The Only Place is the kind of place that attracts old people, families, and maybe teenagers (since they'd get IDed in a pub). It's the only place for Cherry Pie in Bangalore though (oh my god, their Cherry Pies). I was waiting for my friend at the entrance. It was pouring. Hard. People sitting on the benches at the entrance had to give up their seats because the rain bounced off the bikes behind them. As the rain neared its death, I overheard the conversation of three teenage kids, also waiting at the entrance. The buzzwords being "Hamza" and "Andrew Tate". Sometimes you feel a compulsion to interject. Interject I did.
"Andrew Tate? You guys talking about Andrew Tate?" And just like that, I was part of a conversation. One about red pill vaudeville clowns. In the back of my mind, the narrative went, how in the hell am I connecting with these kids...talking about influencers and YouTubers like Hamza, Sneako, and Tate (a writeup on these idiots gonna come soon). One of the kids even commented that I
looked like Sneako - it was my buzzcut. The rain died, and they bounced. Not before fist bumping me. I was honoured.
Cracking open a cold one with the boys is a 21st century cosmopolitan ritual. We were waiting for the beverages to arrive to partake in said ritual. Our conversation was somewhere in the area of the lighters. As it happens, we ended up watching a video of a guy explaining the intricate, game-changing features of Clipper lighters (the advanced flame settings, the removable flint-stick, blase, blase). That's how rabbit holes are created. Coz next thing you know., we were deep in cyberspace discussing different lighters. You know, you're Bic vs Clipper, which is better. I mean there are subreddits dedicated to such things, videos with entire dissertations and all. "Lighter subculture", we chuckled.
Subculture - it's subversive. Goths, punks, and emo, ya, ya, they are there. But it's more than that, there is a plethora of people choosing to deliberately come together and partake in a thing. Me connecting with juveniles watching red pill YouTube content (it's a guilty pleasure and it's kinda sad tbh), drinking a couple of cold ones with the boys, or people geeking out about lighter design and artwork; it's all being part of a subculture. Fractals of the larger ambient culture, intimate frames of references, shared interests, and the lack of care about where the rest of the world stands. The sense of community fostered by a proactive bonhomie - gym subculture, music subcultures, sporting subcultures, crochet subculture, blase, blase. That's what truly makes you feel a sense of belonging and connection.
Culture, and I mean absolute culture, is never a free for all. It feels like a monopolistic war waged by cultural and religious organizations, your 'uncles' and 'aunties', basically anybody but you. Cases in point - the controversies on the depiction of Goddess Kali smoking, and Ranveer Singh's butt-naked photoshoot. When the discourse is about some imagined dominant absolute culture; the chastity of a Goddess, the prudishness of sexuality or sexual expression, it degenerates into confrontation - an "us" versus "them" of culture. Contesting over what the larger culture is gonna be is bound to lead to conflict, ugliness, and absurdism; it's always more synthetic than organic. But as long as subcultures exist, or are allowed to exist (they exist in the most autocratic societies too, you just can't stomp them out), we good. Society good.