any metro man and woman how to roll a ‘J’ or make the Bhaang ka ghota, were so amazing too. Now they don’t make it like them any longer. And, while talking about all this, I urge you to see this video below – it has over 500,000 views. And no, it isn’t produced in Bollywood - I wonder why NCB hasn’t made note of this?
Point is, that the NCB is chasing drug consumers in a bid to trace the peddlers, dealers and manufacturers – in that order, because it believes, and we’re told repeatedly through mainstream media, it’s the narcotics trade, which funds terrorism. Okay! That understood, my question is, what do the terrorists use the funds, generated by the narcotics trade, for? To buy arms, right? So how about going after the arms users, suppliers (peddlers), dealers and manufacturers to stop terrorism? How about going after the capital that supports this activity because the consumer of drugs is as much a victim of terrorism as the man or woman killed ruthlessly by terrorists is.
As this sad day of Dushehra, the festival we celebrate in memory of the great Rama having conquered the evil Ravana, comes to its end, my cigarette-wala sends his delivery boy with a couple of packs for me and the security of my building calls through the intercom to ask us to come downstairs and collect the package.
I request my housekeeper to run errands for me at times and just as I am about to tell her to go, my mother suggests I should do it myself. I ask her why, and she says, “God knows what she already thinks about you. What if she’s questioned and she tells investigators that you’re of loose character?”
Too much television, I tell her, and advice her that we should watch a movie tonight. Imagine what would happen to her if I told her that decades ago, when we were growing up, it was our house help who taught us how to make Bhaang ki thandai, and his job all Holi festivals, year after year, was to procure the cannibis? Would she not have fainted?
And when she was younger, she used to like her rum and cola on special occasions, which my father would very chivalrously prepare for her with a twirling rind of lemon thrown in with all his love. Now I wonder when, many eons ago I had got a little drunken, people whispered to each other, “Uski Maa bhi peeti hai, toh woh nasha kyun nahin karegi?” (Her mother drinks too, so why won’t she?)
It’s a very complex period of time that we are passing through. Other than being careful about what we say to each other in person, social media and messaging apps, there’s precious else we can do. One needs to be careful, not because we’re doing wrong, but because we don’t know how someone that doesn’t bear the same ideas that we do, will interpret our behavior and perceive us to be.
I do pray for Aryan. I watch him across media through days and nights, and the one and only thought that goes through my mind is, “That could’ve been me many years ago, when we were about to have one among the many blasts, at one rave party or another - in Goa, in Bombay, in Manali and in so many other places!”