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Wednesday, Nov 19, 2003

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FUNdas!

F for Fun, Freedom, Fads and Fake Accents


A LOT has changed since the summer of 69. But somethings just don't. Like college. `Those were the best days of my life', is not just what Bryan Adams would sing. MetroPlus found that what made college days special, over the years, was one energetic empowering feeling. Of independence. Freedom with a capital F.

Earlier, the only ones to taste absolute freedom were the `rebels', who kept their neighbours awake, notoriously blasting their speakers with "I want to break free". Today, the `rebels' have been legitimised — they are not at the periphery like they used to be, they form the core of the student community. It's all `cool' these days you know. As Vandana Parwani, a visual communication student from SRM Institute of Communication, says: "The rebels of yesterday are the parents of today. So they very well understand that we just want to chill. We have plenty of time and freedom to figure out what we want to do. This is the time to have fun, ya". Fun with a capital F.

Earlier, sleeveless tops were considered taboo for girls. Today, you don't have to be Tabu or Aishwarya to sport them. Many colleges have rewritten the rules. You have the freedom to redefine fashion and reinterpret fad. That's right, Fad and Fashion with capital Fs!

Earlier, girls used to coyly sit around in class and read their carefully written notes. Today, 13-year-old boys and aspiring teen beauty queens in college, jump off with a six metre cord tied to their legs, from a launch-pad 146 feet above the ground! Yeah, it's called bungee jumping. Would you believe that the latest edition of VIBA's Miss Chennai has a Mountain Dew Miss Adventurous round? Participants lined up to take a plunge on Monday at the YMCA.

(It's another story that two jumps and three hours later, the rest of the lot settled for safer options, not willing to take a chance because of assorted reasons — the Miss Chennai finals, semester exams, sinus problems and some candidly, a "bit too scared").

"I've always wanted to do this," Riya, a first year WCC student, the second and the last to bungee-jump, says excitedly after the free fall.

The others, however, went up the Artificial Rock Wall and bounced around on the Trampoline Catapult. Riddhi, who won the Miss Chennai Adventure title along with Riya clocked the fastest timing at rock climbing and at the trampoline. "More than the timing, it was just the spirit of participation," says Riddhi.

The `jump master' Dharmendra Mehra, who helps bungee jumpers with their gear, says it's not just college students who have discovered freedom and fun through jumping, it's the older crowd as well. "To let go completely. That's absolute freedom," C.K. Gopalakrishnan, an adventure junkie and visual communication student, says.

"Up there, the jump master was the last person I thought I would see but I fell and bounced back," says Prishi, the youngest of the participants and the first one to have jumped.

Die-hard attitudes and dare-devilry is surely in. Even in clothes.

The Sixties and Seventies saw half saris/pavadais or shirts that butterflies would find pretty and bright bell bottomed nylex trousers, getting popular with women. Men then, wearing kurta-styled shirts (full-open-buttoned shirts crept into fad only later), hung out at movie-halls — the likes of New Elphinstone, Casino and Gaiety— that were known to be the heart of English cinema and secretly dated their ladies in Woodlands Drive-In or good old Spencers.

Today, it's all about reinvention of the old fads.

Jeans born in India in the mid-Seventies (with `Sholay') have reinvented themselves— as hipsters, boot-legs, detachables, convertibles and accessories. Today, we have denim destruction kits — with acid, gloves, knife and other aids to destroy your denim and get that `oh-so-fashionable distressed-denim' look. Hippy culture today is part of the hip and the happening. Tattooing and body piercing — eyebrows, nose, ears, belly buttons, toe-rings and what not. And wrap-arounds, sarongs, pyjamas are part of pubbing.

There's no part of the body that fashion discounts — from toe-nails to hair-dos. To add to the possibilities of streaking, hair colouring, re-bonding (hair straightening), beauty salons these days, provide more options — highlighting (available in all kinds of colours - primarily reds, followed by bronzes), temporary hair colour that washes off and hair mascara in all colours that you can match with body glitter.

In shoes, there are the sky-high stilletoes and platform heels that can make even the shortest of girls look like an Amazon, provided she doesn't mind moving about on a personalised stage.

Students, clearly, have stepped into the era of looking good. An era where you can rectify any part of yourself through scientific correction procedures — gymming, slimming, skin and hair-care, grooming, make-overs, a designer wardrobe to hide the flaws and even fancy bikes and cars to go with the desired `image'. Chitra Priya, an SRM student, goes on long rides on her Enticer and finds her peace. She doesn't believe in sticking to fad.

After all, there is a thin line between what's fashion and what's fake. A lot of students today walk that line with terribly fake American accents — mostly the model types — the `Yo' crowd you know — the Miss Missisippis and the dudes who pretend to get their clothes washed in Washington DC and the gangs that wished they were from New York. What would these wannabe Yankee Doodles do without STAR TV?

SUDHISH KAMATH & SHONALI MUTHALALY

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