Instagram inspired me to embrace my Indianness and learn Kathak


‘She believed she could, so she did! #keeplearning #sundayfunday’, read superstar Aliaa Bhatt’s Instagram post from three years ago. The A-list Bollywood actress’s mid-twirl Kathak spin piqued my curiosity. Was Aliaa dedicating her Sunday to learn a classical dance form? Of course, it must have to do with an upcoming film but was she actually proudly flaunting this new skill?

The Bong Connection: Artsy and proud of it

Being born to a Bengali family, the arts have been encouraged in me since childhood. At age 7, my grandma would diligently take me for Bharatanatyam classes thrice a week in Kolkata and then make me practise the steps at home. Even now, a one-off rehearsed performance at the annual Durga Puja is met by great persuasion by relatives. “Why don’t you take up dancing seriously?” I went on to learn a bit of contemporary jazz in school, thinking it was a more acceptable alternative to traditional dance. I was good at it, but left it in the name of preparing for my board exams. That was the end of my dance prowess as I knew it.

The City Girl: Culture is replaced by the daily hustle

I left Kolkata at 9, and city-hopped my way around the metros of India till 30; studying, working and soul-searching, all at the same time. As an urban millennial in the fashion industry, I realised that Indian heritage was something I plugged when it worked to my advantage. My culture sounded interesting in a SOP letter to a foreign university. Doing yoga seemed cool mainly because I hate the gym. Khadi and ‘Make in India’ were marketing jargons in fashion campaigns. Kathak didn’t even feature in my mindspace.

Nationalist yardsticks: Where Gen Z steps in

Today, the media (or Twitter, where the youth forms their opinions) seems to be split on their idea of Indianness. In a time where the right makes bold displays of patriotism and the left underplays it in the name of being overbearing on minorities, what has that meant for Indian culture? This is where Gen Z steps in. Or at least the famous brood on Instagram. Janhvi Kapoor breezes into upscale restaurants in her salwar kameez post-Kathak sesh, and Sara Ali Khan fluently does Hindi shayari simultaneously professing how much she misses NYC. Alaya F proudly and frequently drops her famous Kathak guru’s name amid her pancake-breakfast pics, and Kriti Sanon is well, known to be a trained classical dancer. Why pick a side? That’s what Gen Z seems to be saying, being very apolitical about it. And isn’t that beautiful?

Kathak over Pilates: The biased decision

I have to say it was Janhvi Kapoor’s super-graceful Salaam rehearsal on Insta that sealed the deal for me. Come lockdown, and Madhuri Dixit’s Instagram Kathak riyaz, ghungroos et al seemed like a sign from the universe, nudging me to give up procrastination and dive in. One day, when my college friend said she was interested in doing online classes during quarantine, I finally jumped to the moment. ‘I can always give up if I don’t like it’, I thought, in true millennial fashion. Plus, it would be like a fun new workout, and I won’t make a fool of myself at Pilates. One month into classes, and my posture thanks my decision. Not to mention the hurting biceps from holding up those mudras. But it’s all good. I hate to admit it, but I did it thanks to the gram.

Read about more of my quarantine pastimes here

Father’s Day Special: A Tribute to Dad Jokes

Tribute to dad jokes

Remember the 90s when sleepovers were a ‘thingy’?  (90s lingo, but then who even says lingo anymore). I was 12, my friends were coming over for the night and I had played out my own version of a Princess Diaries movie in my head. There was going to be the same Linkin Park CD on loop, while we discussed some random guy in school and wrote with glitter pens in a slam book. It sounded perfect.

Everything was going as per plan, we were giggling on some sugar-mixed-with-pre-pubescent-hormones rush and discussing how Ron needs to be with Hermione; when my Dad entered the room. Not bothering to check whether anyone’s in, he turned the lights off. Coz I obviously must have left them on. This particular habit drives me insane to this date.

“Papa, could you put the lights on?”, I said, slightly annoyed. “Oh! You’re in the room? I didn’t see you!” came my Dad’s deep voice. Lights still off. “Could you put the lights on please?”, I repeated, turning red. I could see my friends looking at me questioningly, blinking in the darkness.

“I can put them on, but they won’t fit me!” came the reply, followed by the booming laugh I knew so well.

I was mortified. The last thing I needed right then was Dad jokes to ruin an evening where my reputation was at stake. At an age where one’s self-esteem is at its most fragile, I didn’t need questionable humour to make me possibly more uncool to my friends.

Growing up, I was subjected to many such gems. “Your face looks like a Martian landscape!” I was told, about my acne volcanoes and craters. “Are you working hard or hardly working?” when I wanted some time alone for studying. “You have your breakfast when everyone else eats dinner!”. And the cringiest of them all “I’m not Reddy (ready), I’m Roy!”. *Shoot. Me. Already* My reaction differed each time, on the scale of one to Wonka, according to the situation, the number of people around and the life stage I was at.

By my 20s, I would say I had become inured. I was off to college and from a distance most of these comedic stunts seemed harmless, some maybe even endearing. It was also the realised I was not the only child who had the honour. Obama’s self-admission as a Dad jokes expert, made them something of a genre of its own. If Sasha had to face this in public, who am I to complain right?

Over time, the obsession with corny Dad things seems to have gotten way out of hand. Dad sneakers, Dad hats, Dad bods and the casual use of the term Daddy issues have become phenomena of their own. What is it about this berated section of comedy that keeps making its way into mainstream pop culture? I think the answer lies in the reactions they garner. Just like kitsch art, they’re so bad they’re good! A Dad joke isn’t good if not groan-worthy. I mean, what do you call a fish with no eyes? Fsh. Seriously? I mean the toddler who may have found that funny has grown up, Dad.  

So that’s it folks, a Dad joke doesn’t care if it’s politically correct. Or inclusive. Or non-sexist. Or even whether it’s actually funny or not. But all’s good in bad humour. Maybe this Father’s Day, let’s go shopping for jokes.