The SOUTH EXperience

SouthEx – one of the richest areas in the country. Cool. Advanced. Happening. Living in the NCR for past four years, I have heard a lot about SouthEx and its awesomeness. Everybody around me had been going gaga over it all these years. Every weekend people would flock to SouthEx and its adjoining areas to hang out and have a good time. The favoured destinations being its market and Select Citywalk, Saket. And of course the usual Qutab Minar and all that stuff. Surprisingly, I was never curious about it.

The reasons behind my lack of interest in SouthEx being – my general hatred of Delhi’s bus service (city buses being the only way to reach there for people like me), lack of interest in malls and markets (I suck at being social) and of course who wants to visit such a place with only hundred bucks in his pocket? (that being the zenith of the cash surplus in the credit based economy which I have built around myself).

However, I was bitten by a new bug at the start of this year – the Deutsch bug or for laymen, a sudden desire to learn the German language fuelled by my nine year old interest in the Second World War, repeated viewings of Inglourious Basterds, Schindler’s List & The Pianist, the seductive German accent of Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds and a pseudo-intellectual urge to read and understand Franz Kafka. So I ended up at the Inlingua centre in SouthEx Part I. There I was at a place about which I had never been curious and suddenly I was spending a large part of my weekend there.

As with most of my endeavours, I concentrated more on things around me than the task at hand. With all the hype about SouthEx, I had imagined it to be some sort of Indian Times Square or whatever. It was not. But yes, it was different. As I entered SouthEx, all I could see was flyovers, eight lane roads, shopping plazas, malls and corporate offices on either side of the road. Cars, from a Maruti 800 to the latest Audi and even a Hummer zipping by as if there was no tomorrow and the sheer indifference of people towards one another. Everybody running around stopping only to shop or wait for buses.

So, there was this insane pace of life, there were cool shopping outlets if you are loaded, there were cars and there were girls – all those things which make guys visit the place again and again. But again, everything was over hyped. Guys would go on and on and on about super hot girls on SouthEx roads, its high cool quotient, as if it was some super model contest venue. In reality, I could see auntyjis in figure hugging jeans trying to replace Priyanka Chopra on the Levi’s Diva billboards, college girls covered from head to toe to save themselves from ultraviolet rays of the noon summer sun, people waiting and abusing at the bus stop, a bunch of foreigners finding it exotic to roam about in Indian dresses which even we Indians don’t wear, atleast not in our daily hustle, the general chaos typical to any market, people desperately trying to converse in English (I went to a language centre), but yes, most of the people better dressed. But I am yet to see a girl in bra top and hot pants sipping nariyal paani as described by some of my over enthusiastic mates.

One thing which was conspicuous by its absence was the Hindi language – couldn’t see it anywhere except on sarkari bank boards and road signs. Another indicator that it is an advanced area. Even that Prince Refrigerated Cold Water wallah had its cart painted in English letters. No, wait, there was this Chandni Chowk Saaree Sale – Chandni Chowk ke daam ab SouthEx mein bhi, establishing once and for all that being in SouthEx means you have to be loaded and get ripped off if you don’t buy saarees there. Consumerism and the real face of globalisation come alive in SouthEx, with every major bank, restaurant chain, lifestyle store etc having its outlet there. In fact it is the face of our country which we like to project.

However, beneath all this, as with every city in the world, lies an underbelly. At SouthEx it is the underpass. There one can see where the firangs get their inspiration for making movies like Slumdog Millionaire and City Of Joy. I could see all the stereotypes there – a charasi/smackiya lying in a dark corner as if he was dead, women with small children gearing up for their daily shift of sympathy begging, two drunk men having a brawl, numerous shani baba spots(utensils full of mustard oil and iron) on Saturdays, various shades of babas shouting various chants, a tweenager lying stoned and people like us passing through all this murkiness with total nonchalance to manage the shit in our own lives. It’s all a part of life here, isn’t it? Or everywhere?

Thus, SouthEx, even though it is rich and vibrant, is no different from other parts of the country where everything co-exists with everything else. A Maruti & a Hummer, a blind beggar & a Ray Ban wearing 15 year old, a lower middle class behenji waiting for her bus to Shahadara & a 20-something pretty young thing flashing her newly gifted Hyundai Accent, a 14 year old navel baring wannabe supermodel & a middle aged saleswoman, swanky shopping malls selling water at 25 bucks a bottle & our very own Prince Refrigerated Cold Water doing the same for 1 buck a glass, a Volkswagen showroom & the parking commotion in front of it – everything works here.

Ultimately I was laughing at how people around me tend to create hype about things they experience for the first time and instead of enjoying every bit of it they concentrate on really mundane things. Anyways, my weekly visits there for two months were worth the time, energy and money I spent as they gave me a chance to observe and experience one of the best places in the country. Adios.

Babewatching In Gorakhpur

My long stays at home over the past year have given me ample opportunities to do certain really strange things. My mind, due to my state of permanent idleness has become a Devil’s Workshop. And what a great workshop it is! I mean other than watching gangsta flicks, contemplating on the current state of world politics, providing solutions to all of the world’s problems by making elaborate plans to blow up certain politicians both in India and abroad and ranting about the permanent shitty state of Indian Television, I have had many chances of loafing around in Gorakhpur – my very dear little home city. And since there is not much to do here when you are roaming alone, I have resorted to entertain myself by doing the obvious thing for a single brown alpha male – Babewatch. Yeah you read it right. Babewatching  In Gorakhpur (This is for those who must be thinking “WTF?” at this point).

Not that there is anything special about it or I want to make a point. It’s just that I have read a lot about girls in Delhi, Mumbai or other such happening places and they have never interested me. Staying in NCR for past four years I have done a lot of things but this. It is perhaps my own sense of not belonging there and very limited socializing skills that have prevented me from doing so. And also, there are things far more interesting and better for me there. Add to this my homesickness. So I have come up with my very own observation of girls in Gorakhpur. And these observations may be true for perhaps any other non-metro city in India.

After much observation, contemplation and certain repeated experiments, I have categorized them into three types. And this observation is based on how they fare on their own on the city roads. Thus I have taken into account their body language, mode of transport (yes, that is an important one), accent, confidence exhibited by them and of course, certain gut feelings. A word of caution – this is not meant to be definitive and certainly not exact. Crossovers and hybrids from various categories abound. And yes I might have missed some trait too. All I have tried is generalizing them a bit.

Type 1

The girl in this category is what guys would prefer to call maal. Generally from an affluent background, she zip zap zooms in the city on her brand new TVS Scooty. Usually clad in branded jeans and latest design tops, she is the eye candy for boys. She is exuberant, supremely confident, ambitious and equivalent to the metro girls. She knows that Harry Potter is a book before a movie and usually shows off her thinking side by reading Chetan Bhagat and Paulo Coelho (why the hell people read him is beyond my understanding). To balance things, I must say that Sidney Sheldon (another ”WTF?” author. I would rather read Vardi Wala Gunda by Ved Prakash Sharma.) and Agatha Christy too. She is the reason why Student’s Corner and Venus Book Stall keep Femina, Debonair and Mills & Boon in their stock. She must have seen Titanic umpteen times and is a sucker for the likes of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. And yes, that Ronan Keating and Madonna too. To sum up, she is the quintessential Babli from that shitty movie Bunty Aur Babli – held back only because of social constraints. Once unleashed, there is no stopping her. Usually found at malls, shopping complexes and restaurants. Mainly from schools like LFS, St. Joseph’s, St. Paul’s etc.

Unique Act – The strange habit of constantly pulling down her top to cover her waist. Makes me go ROFLMAO. Modern yet subtle. Daring, but in right spirits. I like that.

Type 2

The girl in this category is perhaps the most common one in the city. She is found in every strata of the society here. Clad in best of salwar kameez, she can be seen on rickshaws,scooters and bicycles. No less spirited or daring than Type 1, she is a bit mellow and can be instantly identified as a small town girl. She is intelligent, soft-spoken, eyes on the ground type. But don’t dare underestimate or misunderstand her. All that is a mask behind which is hidden a raging fire. Makes her mark wherever she goes, whenever she gets a chance. Usually has an over protective brother or father or khadoos folks at home and this may be the reason for the mellowness. Tastes in movie, books, music etc. are more or less similar to Type 1. Add Grihshobha, Meri Saheli, songs from Ashiqui, other overtly romantic Nadeem-Shravan-Kumar Sanu songs, K-serials and Colors to that list. Just remember Hrishita Bhatt’s character in Haasil and you will know what I am talking about. And as I said, she is found almost everywhere, so no specific hotspots for her.

Unique Act – The way she sits on a rickshaw clad in salwar kameez, wearing goggles, handling her  dupatta. Attitude literally overflows from her face. The mellower version is without goggles looking at the ground with a sort of apprehension on her face. I find her cute.

Type 3

For the lack of better words, I would call her the typical behenji or behenji in the making. She is the perfect embodiment of the so called small town girl. No disrespect intended. She is usually from the lower strata of the society and has a restricted lifestyle especially because of her over cautious, less educated guardians who think out of sync with the times. Well, this is what I think anyways.  She can be found in most of the schools and colleges in the city. Usually commutes on bicycles and public transport. Does not know books beyond what she has to read and movies beyond Housefull. And yes, Grihlakshmi and Balika Vadhu. Standard Bollywood stuff is what she knows about music. And Mills & Boon have come up with Hindi translations of their books especially for this demographic. Movie reference – any hero’s sister in any hindi movie throughout 70s, 80s and 90s. Can be seen at AD Chauraha, St. Andrews and oh yes, Gorakhpur  University.

Unique Act – This, I have observed in younger ones. The way they keep adjusting their skirts while riding on their bicycles. Another ROFLMAO act for me. But impressive no matter what.

So this is my take on girls in Gorakhpur. And as I have said earlier, this is just my humble opinion and not definitive in any way. And I have given examples from schools as I don’t know much about college life in Gorakhpur and my observations have been made since my school days. In fact I personally know a lot of girls from Type 1 and Type 2 from my school (LFS). Not because I am some sick creep who leers at school girls. Adios.