What Carrie Bradshaw Did to a Punjabi Boy

Pop Culture

What Carrie Bradshaw Did to a Punjabi Boy

Illustration: Akshita Monga

In the mid-2000s when our world view was shaped by Ekta Kapoor serials and Shah Rukh Khan romances, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. was the closest we had to a revolutionary show. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. exposed prim and devout middle-class Indian values to what we now know as “normal life”. Even for all its radical ideas about living with friends, serial dating, and Monica telling Chandler about the seven erogenous zones of women, it was a PG13 show. My newest friend puberty had just started fucking with my head, and like most boys aged 13, I was more boner than human.

In this highly dangerous and unstable state, a classmate told me about TV show called Sex and The City, whose premise, according to him, was four MILFs running around New York City, humping everything, from random men to high couture. Scared I might get caught, I waited for two weeks until my parents were out to catch an episode. After five minutes, you could colour me disappointed because my classmate, I realised, had been as wrong about the show as he was wrong about – bless his soul – one of our friends starring in a porno.

And then Carrie came on screen. Played by Sarah Jessica Parker, Carrie was charismatic, fiercely independent, and a wrecking crew for clichés. I had never chanced upon a woman like her and I was hooked to the show, which in hindsight, was the high point of my mostly misspent youth.

For any confused teenage boys out there, Sex and The City is about four women: Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte, in their mid-thirties, who navigate New York, men and the many-headed Hydra of sex. When the show first aired, it was a game-changer for the lexicon of popular culture, pushing boundaries of what it is okay to think about, let alone have an actual conversation around.

Carrie introduced me to the pleasures of a Cosmopolitan and civilised my drinking rituals just the way Don Draper later would, with Old Fashioned.

For instance, for a boy growing up in “mardana” Delhi, “aye homo” was the response to everything from the colour pink to crying. For a youngster without any other exposure, SATC was the first on our horizon to not just normalise homosexuality, but celebrate it. Carrie Bradshaw had gay besties, went to gay clubs, and looked up to them as fashion icons. They achieved equality through collective materialism… an idea that confounded my brain which had grown up Punjabi-by-Nature in Delhi, where materialism was (and still is) always employed as a class differentiator. “Gay men,” as Samantha said, “understand what’s important: clothes, compliments and cocks.”

These classic one-liners with life-altering ideas strewn carelessly around the show were blowing the brains of a 13-year-old boy in Paschim Vihar who – heretofore – had very Delhi ideas about life. Up until then, I had assumed drinking meant straight up 30 ml of whiskey on the rocks or with water – or if you were “young and wild” shots of vodka. Carrie introduced me to the pleasures of a Cosmopolitan and civilised my drinking rituals just the way Don Draper later would, with Old Fashioned. I began to appreciate the drinking sub-culture as a means of enjoyment and lubricant to fascinating conversations rather than quickly knocking back a few to get high, as my schoolyard mates were doing.  

This new way of drinking, if classy, was expensive since it involved good bars, not thekas, but Carrie Bradshaw, a woman with shoes worth the price of a New York apartment, had given me social sanction to spend large sums of your earnings on these finer things: shoes, drinks, clothes, or anything else really that made you happy. Carrie’s championing of spending on things that make you “feel good” was in direct contrast with the post-1991 new business class in Delhi, where most possessions were bought to be placed on a giant hoarding outside the house rather than personal enjoyment.

This “recklessness”, extended to her career choice: that of a columnist. It was the first time the lifestyle of a writer presented its appeal to me: Make four dollars a word, get drunk every day, buy fun things and fall in love. A lot.

To a pre-pubescent West Delhi boy, Sex and The City, that completes three decades today, mainstreamed these most revolutionary ideas and then it gifted me the most revolutionary concept of them all: Not only do women talk sex but – and here’s the shocker – enjoy it too. When Samantha said, “I will wear whatever, and blow whomever I want, as long as I can breathe and kneel,” she single-handedly changed my perception of sex, women, blowing, breathing, and kneeling.

Carrie Bradshaw and her friends, captured the cultural zeitgeist of the upper-middle-class in New York in the late 1990’s, packed it in their Pradas and brought it straight to the television of a little Punjabi boy, and changed his life forever. To my current 25-year-old self then, Sex and The City is part-nostalgia, part-window into the Hauz Khas Village/Bandra Social mind, part-sex education, and part-life learning which is a dizzying proposition considering that at the end of the day, it was just four girls in their 30s, stuck in a specific moment in time involved in nothing more than fashion and fucking.

But then again, the show is just that good.