For ten long years, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross swept millions across the world in their capacious Manhattan pad, hypnotising them with their gags, wisecracks, crack-ups, affairs, music-making, cooking…with the shallow, locquacious depths of their very souls. Maladjusts from Valparaiso to Delhi weakly protested, but were cut down. Though the ballyhoo ended sometime back, acute nostalgia and wannabe antics persist. Some of the glassy-eyed marked 2020 as the return of the six in a Friends ‘reunion’ in HBO. But, as Jennifer Aniston, the ever popular Rachel, lamented, the pandemic has postponed it indefinitely. A faint note of cheer could be heard amid the sighs.
As the world is torn and twisted out of shape, as hardscrabble efforts to mend the fabrics of our lives runs against our frustrated hopes, the one thing that emits warmth and joy are children, their unknowing demeanours, the li’l beasts’ innocent pranks. What we have here goes to the root of it all—a nativity scene bathed in ethereal light, of Kalki Koechlin cradling baby Sappho, announcing six months of breast feeding her daughter and looking all the happier for it. On the Greek island of Lesbos, Sappho wrote lyric poems of love, dipping her quill in violet ink. In our babe’s wide-eyed, agape wonder, we see abundant promise.
Unpredictability is as asset for a fast-bowler: the sudden rearing of a bouncer from the good-length spot, say, or a delivery that swings in and then straightens. Shoaib Akhtar had those in plenty, but in his avatar as an expert, comes across as a dispenser of reason—note his calling out of former teammates for mistreating Danish Kaneria. His sudden assertion, then, that had he been PM, he “will eat grass”, but still increase the army’s budget (ostensibly to get parity with India), has to be seen as an eruption of his hot onfield antics. Did uniformed Rawalpindi applaud the Pindi Express on this echo of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto? But, in his statement that he turned down a county stint so as to fight the Kargil War, Shoaib oversteps his mark. We want a free hit.
Taylor Swift, aided by her sharp-soulful look, made her name with punchy, love-hate-hurt ballads—decoding them was considered a brainy parlour game for those immersed in pop. Selena Gomez covers the same terrain, but is influenced by dance-pop and EDM. Suprisingly, considering the moolah at stake, the competitors are inseparable, ‘best’ friends. Though they have appeared in each other’s shows and tours to lend a voice and additional star appeal—here they are, dressed alike in black and white, belting one out in unison—they have never collaborated on a song or album. That possibility, says Selena, is her fondest wish. ‘Swifties’ and ‘Selenators’, we hear, are waiting eagerly.