June 18, 2021

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Acne and ecstasy: Want a central vista to an emotional pandemic? Be an Agony Aunt

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Uday Deb
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Mumbai Mirror shuts shop this Saturday, also pulling down the shutters on my advice column to the lovelorn and life-torn. For 12 years, Giving Gyan said Grow up/ Shut up/ Face up/ Stand up to a range of anguished people. My brief was as tough as the feisty paper’s feistier editor, Meenal Baghel: “If they cry, ‘I’m standing on the ledge,’ say, ‘Here, let me give you a push.’” More heartless Kumar Ketkar put it more kindly in his Foreword to the collection published in 2018. He said, “She doesn’t give a shoulder to cry on; more usefully she provides an emotional spine.”

Why would a lofty political commentator be a regular reader of a column that had no relevance to his professional or personal life? For him as for me it was a dipstick into the quicksand that is urban life. Love as a four-letter word; abusive spouses; the eternal triangle as much of saas-bahu-swami as the other kind; the equally eternal conflict between young dreams and parental ambition; uncertainties over sex and sexuality; and the weirdo who ‘has been trying to protect his purity’ for the 38 years of his pathetic life.

Now, I will have to take the advice I had found myself doling out the most, and ‘Let Go’ of the column to which I’d got so attached. And which, at the end of the putting down and shoring up, was often cathartic.

The closure is also an eye-opener. Plus ca change is increasingly a minus. Would my Gyan be burdened by the fundamental changes being thrust upon us? In our desi ‘clash of civilisations’, I’d found the young trapped between the surround-sound of ‘Just Do It’ and a still-traditional society which warned, ‘Don’t!’ The latter is getting louder. All too often a letter desperately sought the confidence to plunge into an interfaith marriage; my jihad would have had to intensify. Other assertions of patriarchy were as common an anguish; their sabres will be rattling the young even more as we tumble backward into the future.

The new behavioural vista is as difficult to justify as the concrete one to be imposed on Delhi.

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Alec Smart said: “Should our date with the vaccine be titled ‘Jab We Met’?”

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Disclaimer

This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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