A heady combination of the three played a huge part in my upbringing, without a doubt. I cannot recall a single instance as a teenager or young adult when I didnâ€™t actively have one of the three whirling in my head. The influence of the three was intoxicating and addictive. Itâ€™s fair to say, my regular day involves all three in varying yet substantial degrees.
So, I figured, the best way to make sure that my daughters have their own share of â€˜go-toâ€™ movies, music or books is to give them some guidance. A sort of compass, if you will. Of course, if they choose to read a Chetan Bhagat, I wonâ€™t stop them, but then Iâ€™ll just have to compensate by ensuring we discuss Munshi Premchand or Mahesh Elkunchwar so they understand the true breadth of Indian literature.
While I didnâ€™t necessarily grow up in a very macho environment, my pop culture choices were markedly different from the ones that my wife was making at the same time. That got me thinking that popular culture has got to be one way to help get a more gender-balanced worldview too.
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That said, hereâ€™s my list of books, movies or music Iâ€™d like my daughters to encounter before theyâ€™re in high school:
- Stand By Me (Film, 1986. First encountered at the age of 10): Growing up with a bunch of boys for whom the summer vacation never ended, this truly helped underline the bond of brotherhood & friendship. I tended to get a little emotional at the time (and probably still will), because it made me really want to tell my friends that I value them. Of course, I didnâ€™t and weâ€™ve drifted apart since, but Iâ€™ll always remember watching the film as the one moment when I suddenly realised that there are bonds beyond those of blood.
- To Kill A Mockingbird (Book, 1960. First encountered at the age of 15): Justice. Thatâ€™s the one word I kept thinking about while I was reading Atticus Finchâ€™s defence of Tom Robinson. It helped me realise that the world isnâ€™t always fair. Yet, (spoiler alert), Bob Ewellâ€™s eventual end also made it clear that those on the unjust path also get their due.
- Ten By Pearl Jam (Music Album, 1990. First encountered at the age of 15): The angst, the misplaced anger, the disappointment of things around you, both real and perceived, was perfectly captured by the grunge movement. If my daughters are anything like me, theyâ€™ll probably have the same disregard of the establishment, whatever that may be! Pretty sure, this is the soundtrack to that rage against the machine!
- Bicycle Thieves (Film, 1948. First encountered at the age of 16): One of the most haunting images of my teenage years has got to be image of Bruno and his father walking away in to the distance. Itâ€™s often (and wrongly) cited as a â€˜manlyâ€™ film. However, the pain of a fatherâ€™s inability to turn the tide and yet have the strength to assure his son that theyâ€™ll get by is both heart-rending and beautiful at the same time.
- Revolver, The Beatles (Music Album, 1966. First encountered at the age of 14): Listening to this, blew my mind. As a 14-year-old, I couldnâ€™t fathom how so many musical and non-musical elements could be brought together in one song. In a Google-less world, I pieced together The Beatlesâ€™ journey with the help of libraries and fan (think uncles!) inputs. My admiration for the genius of the band grew as did my appreciation of a wider range of music, including ghazals!
- The Old Man & The Sea (Book, 1952. First encountered at the age of 16): The simple nature of the writing means you can follow the story on the surface. As you grow older, each reading unravels yet another layer that you did not know existed. Ernest Hemingway is one of my favourite authors, and my love affair with his writing began with this work. For me, this book is to literature, what Revolver is for music.
- Andaz Apna Apna (Film, 1994. First encountered at the age of 14): Without a doubt, I havenâ€™t laughed this hard during any Hindi film since. Itâ€™s probably fair to mention Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron in this bracket. The absurdity of both is a thing to behold. The more we allow ourselves to discover our own Amar, Vinod, Prem and Sudhir, and the â€˜realityâ€™ of our lives, I think we might even learn to live a little bit more.
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Of course, despite all this, my daughters will probably still read the contemporary version of best-selling-poor-writing (think Danielle Steele), but just as long as theyâ€™re also on track to read the next Lahiri or watch the next Majidi, I think this list would have done its job!