If you're 16, urbane, and upwardly mobile how do you assert your Independence? By either being different, or indifferent. Niki, who studies in an upscale Delhi school, is just that age when she has chosen to make her lifestyle, her music and her right to be depressed the benchmark to show that she is free. Her schoolmates have their own freedom charter. Niki argues that her corporate parents did the peace-love-brotherhood jive, smoked pot, stood up against the Vietnam war and embraced hippiedom before they switched from tattered jeans and batik T-shirts to business suits. So why can't her generation do its thing?
It is difficult to read the pulse of young India, especially if the kids consider you old if you are 25 plus. Adult curiosity is met with disdain. Remember Woodstock? Confused middle aged reporters trying to understand flower power and the longhaired men and women who claimed they would change America and the world.
But that's besides the point. Here are a few sub cultures that have been adopted by a small and very obscure bunch of apna teenagers in India:
Scene Kids or Emos: `Emo' is short for emotional hardcore, a term used to classify the high intensity concerts of post -punk emo bands in the US. Today it stands for the young, depressed, inward looking kids who see a dark cloud behind every silver lining.
"We like to brood and feel at home with others who are introverted like us. I write poems about fading away from the world but there are others who nick their wrists to experience the pain," says Niki. It is not as if she is disconnected or into drugs. Neither is her self-imposed blues because of want of anything. She has simply created a secret world which is inaccessible to her parents and adults. It's also her `being different' statement.
Her choice of music is telling. On her I-Pod, Niki has bands patronised by fellow emos: Funeral For A Friend, Saosin, Chiodos, Dashboard Confessional, Finch, From Autumn To Ashes and I Hate Kate. "This is all intellectual stuff, so don't be dismissive. This isn't some crap pop or hip hop. This is deep, man," her friend Rohit who is in final year school chips in.
For good measure, he reads from his scrap book the lyrics of `I Embrace The Curse' by I hate Kate:
`I am a hologram
I am the ghost that's laying next to you
Watching you breathe...
It's me against the world today
And that's fine
It's me against the world
And so I stand I embrace the curse
I embrace the song..
I embrace the hurt
The hate and what's worse
I embrace what I am
I embrace the curse '
Yet, despite all the pathos, dressing up right is very important. Skin tight jeans is an essential for male and female emos. Hair straightened using gel and brushed to one side of the face or over both the eyes is part of looking right. Tight T-shirts/tops, studded belts and canvas sneakers make up the rest of the gear. Emos are supposed to patronise select brands for their clothing and shoes-- Vans, Billabong, DC'S, Etnies, Converse. If you can't buy the original you can pick up the pirate edition. In Delhi you get them at Palika Bazar.
The emo phenomenon is not just a Delhi thing. It is very much there in Mumbai and is catching on in Chennai and Bangalore. However
the Scene Kids have not attracted too much attention because they live a cocooned existence and do not try to influence the outside world. As some of them say its a mind game.
Like all cyber age kids, emos too are well networked and are worried about environment degradation and wildlife conservation.
The Metal Heads or Headbangers: Metal music's not new. It's just bounced back. In India metal heads swear by Metalcore, currently the favoured genre. But there's Death Metal, Thrash Metal and Black Metal to choose from. Fast guitar riffs, thundering drums and screamed/growled vocals is what the music's about. And those tuning in have to violently bob their head about till they get a buzz (that's headbanging in a nutshell).
To be a metal (pronounced metchel) head one should possess albums by the likes of Lamb Of God, Trivium, Chimaira, Machine Head, Devildriver, Nile, Behemoth, Unearth and Cannibal Corpse. Your stock's naturally up if you know the lyrics of some of the songs. Sample this from Cannibal Corpse:
`First one that they find
Attack the mortal
Claws tear at his face
Pull the flesh from bone
Decapitate the man
They hold his head aloft
Headless body slumps
The blood is gushing out.
Also, being friends with Indian metal bands--Demonic Resurrection, Bhayanak Mauth--helps.
For the metal head anything good is brutal (pronounced brootal). This expression has replaced `awesome' , `cool' and 'uber cool.' Jeans, T-shirts of their favourite bands , piercings in the ear, lip or wherever, and long hair--as long as possible--is what makes a metal head stand out. He has to be also immune to criticism that his music is mindless and noisy.
Take away the headbanging and `brootal' lyrics and the metal head does all the things normal kids do. Go to school and college.
Cricket's Not My Scene or CNMS: They grew up on cricket. But now that everyone's playing the game or at least discussing it, they feel they should be indifferent towards the sport. The marketing folks will not agree and will point to packed stadiums as proof, but there are young snobs who either think cricket is an insect or a downmarket game. Typically, they are surprised that someone is watching a onedayer on TV. "Oh, is there a match? I have stopped keeping track of cricket," is the reaction.
The CNMS folks have torn up their posters of Sachin Tendulkar and have acquired a passion for sports like Formula 1. This is relatively an obscure sport and when two CNMSs get together and compare notes on competing F1 cars and their drivers, they can exclude all others from the conversation.
Their take: What's great about cricket? Hear it from Ravi who used to play for his school: "When you go to the saloon and hear the people cutting your hair discussing the pitch at Bangalore you know it's downmarket. Have you seen the players! They're from small towns."
Dad's Music's The Best: For these teenagers discovering Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors is the name of the game. Throw in bit of jazz which papa digs and you are on. These neo-retros do extensive research on the music they listen to and can tell you why Hendrix is better than Adam Jones, guitarist of Tool. They also believe that those who listen to metal, trance and other forms of new music are "immature" and inferior.
The retros claim they are intellectually superior and read cult books from the past--Zen And The Art Of Motyorcycle Maintenance and the like. They hang out in their own little groups and say they are concerned about issues like global warning.
Since members of this sub-cult have the thumbs up from their parents they can depend on them to buy them their books and albums. In fact these kids are toasted and celebrated at home since mom and dad are very proud that their son/daughter can appreciate the Beatles and enjoy Kafka.
But among their peers they are "different" because they are conservative. Metal heads call them retro-retards. But those living in the past don't seem to care. Being part of the `old is gold club' gives them their own identity.
That's if clothes, music and lifestyle alone can give one a personality that is unique...