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

Precious minutes of your screen time that are not coming back

Time wasters on instagram

Who all have set an Instagram time limit for themselves? For those wondering- you can set a reminder in the app itself which tells you that your usage time is up. Kinda pointless, coz you go back to scrolling anyway, but it’s another thing we wish to have control of in our life, because mayyybee, just maybe one day in the future we will create boundaries for our screen time.

But how much time do we ‘waste willingly’? I was scrolling IGTV when my fingers paused on a video of a certain box labelled Chanel. It started off on a familiar note, a girl talking about her latest luxury purchase, standing against a backdrop of shelves stocked with luxe handbags. She seemed to speak with the air of authority that a long-time luxury consumer would have. She started opening her Chanel handbag box, peeling back one layer of butterpaper after the other, detaching sticker after sticker with the care of an eye surgeon. The stickers were kept aside as if she would preserve them for her grandkids. And we were only halfway through to the actual bag.

  • The Unboxing videos

A thought struck me, had I become so pathetic as to have watched the “unboxing” of a handbag? If put like that, it does sound pathetic, but what was it that mesmerised me about it? Did I just waste 5 minutes of my life that are never coming back? A rather depressing way to look at it I know- but helpful against certain “time-gobblers” on social media.

Do you really want to know what packaging your new phone will come in? Or worse, how the charging cord will be coiled? An instruction manual to your instruction manual? Ok I do get there is such a thing as packaging porn (don’t ask) but isn’t that celebrating the art of beautiful, well-designed, functional (and hopefully sustainable) packaging? And not the ‘look here I am low-key showing off my new purchase through its unboxing’ kind of hilarity out there. Whatever happened to yanking off wrappers and cardboard from presents to get to the real thang?

  • The Bottlecap/ Kiki Challenge

Or any other challenge in the Internet universe. Watching Kendall Jenner’s perfectly toned pins accurately kick a bottlecap from a moving speedboat didn’t enhance my life in any real way. In fact, quite the contrary, her thigh didn’t even jiggle. *sigh*

  • Liking a picture of an egg

I mean, need I say more? The whole egg storm on Instagram to beat the number of likes Kylie had on her post, is an indication of where we’re heading. Back to the Neanderthals, best case scenario?

  • The Wink Girl/ Wink Gifs/ Wink Memes

This one gets my goat the most, because atleast 12 people including my mom forwarded Priya Varrier’s infamous wink to me like she had won the Padmashri. “Doing the nation proud, one wink at a time” a caption read. I didn’t go through years of accounting class to figure out that one of my (non) talents could give me the Instagram followers I’d always dreamed of.

  • ‘What’s in the box’ challenge

Only because I can’t wait with bated breath for her to touch the spindle of a porcupine or the peel of a mushy banana, and then let out a squeal and giggle. Yes, I know it’s kinda dopamine-y and addictive but that’s the whole point! Stay away.

  • #OddlySatisfying Videos

So this one comes with a rider since I know that ASMR etc. is therapeutic for many, but do these videos have to use a hot knife to melt all those products in one stroke? Or create a mess with all that slime? The colossal waste makes me want to throw up, then I enter an internal debate with myself on whether I’m being too prissy or not. And then I realise I have an article deadline, and the vicious circle continues.