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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Playing ‘favourites’

There really is no good answer to any question that contains that word

There’s nothing that stumps me more than a question that begins: “What is your favourite...?” It doesn’t really matter what word or phrase completes the query. It could be something as innocuous as ‘colour’ or ‘restaurant’ or as deep and meaningful as ‘time of life’ or even ‘religious text’. But no matter how it ends, any question that contains the word ‘favourite’ within it strikes terror in my heart. I stumble, I stutter, I flail around searching desperately for an appropriate response – and in nine cases out of ten, I come up empty.

Because, to tell you the truth, I really don’t get this concept of a ‘favourite’ something or the other.

Take colours, for instance. How could anyone possibly choose one over the many that are on offer? And yet, there are people who don’t even have to think about it. “Red”, they reply confidently. “Purple”, say some others. “Black” is another frequent response.

Well, you know what? I love all of the above. And on occasion, I’m fond of a dusky pink, a flaming orange, or a deep indigo. But I couldn’t possibly choose one over the other, no matter how hard I tried. There are times when I love the crisp monochromes of a black and white graphic print. There are times when the deep blue of a monsoon sky overwhelms me. And there are times when a palette of beiges, like an undulating desert landscape, soothes and calms.

Choose one over the other as an absolute ‘favourite’? Sorry, I couldn’t possibly.

It’s much the same story with restaurants. I am sure that many of you have a ‘favourite’ restaurant, but I couldn’t pick one if you held a gun to my head. Sure, I have many favourite haunts, where I return time and again. I love the cafes in Khan Market where I hang out over lazy lunches with my friends. But I love the chaat joints in Bengali Market just as much. I love the earthy flavours and huge portions at Bukhara, the mod-Jap vibe of Wasabi, the buzz at Set’z, the butter and garlic flavours of Swagath.

Well, I could go on, but I guess you get the general point. When you are as promiscuous as this about eating out, how could you possibly pick one restaurant – or even two or three – as a ‘favourite’?

Or pick a ‘favourite’ cuisine, for that matter. I love parathas and pickle as much as the next Punjabi, but there are times when a nice Chinese stir-fry just hits the spot. Sometimes you need a spicy Thai curry to get your gastric juices flowing; at others, it is the wasabi flavour of Japanese food that does the trick. Choosing one over the other is just a matter of convenience and mood. And it changes every day – well, it does for me, at least.

The other ‘favourite’ question that gets asked all too frequently is: “What is your favourite holiday destination?” Huh, what? Just the one? You have got to be kidding!

How could anyone pick just one place in the whole wide world as a ‘favourite’ place to holiday in? Surely, urban breaks in London, New York or Paris are as much fun as adventure holidays in New Zealand or Australia. Beach resorts are just as relaxing as mountain getaways. And holidaying in India has its charms just as taking off abroad is a special pleasure.

After much soul-searching, I have managed to narrow my choice down to one country: Italy. I’d much rather holiday here than anywhere else. After all, where else could I go from a beach resort on the Amalfi coast to verdant vineyards in Tuscany to the mysterious beauty of Venice to a pizza-eating orgy in Naples to a shopping blitz in Milan – all in the space of a single week? But there is no way I could narrow it down any further.

Books is another area in which I am utterly unable – hell, even unwilling – to choose a ‘favourite’. No, I don’t have a favourite book, let alone a favourite author. There are many books that I like enough to re-read from time to time, but they are written by authors as diverse as Jane Austen and Dominick Dunne, as far apart as Agatha Christie and Bill Bryson.

But most annoying of all is the ‘favourite’ person question. I can just about cope with the ‘Who is the best person you have ever interviewed’ question by pulling a random name out of my head. But the “Who is your best friend” question leaves me rather puzzled.

Best friend? Seriously? What, are we in Class I again? Because, this really is the kind of question that only makes sense in primary school. I don’t know anybody who has a single best friend as they grow up to adulthood. Speaking for myself, I have several ‘best friends’ whom I have gathered over several stages of life.

There is the old school buddy, whom you catch up with occasionally, taking up seamlessly from where you left off. There are my work friends, with whom I have shared office space at one time or another, who are always great for a good down-and-dirty gossip session. There are friends with whom I can share my passion for fashion, friends who are part confessors and part therapists, and friends who are always ready for a late-night coffee (and never mind the caffeine rush).

Honestly, how could you possibly choose a ‘best friend’ among them? But then, as you can probably tell, I’m not very good at all this ‘favourite’ stuff.


ashima madan said...

I love your writing style.
You were the first name, which really made me want to read. It was because of your column in Brunch that I started waiting for Sundays and then proceeded with the other columns of the weekly.

I adore how you take up most random topics that none of us care to care about and write volumes about them. It makes me wonder "How true! Why do I never think of such things?" and your conclusions about your own introspective sessions leave me gasping for more.

You're awesome,and I have been meaning to say this for a long time. Keep writing, keep observing, keep inspiring the wit in me.

prashhanthkpp said...

Seema, what a pick of a subject. You know, I never realized that the word 'favorite' could be approached, analyzed, evaluated and concluded the way you have assessed it.

You have left me pondering on whether all of my favorites were after all, favorites indeed! My suits, shoes, eat-out joints, bars; they were a selection which I cherished. Your blog has me re-thinking. Why confine myself to a select few choices under the tag of 'favorite'? There is an array of choices to be liked indeed.

No doubt, you have influenced me to shed that cloak of confinement and go for everything. Your flair for writing on a subject that was never ever thought to be considered in the context your approached it is overwhelming.

Phenomenal indeed. I love it. Thank you for instigating a genuine thought with reason.

Nellayappan B said...

I really enjoyed reading your article. This question always forces me to change my response immediately after answering. I once struggled to recall the response I made to “What is your favourite .......?” in a “Hint Question” as a password recovery option and I have never opted this type of questions after that . This question is really a totally irrelevant one in the dynamic life.