Sunday, July 03, 2011

Bade Acche Lagte Hain

Life for single guy is tough. It’s a never ending stream of explanation. You have to explain your decision to everyone and everyone  has a piece of cautionary advice for you .be it your parents , family members , friends , colleagues, neighbors, landlord, house maid ,cleaning lady(  you are single and ask me to mop your floor daily?? even married people do it alternate day ), autowallah and security guard in your housing society ( why you live in a 3 BHK sir ..You are not married).

Couple of years back ,when all my friends were getting married in rapid succession and I was under great pressure I decided to take a stand that I won't tie the knot because of age and peer pressure and hold out for right one for me .At that time I grossly underestimated the hostility of people toward the very notion of single hood. Our society looks at being single not as an individual choice but as a societal anomaly. A denim patch on their satin smooth social fabric. I discovered that more often than not people look at me not  as someone who is questioning The wisdom of  their decision of getting married & passing a judgment .  For the record that wasn't my intention ever. There were people who get offended with my so called stubbornness and than there are people who are genuinely concerned.  Whatever their motives, both are a big pain in "you know where ". So during last couple of years many people had tried to convince me for getting married.  I have been through the drill so many times that now I have a standard response to all their tactics & arguments. Here it goes..

Reason #1 Good Homemade Food (I am not looking for a catering arrangement, moreover please come to my flat for dinner someday and then open your mouth). Acceptance in society (I am not really crazy about being accepted by bunch of bozos who can't think for themselves so spare me). Sex ( what’s that ?? ) , who will serve you when you are old (Don’t worry it won’t be you . you won’t be there probably  plus  right now I am more concerned about what to do when I am not so old ) . Biological Clock  ( tell that to salman khan ) , You are not salman khan  ( yeah that’s why I am talking to you ) .  You are not a GAY...are you? (You really want a proof?) (Btw just FYI, because of the very nature of enquiry  ...this threat work on both sexes). Anyway I was under the [false] impression that I have known all their tactics and I can deal with any adversary. As usual I was wrong , for past couple of weeks or so, that  whole god damn clan of my unwarranted well-wishers has added a new weapon in to their arsenal. A TV serial name "Bade Acche Lagte hain (BALH) “.

I am not a TV person. In fact my disdain for stupid TV soap operas is well known amongst my friends and family. so I was amazed when sometime  back a college friend of mine  called me and said  that he remembered me after watching a TV serial . He suggested that I should watch it too. I said I will. Since then it has been a consistent stream of recommendation from every quarter.When I was in Singapore last week for a conference. A business associate asked me why my wife hasn't joined me for the trip. On learning that I am still single he recommended that I should watch "Bade Aache lagte Hain “. I cringed and decided I would check out what the Big deal about this show .

So last weekend I spent couple of hours in watching first two episode of this serial on YouTube. I was surprised to know that it’s produced by Ekta Kapoor's Balaji Telefilms. More surprising was the fact that the  name didn't started with a  "K" .  I guess in that case the name would have been  "Kabaadi Acche Lagtee Hain “. Other offbeat thing about the story was that it was dealing with a pre marital   theme. Ekta Kapoor is not known for that kind of stuff. Her specialization  is in stories related to post marital traumas  involving" over dressed -sleep-with -jewelry" In Laws , scheming housewives and a perpetually living old lady named "Baa " . These elements were missing. At least so far.

Any way the story revolves around these two characters. A girl in her early thirties (33 if you really want to know, I was just being polite) and a slightly oversized dude in his forties. Obviously both are single and not really crazy hot about getting married anytime soon. The guy is a millionaire who runs a business empire and buys private jet on the drop of the hat. I don't understand why all these stupid script writers who are probably  underpaid jhollawalas  are so fixated with the idea of portraying the male protagonist as millionaire. Even in supposedly offbeat stories. It un necessarily raise the bar for rest of the men. Anyway back to the story; the   girl on the other hand is from a middle class family who is supporting her family and ambition of her younger sister by teaching in a GRE TOEFL training center. Both of them are pretty much taken for granted by their respective families. Only reason why their family put up with them is that they bring in a hatful of dough every month. 

As typical to Ekta Kapoor stories both of the protagonist defies every law of genetics and behavioral inheritance known to mankind.  The guy's father is dead 10 year back but before old man died He was married twice (that alone explain why the dude is still single, he learned from mistake of his father). So our hero is now living with his step mother, who in some other life could've been a good candidate for him to date. She looks hot for age if you really want to know.  Anyway what makes it funny is that how come someone who is horny enough to marry twice and manages to find a pretty hot girl even in old age has a son who is not keen to marry even once and from the look of it gives an impression of having a terrible sex life. Even his personal secretary looks more like a fugitive nun from some catheradel. Poor bastard. I kinda feel sorry for him.

Anyway the case of girl is more intriguing. She is proverbial girl next door. She believe in love and gives a mushy lecture on “meaning of love “to her student. Though hers is not a case of step mom, evil sister and all that snow white crap but her mother is a loud mouth, self promoting lady  who reminds you 10 times in two episodes that she was Miss Bhubaneswar. The younger sister of our homely babe is an aspiring model who has won a beauty pageant recently and she is at her bitching best while dealing with her sis. But our homely babe has got an Heart of Mother Teresa and she  takes it in her stride and ignore it on account of the fact that they are all in a family .Big deal.

Looking at the contrast of characters that apparently grew up in same family makes you doubt the wisdom in all the things you learn about genetics and stuff in your high school science course.Both girl and boy has  got someone  who understand what they are going through ,feel pity , feel sad about them  but for some strange reason never muster enough guts to stand up and tell those people that they are not being nice to his /her  friend . For the guy it’s a dude in office who is his sidekick and for girl it’s her father. Fellow victim of same disaster: his wife.  

Then there is drama: In the two episodes I saw on you tube. Both girl and boy keep on running in to each other but they never really realize how often their path had crossed. Some students in girl's class were reading a business magazine with a cover story about guy .Girl's sister ends up applying in a company managed by guys’ sister and finally epic of drama when Guys bangs his car into girl’s car. I guess our underpaid script writer at Balaji Telefilms took the metaphor of "crossing the path” a bit too literally. Anyway they still don't meet. than destiny( or Ekta Kapoor )  throw them  in a situation where guy meet the girl in a "perfect stranger " situation in a hotel  and pour his heart out on slightest of provocation .He tells her  " how lonely he is ? how he longs for someone to understand and accept it and stuff like that .." . Of course they can't see each other and go separate ways  guy feeling light after making a confession and Girl feeling light after hearing it . Both of them were looking so light in that sequence that A still photo from that shot could have easily be used in the advertisement of  Dabur Nature Care. There is soothing background music to set the mood. You got the idea right? I could narrate you rest of the story but you will probably end up puking if I did.

Though the show is still on air but story line is more or less obvious. Eventually dude and girl will meet.  followed by denial,  followed by accidental discovery or eternal love which was always there,  followed by  resistance from family members ( who till yesterday  were very hot for them to tie the knot , go figure )eventually the wedding and happy ending and stuff . They might throw in sex in between somewhere to make it more interesting.

So what’s the Big Deal : ?

Ekta Kapoor is a business person and a very smart one at that. So in that sense her choosing to make a daily soap on such a supposedly offbeat topic of singlehood validates the fact that there is a big enough audience for the same. In short me and my folks are not the only one around who are dealing with this issue. Number of people is grappling with this issue of not being able to find right companion is big enough to warrant some media attention. but as it often happen with media , they pick up a fairly serious topic and botch it by treating  it in a immature and sometime downright stupid manner. BALH is yet another example of the same. Its very shallow in treatment .they are still relying on tested formulas.  It’s nowhere close to what happen in real life. 

For example take the core issue of why the guy (or girl for that matter) is not able to find the right match. The story seems to suggest that this happen accidentally. As if one day they wake up and discovered that they are middle aged .Modern day Rip Van Winkle or something. I don't think that’s how it happens. People do make a CHOICE to stay single. It can be forced, implied or conscious choice but there always is an option involved. Specially in India where arranged marriage is a norm.So logical question is that what are the factors which are feeding this trend?  I don't know the right answer but I think I have some ideas about the factors at work. I am listing some of them below.

Relationships: At the age of 16 no one dreams of being single at the age of 32. There is an old saying that “All Feminist are heartbroken romantics “. Most of the single folks I know fit that description. At some points in their lives they have been party to a dysfunctional relationship or witness to a terrible alliance from a distance.  I am not talking strictly about things like betrayal, Cheating, Breakup or divorce. These are relatively easy to deal and one eventually gets over them (I hope). What I am discussing is a situation where one know that He/ She has  made a wrong choice but now they are STUCK in a sub optimal alliance due to emotional or societal reason.

I know some cases first hand where people are not happy and are kind of dragging their lives. This is truer of Indian context where social cost /stigma of a failed alliance are very high. We might have less than 2 % divorce rate in our country but if Happiness is the parameter of a successful marriage than I am pretty sure that more than 50% of alliance in our generation and generation before that will be classified as sub optimal if not downright failure . And it’s not hard to spot them, especially in small town India where your life is pretty much a open book. Being witness to such stories makes one afraid and skeptical of whole notion of marriage. Though people might not articulate it that way and no one has systematically studied and measured it but my hunch is that this factor alone is the biggest contributor to the initial seeding of the idea of remaining single. 

 Money: by money I mean access to resources, access to discretionary residual income. This allow a fall back option.  This provides a scope of experimentation in life. For better or worse ours is the first generation in India to experience this. Our parent’s generation was in a "survival mode" for much of their life. Reflection & experimentation was a luxury they couldn't have afforded. Since they never had to deal with these issues so they have very little of wisdom to share with us on them. Ergo ours is a generation suffering from a sort of identity crisis. Since they are not sure "Who they are” and "what they want to do with their life” so it’s kind of tough for them to decide "who they want to marry”.

DenialAccess to money also gives a sense of entitlement & [false] self sufficiency. A flaunted indifference to our surrounding. Often time it tricks you to believing that we don't really need anyone to lead a happy life.  More than anything it allows you to re enforce & glorify your denials by external artifacts. Things like Cars, job, salary, luxury holiday or what have you. I have seen that most lonely person is the one who have got most things to show off. They still need to connect, they still need to validate themselves but they are in denial of the same and there is a whole industry out there to help them do it in style. This is most visible in educated elites with a thriving professional life but a less than happy personal life. Such people have very little room for accommodating someone else in their life.

Rigidity: The older we get, more rigid we become in our ways of doing things, in our world view and gradually lose the ability to adopt. And in our heart we know that we are losing it. We are becoming irrational and may be too rigid for our own good. We also know that any relationship involve adjustment and adaptation .so we are kind of afraid to get in to any such institution to began with. What’s funny is that I have friends who tell me that “I am single because no one can live with me? I am temperamental and irrational. People eventually want to change me and I don't want to change...blah ...” bullshit. My standard follow-up question: " At the end of the day Are you happy being irrational temramental ....blah blah blah. Will you be happy if you find someone who is absolutely fine with thisStandard Answer without a single exception” No. I am not happy but isn't I am too old to change now? Can I change at this age? " .

What a pity! This is plain inertia of habits, a comfort zone where you are comfortable, Alone, Accepted, sub optimal and single. I advice them to get out of it ASAP. But till this day without exception no one has followed or even considered my suggestion. 

Finally I believe there is statistics at works. It’s a known fact that in every generation a certain % of population remains single. In the same way as in every generation a certain % of people are homosexuals. Our generation is not an exception in that respect. What’s different in our case is that thanks to technology we are super connected and constantly in touch with people who in past we would probably have lost touch with. My dad doesn’t know where his school time friends are and if any of them is still single. But I know. So this phenomena of single hood is somewhat more observable now a days ergo it’s being talked about more. But knowing a statistical truth is one thing and being a data point in that statistics is totally different and somewhat painful thing. That brings me to the most painful part of being a single guy (or girl for that matter). That is dealing with your parents. No matter how educated or understanding your parents are there is one thing they are unable to accept.

“Not Everyone Get Married “.