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

2020 was my year of unabandoned New Year resolutions: Here are a few

2020 new year resolutions

At the beginning of 2020, making new year resolutions with the foreseeable future in mind seemed futile. Little did one know of the time one would find at hand, and the many hobbies and creations that would emerge from quarantine. It was like a science experiment; put humans within four walls with limited access to the outside and watch how they keep themselves entertained. Be it as pretty as focaccia art or monumental as starting a home business, ticking off those ‘will do in my free time’ boxes seemed for once doable. My progress was mostly predictable in the beginning- endless couch potato sessions of Peaky Blinders (hello sleep cycle) and telling myself I needed to finish that leftover baked cake incase it goes bad. But the turn of events (mainly watching all that depressing news) made me wonder, what if I could slightly re-script the gloom story and make it a tad worth it in the end? Could keeping a resolution feel like a small personal win and get me out of the funk so to speak? It was worth a try.

The resolutionest of resolutions: Weightloss in quarantine. How dare I even suggest such a thing amirite?

Everyone makes a resolution to lose weight in Jan, but weightloss when everyone is trying their quarantine kitchen skills was a bit of a far-fetched goal. So this resolve came purely from the constant push of my yoga teacher, whose ‘muffin-top burners’ and side planks made eating that extra dessert feel like a cardinal sin. Of course there was a whole handmade pizza phase I went through in March but I’d like to think I balanced it out with enough hot lemon water. Point is, I’m fairly happy that my pants are now two inches loose at the waist, and no I’m not gloating. #GlowUpJourney

Digital marketing diploma because I’m too lazy to do an MBA

Upskilling was a big word in 2020. But when an Indian parent tells you to get an MBA but you know inside you suck at math and there’s no way you’ll crack the entrances? If that’s not you then good for you, but I figured that a Digital Marketing course would help me understand the crazy world of social media a bit better and at the same time give me an insight into marketing at a self-paced, more customised kinda way. I did the course at Upgrad which you’ve probably heard of thanks to their excellent marketing abilities. It gave me access to professors at MICA which was cool and also made me feel more productive with their assignments and deadlines.

Who learns Kathak in 2020? I did thanks to Janhvi Kapoor’s Instagram

I wrote about the mini identity crisis I felt about my decision to take up Kathak classes in another article. My friend Sakshi suggested the idea and I jumped on it, though the thought had crossed my mind earlier mainly thanks to Janhvi and Madhuri Dixit’s riyaaz posts. I’d dabbled in dance during school; a bit of Bharatnatyam and contemporary jazz, and quite enjoyed myself. Last Durga Puja I did a small performance at our Kolkata building’s cultural gathering (it’s a Bong thing to do) after which I got the much-needed encouragement from relatives to pursue this passion. Of course I procrastinated for another 6 months but you get the idea.

I tried my hand at Procreate and was surprised at how addictive it can get

I always had the illustration bug, and though I loove painting (with brushes the old-fashioned way) and Adobe Illustrator (a vector software for you non-design folks), one of my resolutions was to pick up something non-tedious and more instantly gratifying (so millennial). Procreate seemed like the answer. It required me to buy an iPad especially to use it, so that serves as the motivation to not slack off and keep at learning some of the cool features.

French lessons which started out for immigration but continued for the Parisian chic vibe

The little bit of French I’d learned in seventh grade wasn’t enough for my PR application, so it made sense for me to take up a French course suited to take the DELF exam. While my French has progressed from Comment allez-vous? to Voulez vous couchez avec moi ce soir (Kardashian Lady Marmalade video reference), I’m still not confident enough to actually say anything that makes complete sense. Sidenote: Youtube Bradley Cooper French interview, that man is just beyonddd <3

What resolutions did you make in 2020 and how many did you keep? What new skills or hobbies did you take up? And what do you plan on pursuing in 2021? Spill the tea in the comments! Read here: I attended a Zoom book club meeting for fun.

Thirty Flirty and Surviving: the 90s kids step into their thirties

turning 30

I turned thirty in the June of this particularly apocalyptic year. Filled up on wine, I decided to catch a snooze before going on video call with some friends, half-wishing I would wake up in the future. Of course, this idea was a cheap knockoff of the Jennifer Garner rom-com 13 going on 30. Jennifer wakes up from a 13th birthday party (chanting ‘thirty, flirty and thriving’) as a 30-year old woman, only to realise she doesn’t like this future version of herself.  Oh well, here goes my chance of telling you other 90s kids what the future holds. Or to course correct my present life because duh, that’s what time travel is for.

Not figuring out time travel isn’t the only thing I haven’t mastered. Turning thirty will not feel any different; you’ll still feel irritable at 7 am and wish you hadn’t watched an entire season the night before. But the universe seems to conspire to not let you forget this fact. “At your age I was the Captain of a ship!” my Dad yells. “How to start looking after your skin in your thirties” a magazine cover reads. “Looking for adventure? Thrilling travel options for singles in their thirties”. And the most striking, “Forbes 30 under 30 list of brightest young entrepreneurs.” Clearly, there are a lot of things I’m yet to accomplish, and being a Forbes entrepreneur is the least of them.

Of course, the nineties were spent being blissfully unaware of the rollercoasters the future would bring. Little did I know that Macarena would cease to be an accepted dance form, or that I’d have to spend my tweens looking for acid-washed jeans that fit. I didn’t know I would have to see the 9/11 in my formative years or face the repercussions of the Recession well into my adulthood; only to be reinforced by a pandemic.

So as I step into an anti-climactic third decade, surrounded by the foggy future, I realise it is time to make up my own rules. A singular wave has dismantled all sense of normalcy, the systems we had put in place and the checklists we ran in our heads each morning. This is a reminder that there is power in destruction, and beauty at the other end of a storm. More importantly, what is really real is what you claim it to be.

If you’ve skimmed till this part and want a TLDR, here are some rules I’ve made up for the new normal:

  1. I won’t be bound to my own script. Though there is lots more for me to explore and achieve, I’ll let life surprise me. I’ll keep my mind open to the possibilities that come my way.
  2. I will be informed but not necessarily opinionated.  Compassion almost always overrules judgement. Misinformation is dangerous, jumping to a conclusion is worse.
  3. I will enjoy the joys of a relationship rather than rush to give it a label. This way I can explore how much more a relationship can give me beyond the box I have put them into.
  4. I will give to another what I wish to experience.
  5. I will not fall prey to the illusion of Separation. It only takes a phone to a friend to understand how we are all connected on a deep cellular level, sailing the same Noah’s Ark.
  6. I will (try my best to) pay it no mind. I will breathe and take in this moment. Before it slips out of my hand.

And most importantly, I will just be. In pure 90s spirit, smoking a Phantom sweet cigarette, hopping on to a metaphorical Hogwarts Express.