Oh my goth!
On World Goth Day, we take a look at a subculture riddled with misconceptions through Mumbaikars who truly own it
No matter what or who you believe in, life can pretty much be the same hell you're trying to avoid in afterlife — or worse, who knows? But to embrace darkness and more importantly, see beauty in it requires you to be goth — a word usually synonymous with Satan, the Grim Reaper, conventional Halloween costumes and Avril Lavigne's second wedding. Today is World Goth Day — an occasion conceptualised in the United Kingdom in 2009 to celebrate the "scene". So, today is an opportunity for us to ask the question: has Mumbai goth it?
"My mother still asks me if I'm going for someone's funeral," Alisha Noronha says. Soon after she graduated from high school, Noronha developed a keen interest in goth after her introduction to rock music. In popular culture, kids who take to goth are portrayed as ones fuelled with angst — the underlying reasons are rarely delved into. "I was overweight in school and as a result, I was bullied a lot. I kept it all inside and couldn't lash out. That's how I came to like goth and something good did come out of it; I started to learn the guitar and now I play it along with bass," she shares.
Noronha adds that people perceive goth to be a subculture separate from reality — just a costume rather than another lifestyle. Broadcaster and cosplayer Niharika Patil aka Niha Novacaine, who resonated with the dark, witchy vibes of the romantic vampire goth, concurs, having been bullied in school too.
"My parents thought I was going down a terrible path and in high school, a classmate slapped a Bible on my desk. She hated that I broke school dress code and wore black nail paint and eyeliner to school. I've always been called satanic and got told that I practise witchcraft. It's something that I got used to thanks to my interest in cosplay as well. I was the first professional cosplayer in the country so you can probably guess how that went."
The Calvin Cycle
Both Noronha, 21, and Patil, 26, share how incredibly difficult it is to find people like them in the city. We nod in agreement with our Google search results. Compared to goth-specific pubs, clubs or festivals in other countries, Mumbai has zilch. "People are more open to brighter colours and hipster culture. But I have failed to find anyone who truly enjoys goth," Patil says while Noronha adds how goth people are often afraid to come out in the open because of societal stigma. "They act like an angry mob. And I understand that because I was one of them too. But ultimately, I understood that in order to live in this world, I need to socialise with people."
Alisha Noronha and Niha Novacaine
Highlighting the light
Karishma Attari, author of gothic novels — characterised by elements of secrecy, legacy and the sacred — I See You and Don't Look Down, was inspired by the architecture of her alma mater St Xavier's College to delve into the genre. Gothic architecture is interlinked with the subculture. Initially considered to be barbaric, it depicts a tendency towards the darker side.
"The best way to feel the gothic vibe is walk around the city with its blend of gothic and Indo-Saracenic structures and imagine if you lived there. The genre is not about having black eyes, it's about celebrating darkness and in turn, highlighting the light," she says.
Still a niche
We thought it wouldn't be difficult to find a goth band in the city since it borrows from rock and punk. Many phone calls, webpage searches and breakdowns later, we found two whose styles intersect with goth. Gareth Mankoo, 34, of Spiked Crib, a goth/doom/black metal group which was active until 2015, says the band was heavily influenced by Tim Burton's films. He states that there's hardly any goth left in the city.
Mausam Gandhi and Sabina Halder
"The use of synth to create an audial reverb and dark undertones has nearly ended in Mumbai's heavy metal scene. It will be difficult to see this genre thrive since people choose to latch on to 'what's trending' these days. Clearly, nothing significantly gothic is." Jeff Dani of Navi Mumbai-based band The Calvin Cycle describes their sound as "gothic symphony", since he was inspired by the score of a 1970s Old Spice commercial. He maintains that the crowd for this genre is niche. "The scene is not steady. What we do is not commercial. See, our music culture never accepted hip-hop or rap, but it slowly gained traction. It will still take about 10 years for goth to pick up."
A guide to go goth
. Although the style is more suited for cold weather, opt for distressed denims with a loose T-shirt and accessorise it with a choker and black hoops. Pair this with black espadrilles and ankle boots. For a night-time look, you can also add a leather vest or short skirt. Black nail paints can be an extra element.
. Use kajal when going casual but if you want a glam vibe, do smokey eyes. If you have a fringe then goth will gel in well, but avoid the look if you have light-coloured hair. Leave your lips nude if you have tan skin. Black lips are last season. Opt for oxblood or burgundy.
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