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Bieber in Bombay: Ditch that refrigerator, here's a guide to going native

Palash Krishna Mehrotra | Updated on: 10 May 2017, 11:22 IST
Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is coming. While I’m not a Belieber, I most certainly would have been if I was in my early teens. I was thirteen in 1988 when New Kids on the Block released that seminal boy band album, Hangin’ Tough. I got the album and the Sun magazine poster, which remained on my wall for a year, before I discovered punk.

Bieber is not coming by himself though. Elle reports that not only is he coming with his entourage of people, he’s also bringing with him a refrigerator, a sofa and a range of other products and goodies. Justin carries his world with him when he goes on tour.

I sort of get this. I carry a stack of books with me when I’m travelling, and the first thing I do when I enter a hotel room is to arrange my books on a shelf. Also my portable speakers. It’s nice to add a touch of home to unfamiliar surroundings, no matter how short one’s stay is.

But Justin’s world is bigger than mine. He needs to carry many more things. At the moment, it looks like that he doesn’t trust anything desi, and so even the chewing gum will be imported.

Bieber has so far expressed faith in only two things Indian. Not things actually, but people. The first is a masseur from Kerala who will be flown down from 'God's Own Country'. The second, Gurmeet Singh Jolly, more humbly known as Shera, Salman Khan’s bodyguard, will handle Bieber’s security.

What Bieber will miss out on is the pleasure of going native. There is still time. Justin, follow me.

Fact: Bieber in Bombay will travel in a Rolls Royce especially booked for him, and arrive at DY Patil stadium, where he’s slated to perform, in a chopper.

My advice: One of the pleasures of travelling the world is to sample local flavours. Instead of the Rolls, which smacks of celebrity fatigue, try the Tata Nano, the rupees one-lakh people’s car. Born and brought up in India, the Nano is the stuff of local legend. It is as ponderous and slow as a Rolls.

When he travels to Agra, Justin should try the tempo, the long-nosed tuk-tuk, which carries up to eight people, with everyone sitting on everyone’s laps. Sitting on someone’s lap makes you feel like a baby, a feeling that everybody can do with once in a while, especially Justin, who has grown up too fast.

A bus ride is highly recommended. Not the low-floor ones we see in the national capital, but the standard Indian bus, tilted to one side, groaning like a granny, the passengers squashed like chickens in a coop.

This will be much safer than a chopper, which most likely will be a Pawan Hans, which has a 100% success rate when it comes to crashing on a whim.

Fact: His team is flying down a cupboard, a sofa and a washing machine.

My advice: You cannot come to India and not use what we call an ‘almirah’—a freestanding cupboard or wardrobe.

The Godrej almirah, usually stinks of mothball, and has been used by generations Indians to store silk saris, woollens, dirty cash, gold jewellery and the keys to the bank locker. When a burglar breaks into an Indian home he heads straight for the Godrej.

Justin is bringing a washing machine. It’s not clear whether this was suggested by his hotel or it was his own idea. We in India have had problems with international athletes and rock stars misbehaving with our washing machines.

In 2010, during the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, a group of Australian athletes vandalised a room, throwing a washing machine off the eighth story of the Australian team’s residential block.

The Guardian reported the Aussie chef de mission as saying: "At the end of the Games these things happen. When everybody is finished, they are letting their hair down, they do all sorts of things. We just sort of manage it and get on with it."

While I don’t know what Bieber’s entourage does after everybody is finished and letting their hair down, it seems unlikely that they’d be chucking home appliances out the window. Justin is no Aussie jock. He’s a sweet Canadian kid.

While here, he should sample a twin-tub washing machine. The first one was manufactured in India by a company called Greysham in 1992, the year Nirvana released Nevermind. I still have a Samsung twin-tub. It’s great fun. One has to keep switching tubs, like switching tabs on Google Chrome.

The machine rumbles like an angry Rumpelstiltskin, when it’s spinning, and by the end of the spin cycle, chances are it would have reached your balcony from wherever it was in the first place.

The twin-tub is less a washing machine and more a peripatetic philosopher. From the sound it makes you’d think it was churning cement, when in reality it’s only a couple of threadbare blue VIP underwear.

Justin is also bringing a ping pong table. Man, that’s for your China tour. When in India, play badminton. We can provide Justin with one plastic shuttlecock, which unlike the feather ones, lasts a lifetime.

Fact: Two five-star hotels have been booked for Bieber’s team. The hotels will redesign his suite with signature bed-linen, his favourite—purple carnations (purple being Justin’s favourite colour), and Mughal miniatures.

My advice: With regard to bed linen, Justin should know that we call counterpanes bedcovers (pronounced bad covers). The baddest covers are available at Fab India.

Justin might be unaware of India’s political tilt at the moment, but it’s highly recommended that he drop purple altogether. The bed linen should be a light shade of saffron, the Mughal miniatures can make way for gilded portraits of Vivekananda, while marigold flowers should replace purple carnations.

It’s advised that Justin step out of his hotel and have at least one meal in a poor man’s hut, a la Rahul G—just to expand his horizons.

Fact: Bieber is bringing with him aromatic essential oils, hydrating lip balms, books on yoga asanas and chakras.

My advice: Drop the aromatic essentials. We have a range of wonderful hair oils in India. In my twenties, when I had a ponytail, the oil I used to swear by was Ultra Doux.

Marico’s Hair and Care is also non-sticky. If he’s looking for traditional heavy oils we have Keo Karpin. Parachute coconut is a multi-purpose unisex oil which Indians use for everything from massaging babies and wrestlers to frying chips and pooris.

Instead of the hydrating lip balms, Justin should try India’s favourite perfumed cream—Boroline. This cream, which comes in an ever- green tube, can cure almost any skin ailment. A tube lasts a lifetime. I still have the one I did when I graduated out of school in 1994.

Drop the books, Justin. Seriously, are you going to read about chakras in your hotel room? Instead, read Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts. It will change your life. Or he can try Mein Kampf, which hasn’t budged from the No. 1 spot on Indian bestseller lists in years.

Fact: According to Elle, Bieber’s dressing room is ‘required to be draped in white curtains and a large glass door refrigerator must be present. Twenty-four bottles of still and alkaline water each, 4 energy drinks, 6 vitamin water bottles, 6 cream sodas, 4 natural juices, 4 vanilla protein drinks and half a gallon of almond milk need to be within arm’s reach at all times.’

My advice: If Bieber wants to go native, he should drop this fancy list for a bottle of India’s favourite sherbet, Roohafza, which can be served to him by an Arab lady dressed in diaphanous silks. Minute Maid’s Roohafza comes in a pulpy rose variant, with real rose petals.

Instead of almond milk, he should try Amul Lassi, and instead of Colby and provolone cheese, which he’s asked for, try Amul cheese slices. We Indians have been introduced to all kinds of cheeses in the last decade or so, but our love for and devotion to processed Amul is undimmed.

Justin’s also asked for seedless grapes. Why not try the seed-infested okra—it’s good for roughage, which is turn is good for bowel movement. If Justin bumps into Gandhiji and Gandhiji asks him his trademark question that he asked his followers every morning: ‘How was your bowel movement today, Bieber?’, Justin can proudly say: ‘Excellent, Mahatma ji. I feel as light as a balloon.’

Fact: Backstage, according to Elle, Bieber has also asked for sliced Haribo Cola Gummies, Ritz Bitz and a large pack of Swedish Fish.

My advice: I have to admit I have no clue what’s going on here. What are these things? He’s also asked for sliced white bread and peanuts, which I’m glad to say, I understand.

Sliced white bread is made across the length and breadth of India, in small towns and big cities. White bread is more Indian than rotis. Don’t miss the Bombay pav. As for peanuts we have Haldiram’s Nutcrackers, which is a variety of miniature devilled egg. Or is it?

Fact: In his dressing rooms, Bieber will require two packs of plain white crew-neck tees, two packs of white tank tops, and three packs of white lo-rise socks. Also a boombox with an iPhone battery.

My advice: Justin should try Indian vests or baniyans. Lux Cozi and Amul Macho are the undisputed market leaders.
In India, the undershirt is an outer garment. Just so Bieber doesn’t get confused: Amul Macho has nothing to do with Amul cheese slices. They are two different companies. Socks usually come free with a two-pack of plain white vests. Sometimes, even with cheese.

Instead of a boombox, he can try out a tea-stall transistor radio. Set permanently to Vividh Bharti or Red FM, these radios are low on battery consumption; batteries have been known to last for decades.

All said and done, going native has its perils. Jarvis Cocker sang about it on Pulp’s worldwide smash, Common People, of how tourists in London eat fish and chips and laugh at working class drunks: ‘’Coz everybody hates a tourist./ Especially one who thinks it’s all such a laugh,/ and the chip stains and the grease will come out in the bath.’

Perhaps it’s better to carry your world with you than go native with gusto, making a fool of yourself in the process. There’s one thing though that Justin has left out of his encyclopaedic list. Zenflox OZ.

In fact, Justin doesn’t seem prepared for Delhi belly, which will strike sure enough. Delhi belly, Justin, doesn’t necessarily strike in Delhi. If it doesn’t get you in Bombay, it will by the time you’re standing in front of the Taj Mahal and thinking: what the hell is the deal with this dome?

The remedy for Delhi belly is Telephone brand Isabgol or phyllium husk, Pudin Hara, a bitter concoction of mint leaves, and Zenflox OZ—please finish your five-day course of antibiotics or the infection will recur.

No need to take my advice seriously though. No need to go native. Stay celeb! One last thing: if you are going to be toking, please get your own because Bombay Black sucks.

(The writer is the editor of House Spirit: Drinking in India, published by Speaking Tiger)

First published: 10 May 2017, 1:35 IST