One of the good things about a list is that it makes sense of things, helps you establish or reaffirm your sense of who you are while you tick off the things on the list. Or it helps you organise who you are not, when the items on the list tick you off. That’s why we like lists. That’s why we like making lists too because we are creating some sense of the world or how the world should be. Or even the way masculinity should be.
Stands to reason we are creating a kind of masculinity with our list of 50. Stands to reason it might not be your kind of masculinity. So go ahead, make your own list. Don’t make it too easy for yourself and don’t put it out of your reach either. Whatever else, make sure you’re doing what you want to be doing. So here are our 50 Things in no particular order
1. Climb a Mountain – by MILIND SOMAN
When you’re climbing a mountain, you’re alone for miles and miles. It’s so vast that even if you’ve come in a group, you lose everyone else on the way. You have to climb in stages to acclimatise yourself to the altitude. Sometimes the guides make you start climbing at midnight, because the oxygen levels are higher then, although it doesn’t feel like it. I climb alone; that’s the only time I get to spend by myself. The challenge is physical and mental. The pay-off is satisfaction. Milind vs Mountain and both standing, both winning. Here he is with a new sense of his own body, his ability to push it, his ability to control it. He’s on top. I like to think I go through four stages when I’m climbing. At first, the sheer beauty of my surroundings overcomes me. Then I start to feel relaxed, and I begin to wonder, what was I doing in the city to begin with? I begin to sort out my emotions and relationships in my head. In the last stage, I am caught up in the beauty of the mountain, and I feel like I never want to leave. I know I have to go back, though, and it will be all right. This mountain will always be here and so will I. We are all part of each other and of the universe, and being alone on a mountain, you can see your place in nature. You’re not alone; you’re not alienated from anything or anyone. All your stresses fade away, and you realise that nothing else matters. It’s what I need to do to regain my balance.
2. WATCH THE APU TRILOGY – by SAYANTHAN GANGULY
Because it is not what you think. It is not a boring bunch of people sitting around not talking to each other s-l-o-w-l-y while the cameraman executes some kuchipudi around the characters. Because these three films together (Pather Panchali, Apur Sansar and Aparajito) based on Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay’s novel, Pather Panchali (The Song of the Little Stone Road), follow Apu through his life, from his carefree youth in a leafy village of Bengal through a poverty-driven migration to the city of Varanasi where the raucous melee of the city is reduced to the profound geometry of black and white; from there to growing up and marrying a gorgeous wife and losing her, being swallowed up in that sorrow and then overcoming it to recover his future. It is an intensely human tale, one that could be yours or mine. Because the music transcends its role as background score and effortlessly becomes a series of riffs that underline your own feelings. Because there are cinematic moments in these three films that become part of the way in which you will watch cinema, the way Apu and Radha run through the fields of kaashphool to see a train running by their village; the unconscious eroticism of Radha’s impromptu bath in the rain; the way in which her father returns to find her dead (surely one of the most gut-wrenching death sequences anyone has ever filmed). Because it tells a story, tells it well, tells it straight. You weep at times and it is not because you are being manipulated but because you want to weep. Because this is world-class cinema, told by a man who understood men.
3. READ THE MAHABHARATA by R Srinivasan
The Mahabharata, they say, should not be kept at home or it will start a war. What do they know? If we were all to learn what the Mahabharata teaches, there would be no wars. But even if you do not read it to learn a moral lesson, you can read it for the sheer power of its story. The Mahabharata sweeps you along in its narrative intensity. It is possible to believe that Vyasa did not stop once he started, so dramatic is the speed of the tale. The war itself is said to have lasted 18 days but it will take millennia to decipher the didactic meanings of its subplots and its events. There’s no point telling you what the great religious epic is about. You will read your meaning into it, your own version of what it is saying. The war of the Pandavas and the Kauravas is no easy equation of good versus evil; it’s about levels of dharmik behaviour. The Pandavas are not perfect men; there is no Purushottam here as Lord Rama is in the Ramayana. The best of the sons of Pandu, Yudhisthira, cannot walk away from a gambling match. Is he an addict or is he simply aware that he is playing a role larger than himself? Why is it that Duryodhana behaves with such generosity and compassion to Karna, the lost son of Kunti? At best, the Pandavas are better at doing their duty and fulfilling their dharma than the Kauravas are. What lesson is to be learnt from the humiliation of Draupadi at the hands of her own cousin-in-law? Why do Krishna, Arjun and Agni burn the Khandava forest, sparing nothing, no living creature? Why is the epic of our land, the definitive tale of the land of ahimsa, a tale drenched in the blood of the innocent? To me, the Mahabharata is about the Kurukshetra within, the continuous war between the way we would like to behave and the way the world makes us behave. It is a warning that no one, no, not even the Gods themselves, may be spared from the consequences of their acts. In the beginning Vyasa says, “In this epic I am lighting a lamp to dispel the dark illusion that covers the heart of humanity.” It burns still.
4. Gamble on a horse by Vikram Kapadia
Imagine an afternoon at the racecourse in Mumbai. A gentle breeze greets you as you step into one of the greenest and most beautifully manicured pastures in this otherwise impossible city: the Mahalaxmi race track.
It’s worthwhile taking this opportunity to dress up a little, to tighten the knot of your latest Satya Paul tie, stroll in with your lady (in her latest hat!), and prepare to share the adrenalin of thousands when a race begins. Take it all in. Pause to admire the sleek contours of the horses parading in the paddock. Watch the heart-stopping fluctuation of the bookies’ odds on the digital signboards. Absorb the ‘surround’ sound of racing gossip; eavesdrop, if you can, on the secret information about a horse worth 50-to-1 who’s sure to win. If you’re lucky, a thousand rupees could fetch you half a lakh. Then sit back looking cool and dapper, but actually with bated breath and a prayer on your lips, as the horse is led into the starting gate. Then it’s over to the sound of galloping hooves, the rising hum of the commentator, as you feverishly try to locate your horse hemmed in by 15 other runners on a closed circuit TV screen. Keep a sharp eye for your jockey’s silks. White with a gold star? And despite your rising lust for the lucre, take time to appreciate the aesthetics that your money is riding on-the poetry of speed, the jockey’s positioning of the horse, his subtle tactics of advance, the anticipated gaps, the moment chosen for the final sprint, the eventual push, the last crack of the whip. And finally imagine the horse, one of the most magnificent animals of this planet, flying over the turf at 60 km per hour with your number beneath the saddle! Imagine it now! Have you placed your bet? It would be difficult to imagine a quicker fix.
5. GROW SOMETHING – by Rahamim Jacob Chariker
Subedar Road in Worli, Mumbai, where I live used to be known as Sandaas Road; everyone threw garbage on the sidewalk, the slum-dwellers defecated everywhere, you couldn’t walk there. It was so filthy that when people entered the Matadevi Mandir, they would hold their noses. Two years ago, when SARS was threatening unsanitary areas, I had dinner guests from Israel. They stepped out of their car, got a whiff of the stink, and got right back into their cars and went back to their hotel. I decided that the time had come to do something about the hygiene problem. I had 550 truckloads of garbage removed from the road. I planted banana trees wherever there was the most dirt, because they grow fast, live long and are worshipped. Planting them meant that people would stop defecating near the trees. Then I planted coconut trees for the same reason. I don’t know the names of all the trees and shrubs I planted; there were 40,000 of them. I spent Rs 8 lakh, beautifying and cleaning up 10 km of road, constructing three gardens, painting walls and planting trees. My children sent me the money from Israel. They’re settled there, so I visit the country a lot. Israel is very advanced in agricultural technology, so I used whatever I saw and learned there, in my neighbourhood. We would water all the plants every day, my maali and I. There are six taps here, which we used, and a few 600- metre pipes. When the pipes didn’t reach, we took the water in handcarts. All in all, we must have used 100 litres of water everyday. As the plants grew, the garbage reduced. I went around to the slums and spoke to people; I gave them small bottles of phenyl to wash their houses. I speak a smattering of a number of languages, so I could speak to them in their own language, so that they would listen to me. I started dressing as they did, so they didn’t think I was lecturing them. When I met Christians, I told them my name was Jacob and I was Christian; when I met Muslims I told them I was one of them, my name was Rahamim; when I met Maharashtrians I told them I was Maharashtrian and my name was Chariker; when I met someone from the Scheduled Castes, I told them I was one of them. And I bribed their children with chocolates. I would patrol the sidewalks for 20 hours every day (with 25 men I had hired to help me), giving each child four chocolates if he refrained from using the road as a toilet. And slowly, things began to change. When I watched the plants grow, I remembered my youth. The happiness I felt reminded me of how I felt when I watched my children growing up. Mere aankhon ki roshni badh gayi.
6 GIVE UP A BAD HABIT by VASHISHTA PEREIRA
I would do about a hundred cigarettes a day on a good day and then round things off with a cigar… Actually it was nothing so dire. But when you’ve broken off with My Lady Nicotine, you want the affair to have been much more than it was. You have to make it much more than it was because you don’t get any respect for having quit. Sure you’re a druggie with a past who’s gone clean and people will all but kiss your butt because you’re clean; even alkies will have their auditors listening in complete admiration at tales of seven-day benders and the like. Stop smoking and you get a nod and a ‘good-for-you’. Worse than that you have the still-smokers hurrying off in a cloud of aromatic smoke because they’re afraid you’re going to lecture them. I will now give you 1,000 reasons to stop smoking. 999 reasons are your bits and pieces: your skin, your throat, your balls, your tummy, your medulla oblongata, your lungs, your mouth, your arteries, your rectum and your islets of Langerhans-nothing in your body likes you to smoke except perhaps your lower brain while the thousandth and most potent one for me was freedom from fear. It is nice to get up with a sore throat and not have to worry about cancer. Really nice.
7. LEARN TO APPRECIATE A CIGAR – by Anish Trivedi
I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, though I’ve lost count of the number and varieties of cigars I’ve smoked. Smoking a cigar is not about inhaling a bunch of chemicals, nor is it about sneaking out of the office and into the smoking corridor for a quickie. A cigar is nothing if it is not about tranquillity. You can’t hurry the process. A short cigar-a panatela or Monte Cristo No 5-will take between 20 and 30 minutes while those over nine inches should take nearer an hour and 45 minutes. It’s about patience, serenity and the acceptance that the cylindrical consumable you hold in your hand has taken months of painstaking work to create. And that’s something you need to respect. My first cigar was torture. I went like “How do I smoke this fat stick?” and it was a series of rapid puffs, in an attempt to get over with the damn thing. There was none of the joy that I now associate with a cigar. My second cigar was in a bar, after several excellent whiskys with friends, and it was great. Camaraderie is an integral part of smoking a cigar. It is one of the last graceful acts left to man, the absolute inverse of brazenness and brashness. At the end of a hard day, a long cigar is good to find. It’s my way of winding down and I’m thinking, “Thank God for this pleasure.” There is, however, one cardinal rule that I follow whenever I’m in the cigar-smoking mode-I’d never ever smoke it in an environment that would make someone else uncomfortable about my smoking.
8. KEEP A DIARY – by JOHN MARIA
So self-conscious is the act of writing a diary that I can remember starting one at the age of 10 or so with the thought: I’m sure I’d like to know what I was doing at the age of 10, when I read this diary after 10 years. You don’t write a diary for yourself, not really. You don’t even write a diary for your future self. You write a diary for posterity, for strangers. You write a diary on the off-chance that one day, the world will be interested in it. The act is akin to keeping copies of your own letters, to make it easier for biographers. I have kept a diary all my life and I have never meant it to be a private document. If you keep a diary, that’s why you’re doing it. Otherwise, there can be no reason to. But there’s more to keeping a diary than that. It implies a faith in order, that events can be shaped and described. It implies a faith in the self, that the order of those events as refracted through the self is important. It announces a faith in the future. If that’s not enough reason, here’s the core: What you choose to write, what you choose not to write, how you choose to write it, all these will tell you a lot about who you were at the time. – John Maria
9. BUY A PAINTING by VIVEK MENEZES
Like all Indian men born in the ’60’s and ’70’s, I learned nothing about art in school. We had some short passages about grand temples and the Taj Mahal and Qutub Minar in our schoolbooks and there were chaotic school trips to the city museum. But that was it. The subject was not brought up, even in the classroom periods devoted to ‘Art’. What I learned in Art class was drawing-actually copying the minutely realistic landscapes and flowerpots that the teacher chalked on the blackboard in front of me. Jawaharlal Nehru might have had fine intentions when he said that, “The art of a people is a true mirror of their minds,” but in our classrooms the mirror held up to our culture was blank. We were left to stumble into adulthood with no idea of our artistic inheritance, the multiple legacies we were born into, and with no inkling of the rich contemporary art world, which India continues to foster. That was why so many of our greatest artists left India, and why the best collections of our contemporary art sit in Japan and the USA. In India, an interest in art is a worldly pursuit, something you have to seek out for yourself because the infrastructure is still basic and the opportunity for an overview limited. But because you have to look for it, the rewards can be great and access to the best work and the greatest artists still possible. As a callow young man, at a party, I found my eyes repeatedly drawn to a canvas. It was an abstract painting, though clearly an impression of a landscape. My host’s father explained that it was by Ram Kumar, and told me a little about the artist and his life. The story was intriguing. I’d never heard of a modern Indian life led in sincere devotion to a muse. Delving into Ram Kumar’s past, I discovered with a real shock that there were actually many contemporaries of my parents and grandparents who had devoted their lives to pioneering a new art for India. Then, in the period of a few days that still stays with me for the excitement they generated, I learned about the small band of rebels: the Progressive Artists Group. Their optimism and daring seemed glamorous, and I wanted to learn more. The real trembling started when I sought out their work, when I first came in contact with the tremendous and pioneering body of work they created in the ’40s and ’50s. In those artists and their successors, India gave birth to a genuine contemporary art movement that stands on merit with the 20th century art of any nation. It may hang out of sight most of the time, but Nehru’s mirror is actually crammedwith dynamic line and colour. Thus, visiting good art galleries in India is an essential cultural experience and hunting for the right piece in your price range can be a Quest. The reward for finding art you love is priceless; buying it means that you are custom-making your daily existence in the highest tradition of patronage. Art is often talked about as ‘investment’, especially in these days of demand, but when you fall in love with a painting and manage to buy it, your feelings are never practical. “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude,” admitted the nihilist, Nietzsche. That, above all, is the art-buyer’s secret emotion.
10. HAVE AN AFFAIR – by CYRIL MATHEWS
Nothing defines your rite of passage to adulthood than an affair with an older woman, preferably with someone in a position of power. More than the sex, the thrill is in the sense of conquest, the realisation of a fantasy that I, like many other teenagers, grew up with. I was a testosterone-dripping tenderfoot, trying to climb the corporate ladder. She had by then successfully managed a career, home and kids to reach the top of her profession. We worked in the same office, but not in the same department. She could, if she wanted, influence my progress. She was more stylish than classically good looking. But it was her confident authority, her swagger that had my hormones singing. Under that hard carapace, however was a tinge of vulnerability, particularly to attention from single young men like me. But she loved to be in control and made the first move. That made things easier, though the intensity of her passion did surprise me. Over the next few months, the bedroom (and all the other rooms in a nearby house) was our playground. There were no cosy lunches or dinners, just clandestine afternoon trysts.I thought it could go on for ever but she had other ideas. What was driven by unadulterated lust, at least from my side, was slowly turning into something more serious for her. Things began sliding downhill. She suspected me of seeing other women. She said she wanted to marry me. I decided to end the affair before things got too far. It wasn’t easy but I managed without much damage. To her credit, she was never vengeful in the few years that I continued working with her. I don’t know what she thinks of those seven months. I know I was a new man after that.
11. JUMP 500 FEET AND BOUNCE BACK ON A BUNGEE CORD by ANDRE MORRIS
12. HOLD THE HAND OF SOMEONE DYING by ANONYMOUS
13. KISS THE HIMALAYAS by THOMAS JACOB
14. COOK A MEAL FOR FRIENDS by NACHIKET SHETYE
15. VISIT VENICE AND BENARAS by KIRAN KHALAP
16. HAVE A DRINK WITH YOUR FATHER by AVTAR SINGH
17. OWN A DOG by DIMALI
18. DO SOMETHING FOR THE FIRST TIME by MATTHEW SPACIE
19. LEARN THE ALTO SAX AND BUSK FOR SPARE CHANGE by ARUN KATIYAR
20. MAKE YOUR WILL by JOHN SAUL
21. GET YOUR OWN BARBER, TAILOR AND DOCTOR by RAZZAK GURNAH
22. RUN A HALF MARATHON by MILIND SOMAN
23. GET AN EROTIC MASSAGE by IVAN MENDES
24. ACQUIRE THE NICKNAME ‘GOD’ by ALYQUE PADAMSEE
25. WATCH THE MEN’S FINALS AT WIMBLEDON by RAVI SETH
26. SHOOT A ROUND AT THE OLD COURSE by S AMAR SINGH
27. DRIVE A FERRARI by RAHUL MIRANDA
28. RIDE A SUPER BIKE by SHANTANU VARMA
29. LEARN A MARTIAL ART by AKSHAY KUMAR
30. LEARN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE by JAYATI VORA
31. GO SKINNYDIPPING by AVTAR SINGH
32. EAT AT A GREAT PARIS RESTAURANT by ASIT CHANDMAL
33. WRITE A LOVE POEM by RANJIT HOSKOTE
34. JUMP OUT OF THE SKY by ARUN KATIYAR
35. BUILD YOUR OWN HOME by KIRAN KHALAP
36. DEVELOP AN APPRECIATION FOR THE SINGLE MALT by ANIL DHARKER
37. FOLLOW YOUR PASSION by ANUJ SAXENA
38. TREK TO THE EVEREST BASE CAMP by ANDRE MORRIS
39. SEE THE SOUTHERN CROSS by AVTAR SINGH
40. LEAVE ON YOUR OWN TERMS by ARUN KATIYAR
41. RIDE ON TOP OF A TRAIN by BHRIGU NORONHA
42. RAFT A MALE RIVER by NIRAD GROVER
43. LEARN TO MAKE A FORTUNE ON THE STOCK MARKET by RAKESH JHUNJHUNWALA
44. SERVE IN THE UN by JAY JHAVERI
45. WATCH BIRTH by DOM MORAES
46. UNDERTAKE A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY by ASHISH VIRMANI
47. STAND UP AND BE COUNTED by SATYADEV DUBEY
48. LEARN TO SALSA by NARESH FERNANDES
49. TELL YOUR BOSS WHAT YOU REALLY THINK by PAUL EBRAHIM
50. HAVE A THREESOME by HR DEEP