Of Pop Culture Books & Series

Has it ever happened to you that at some phase of life, you felt that your thoughts and actions were mirrored by the universe, manifested outwardly as a book or a TV Show, a song that takes on a real-deep meaning for you, or even a commercial blockbuster movie that strangely resonates so much with you!?

I found this happening to me often with the books that I read while growing up. I am a firm believer that you are what you read. If that is truly the case – I’m one part fantasy, one part crime, a little bit of romance, and some amount of adventure. I am however only fiction, thank you, but definitely have the ability to create non fiction.

Looking back to the correlation between life and books, on the days that I craved some adventure and friendship, there were Enid Blyton’s various books to turn to – whether it was The Secret Seven, Malory Towers, Famous Five, or Five Find-Outers, she really helped widen our imagination as kids and made us crave for the joyous freedom that her characters experienced.

It’s no surprise that JK Rowling’s Potter Saga appeals so much to the pre-teens – it’s got everything that a teen can relate to. Whether it’s about fitting in with the world, criticized for being different, finding and holding on to best friends at school or developing crushes, feeling rebellious, name the emotion and she had it all. I know some of us wished for a bit more romance to add to the sparks but our author knew just how much was too much. Is it weird that I’m counting days for more Potter Mania to resurface thanks to the Fantastic Beasts 2!?

For those of us who were lured by the mysterious and weird stuff, the Twilight Series was a Godsend. I now agree that reading it was utter Trash, but it set our hearts racing alright! I was always Team Edward but for some incidents that made me really sad for Team Jacob and I never looked at Twilight the same way again. Despite all those internal conflicts, I finished the series, even read the leaked chapters of Midnight Sun and I wanted more. That was the age for Drama.

After a while, I caught on to Grey’s Anatomy. My normal Engineering Life was so boring and yet at the same time so much happened that I often kept comparing life’s crappy quotient to the doctors’ drama unfolding on the TV. First, they killed George, then Danny, then Mc Steamy, the cute sister, and Arizona’s legs were chopped off. I still continued hoping that somewhere things would be alright. I gave up on Grey’s Anatomy after Christina Yang left and Mc Dreamy was killed and oh so brutally! Goddamit! Thinking about it still makes my blood boil.

I discovered a lot of Indian author books around this time – Preeti Shenoy, Durjoy Datta, Ravinder Singh, etc. While the quality of language didn’t impress me much, the stories were poignant, slice-of-life stuff that could happen to anyone. Perhaps that’s what made it endearing and abominable at the same time.

A chance reading of Ladies Coupe made me so sad for womanhood in India that I instantly started respecting women around me at least a little better.

There is one dog-eared copy of Mills & Boons that belonged to my Aunt, that I have preserved safely for it became the benchmark of love and respect for me. A story set on a cruise ship between a 22-year old smart and grounded  girl, who takes her first trip abroad and the stern yet reliable captain of 35 years taught me that it wasn’t about money, age, or physique, although those things definitely spice it up. Events in life have also taught me discreetly that a lot of what you think love is, is really nothing but the admiration and respect you feel for people. Sure, your potential friends could still be waltzing in and out of your life, confusing you and enticing you while you look for your Ms/Mr Right on matrimonial sites but I understand now how companionship can work – it’s about whether upon meeting, you both match the same intellectual frequency and have similar emotional needs or are you vying for bigger egos and has/has-nots!?

Coming back to pop culture influences  – it was only after I started my post graduation that I could, in the confines of my room, and with my first-ever laptop really watch FRIENDS and understand the emotions behind the characters and dialogues. You see, it was only there that I understood and appreciated the friends that I’d had and made for life.

There was also a phase where Sex And The City made the biggest impact on me. I just loved how much liberty these women enjoyed and what they really thought of relationships because you have got to admit it, things on the Indian dating scene are not as they were in our parents generation. Watching Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte make crappy decisions, break up with the baddies, and continue to wait for Mr Right, while all the time working on themselves and waltzing through professional life – that heady rush and motivation is just what you need sometimes!

Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, The Middle, SATC, The Mindy Project are just a few series that I can recall currently that made it a relatable treat to watch. For now, I’m taking a break from the popular stuff and bingeing on Sharp Objects / Strike / How To Get Away With Murder. I’m not planning a homicide, don’t get me wrong, I’m just waiting for a good breeze to blow my way, as it often does before I can pick up on something as good and understand the message behind. Until then, so long!

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First Crush(ed)

Take a few minutes off to re-live those awkward teem memories?

I remember it as clearly as it happened. I had just finished the captain duties after school. It was a major rule in our institution that all the kids were to form a straight line (I know it’s redundant in itself but some Indianisms really get me pumped) as they exited their classrooms and walked down multiple corridors to the gate beyond. I loathed a lot of things about this  particular school and this rule often left me feeling caged. Come to think of it – the last bell of school heralds a promise of unspoken excitement and things are meant to get crazy with everyone jostling, trying to get out of the institution first. It is an indication that they survived another day with our education system after all! Although I hated them, at this point of life, I can sympathize with some of the rules – they were probably put in place to ensure that no stampedes occurred.

As I walked back to class, to wrap my bags and head to Abacus lessons (Yes, I’d chosen to enrich my brain with the mental prowess of Abacus) I met my friend  Zit (That’s the closest I can get to not revealing his name. It also helps that all girls find zits annoying. Pun intended). I must tell you beforehand that I’d studied my entire life (until 7th std) in a girls school and in this school, I had but a few guy friends.

Zit seemed to be in a perturbed mood. I thought I’d talk to him and figure out why was he so morose? Which girl had he fallen for so suddenly that he couldn’t smile and just be?

He refused to answer to my insistent queries and just smirked and sulked away. I packed my bags and went up to him, ‘Come on! You can tell me, you know? I’ll keep it a secret.’

‘Who’s the lucky one?’, I ventured. Feeling a little cheesy and trying to be the cool girl best friend they often show you in Hollywood movies.

Little did I expect the reply, ‘You!’.

I was momentarily stunned and laughed it out. ‘You can’t be serious. Come on now, take the suspense off.’

‘No, I’m serious. It’s you’, he persisted. Now the wind just knocked out of me. It’s one thing to pull your friends’ legs and another when you’re going to find yourself in a similar situation. I went to abacus class in a stony silence and my mind was in a tizzy. Was I to feel elated that someone thought me crush-worthy? Or was I to feel bad and angry that a ‘good friend’ had just made things super awkward?

All my teenage fancies and wishful thinking about the situation came to the right conclusion when after abacus Zit met me and said, ‘I’ve got a gift for you’ and he proceeded to take a wrapped item that looked ridiculously like a book. It was a weird feeling then, I was left wondering whether people began dating when gifts were exchanged? Was it just the girl who got the gift? How do things like these work really? I was tempted to take the book. (The surprise was killing me too. Would he just lend it to me so I could read it later on?)  I denied the book and told him I’d err really ike to go home for now.

Life has a way of giving you answers when you really need them and that’s what happened.

Any semblance of romance that I’d gathered in the last few moments went out of the door as soon as I walked out of school to see Zit’s friends hovering about; cycling, playing, kicking stones and basically just waiting to hear from the brave one.

‘Did she say yes, macha?’

And that was that!