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American way of life

Mera America mahaan

Sitcoms, junk food and slang are not the only pop-culture exports from the land of plenty. Indians have assimilated many more aspects of the American way of life.


Indians could never tell the difference between carbs and calories till American fad diets like Atkins and South Beach arrived on our shores. Suddenly people were suspicious of their morning parathas and the customary gulab jamun at the end of the meal. Today, weight-loss clinics jostle for space with Aggarwal Sweets. The very Western concept of no-carbs dinner has become as much a staple in thousands of Indian households as olive oil and wholewheat bread. Grilled bell peppers and broccoli have replaced tikkas and kebabs as starters;blueberries, quinoa, asparagus and squash are the new superfoods.


Sunday afternoon. 42 degrees outside. Nothing on TV. Shopping on the street is out of the question. What to do? Bingo, the mall - air-conditioned, with basement parking ensuring that not a minute is spent in the hot outdoors. In India, malls have appropriated the idea of public space. Whether it is to indulge in retail therapy, to have a coffee, to watch a movie, to windowshop, a mall is central to weekend plans. And despite the presence of foreign brands, we've also made it uniquely Indian with mehndi walis, tarot card readers and loud Antakshari competitions.


There is that one annual event around which the whole year revolves - the day/s that mark imminent glee before the occasion, and interminable anguish as it passes in a whoosh. Traditionally, it has been festivals, vacations or even birthdays. A new entrant in this category is the marathon or half of it. Running schedules, apps, gear, gadgets, time tables, marathon prep, running times - these are often exchanged on a coffee break or over a mangoyoghurt smoothie, preferably. From jogging groups to marathon-hopping junkies, from celebrities to the non-descript office-going neighbour, from your boss to everyone's auntie, everyone seems to be saying, if you don't run, you can't be any fun.


The typically American activity of cheerleading has found its way into India courtesy the IPL. It is hard to miss these attractive girls shimmying with their pom-poms to celebrate every four, six or the fall of a wicket during a Twenty20 match. But there are few - if any - Indian cheerleaders: almost of them associated with the IPL are whites from other countries. Their presence has even ruffled the feathers of some members of the moral brigade: In 2008, a few Maharashtra legislators objected to cheerleaders performing in the state resulting in five matches at the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai being held without them. In 2011, a South African cheerleader, Gabriella Pasqualotto, was sent back home after it was discovered that she was behind a tell-all blog that discussed the post-IPL parties thus compromising the image of the IPL.


They might not know what the seven pheras signify but all couples know the MO of a bachelor or bachlerette party. Yet another set of traditions from the West - like Valentine's Day and Halloween - the prewedding shenanigans have assumed gigantic proportions. From simple parties at home to strip shows to kissing random people in clubs, men and women now say goodbye to the single days with unabashed debauchery. Suitably bold merchandise is on offer too - risque-themed cakes and outfits. Resorts and hotels come up with difficult-to-say no to offers.

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