What am I obsessing about?

When I write, I need to feel it. I cannot write unless I am feeling passionately about the topic on that particular day. Today, I am obsessing over a Bollywood movie I saw last week called “English Vinglish”. It is a story of an Indian housewife, Shashi, whose English is bad.  She runs a small catering business, (making ladoo’s, an Indian dessert,) from home. Her kids and husband insult her on many occasions. She is a great wife and mother but her confidence level is low. Shashi then visits USA to attend her niece’s wedding with a white American guy. (I love that they introduced the concept of intercultural relationship, warming up Indians to the idea). In NYC Shashi gets insulted while ordering food at a cafe because her English is bad. She then decides to learn English and signs up for a class to learn English in 4 weeks. The actress in the movie is Sridevi. She was a Bollywood diva in 80’s and 90’s, but then she got married and did not act for last 15 years.

Why am I obsessing over this particular movie you ask? There are several reasons, I will list them in no particular order.

  • Shashi reminds me of my mom. The way she ties sari, her hair style, her winter coat, her hand bag carrying style, and even her bindi are almost identical to my mom. When I told this to my mom, she said that when she was growing up a lot of people told her that, including my grandpa, (apparently my grand pa was a big movie buff then). Sridevi started acting when she was 4 years old and is almost the same age as my mom. I am home sick, so it really touches my heart. I am also amazed that Shashi’s character seems so much like a regular Indian woman .
  • Shashi has two kids: a teenage daughter and 6-7 year old son. The daughter is a jerk , throws teenage tantrums, makes fun of Shashi and is rude to her. She feels embarrassed about her mother and does not like to take Shashi to meet her teachers. I threw a lot of teenage tantrums, and my mom dealt with all that. I always like to take my mother to meet the teachers though. The reason is my teachers get free medical advice from my mom and then give me a better grade. 😉 Shashi’s son is so cute. He tattletales on his sister but is very good to Shashi. He reminds me of my brother. Yes, my brother is very cute and a big tattletale. 😦  Shashi’s husband makes fun of her too and does not really appreciate what she does. My dad used to tell us that he is a better doctor than my mother. My mom would not say anything but just listen and ignore. I grew up thinking that my dad was smarter than my mom. I realized that was wrong when I was in medical school. My dad would push the responsibility of helping me with my course to my mom.  That is when I realized that my mom is a mountain of knowledge. She is intelligent, smart, and her memory is great. I gave her the title “Super mom”. She gave up her practice to help me study for my test because I was irresponsible and did not study when I had too. She stayed up all night to help me with my last minute cramming. She still does that even today via Skype. I know I am a baby, but the only thing I would like to change is not to push everything to the last minute. I wish I could give her less stress.  That’s why the movie reminds me of my family when I was a teenager.
  • In the movie, Shashi’s husband asks her to go to the parents teachers meeting because he cannot make it. Her daughter throws a tantrum because she is embarrassed to take her mom to the school, (Shashi cannot speak English). Shashi goes to the school and meets her teacher anyway. After the meeting, when they are going home in the car, her daughter starts complaining. Her daughter is annoyed because she thinks Shashi embarrassed her, and Shashi is in tears. This scene in the car reminds me of the time when me and my mom used to have arguments in the car, though not for the same reason. We argued when we went shopping, mostly because I wanted something that costs more than she was willing to pay. That’s when I threw a tantrum. She was either angry with me, (as I was not acting responsibly,) or upset at herself that she could not give me what I want. Yes, I agree my mom deserves a better daughter than me. I am a spoiled brat, and too complex for her. I am trying to change the way I act with my mother because I know it is wrong. I am failing miserably. I am nice and peaceful when I talk to “D,” but the minute I hear my mom’s voice the sleeping dragon inside me awakens. I just cannot stop myself. I guess old habits die hard, but I seriously want to change the way I behave with my mother. I cannot imagine my kids acting the same way as I do with my mother, so I better change now before it is too late.
  • Then, there is this scene where she was insulted in a café in NYC.  I posted the video so you can get an idea what I am talking about.  Shashi bursts into tears. Thankfully, this never happened to my mother when she was here. We were with her most the time, and her English is better than Shashi’s. Shahshi’s expression in this scene reminds me of my Mom’s when she was here. As I mentioned in a previous post, she was scared and not so confident. The movie might have slightly exaggerated the scene because, for the most part, Americans are friendly and helpful. I do not think we can completely deny that something like this can happen in US. There are some impatient people and some who do not like immigrants with accents. I am also sure if something like that happens, there will always be someone around who is willing to speak up. Watch this video:  I had very subtle incidents, but I do not let  ignorant people bother me. I know there are far more good people in America than the bad ones.
  • The relationship Shashi shares with her sister and niece is almost like the one my mother shares with her sisters and my cousins. My mom is the youngest, just like Shashi. Some of my cousins grew up with my mom, and so they are like siblings to her.
  • Shashi and her ladoos are adored by everyone outside.  Shashi loves making ladoo’s, and she says that is her passion. Her English teacher boosts her confidence on the first day of the class by telling her she is an entrepreneur. This reminds me of how much my mom’s patients adore her. They love her, and my mom loves her job. She always tells me about how important it is to not overlook subtle sign and always stick to basics.
  • Then comes the cooking part. Shashi is a great cook and always gets compliments. My mom is the best cook for me, though some people, (my dad and cousins,) might not like it. I love her food. She makes food to my taste because I am her priority, (my dad feels jealous about that :)).
  • Shashi is also determined to learn English no matter what. My mom is just like that. She is always determined and dedicated towards whatever she does.
  • Also, I think the movie touches on the sensitive issue of Indian inferiority complex and the English craze. I wrote about this a few posts back. You can find it here.
  • I think it is very relatable, and it moved me to tears. This is as realistic as it gets.
  • For the first time in the history of Bollywood, a yesteryear’s actress made a comeback with a movie that became a success. I have always been a great fan of Sridevi  I guess that helps.
  • Okay, finally, this has nothing to do with my mother. There is a French guy in the English class Shashi attends. I know “D” might be jealous, but I am saying it anyway. French guys are irresistible, and their accent is divine, as is the English accent. 😉 I guess I should never visit France or England for D’s sake. 😉  (Atleast “D” is part French and English, among others.)

Maybe there are not several reasons as I said before, but only one reason, and that is my mom. I think at this time, my mom and “D” make up 90% of my world. I am terribly home sick. I made a promise to myself that I will not visit India till I become a doctor, (i.e. get a medical residency or doctor training,) in USA. It has been almost 5 years, and it is taking a toll on me. The circumstances right now would not allow me or my mom to travel, so it is worse.

Comment down below to let me know what you think about the movie if you watched it. If you have not watched it, what are you waiting for?

-R

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4 Comments

  1. Hello Raina —

    I just read and enjoyed your post about English Vinglish. This film came out about a year ago, and I attempted to see it last November when I was in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It was playing at a theater outside of the city, so I took the train for about 40 minutes and arrived at the theater. I even purchased a ticket, but before I went in to see it – I asked the cashier about the subtitles . Since I was in Holland, the subtitles were only in Dutch. They refunded my money and I gave back the ticket.

    After returning home, I live in Florida, but I had lived most of my life in Manhattan, I made it my business to find a way to see the film. Eventually I joined a subscription service for Indian films and got to see the movie.

    I loved the film not only for Sridevi, and the great music, but for the opportunity to watch this Indian woman get to experience New York. So much of where the the film took place was familiar to me, including the very same railroad station that Shashi used to get to Manhattan.

    What I didn’t have was the sense of New York as experienced by some one from another country, as Shashi had to deal with, and the French man Laurent, and as you, and your mother both had to deal with. I grew up not far from New York, and by the time I accepted a job and actually lived and worked in Manhattan, I was already very much a New Yorker.

    Your personal connections to the film were quite touching and inspiring. And gave me a sense of family that I don’t experience much these days.

    I can relate to it, as I visited a friend from China in Hayward, CA. She was a writer of books in English, and she and I had no problem communicating. But her parents were also visiting, and I had a strong sense of their isolation as they had no way to enjoy American TV or movies, no way to get around by themselves, and no way to even shop. So I related that way.

    But for the film, I’ve seen it now four times, and would watch it again next week. But even though I have reviewed a good many Indian films, I’ve not reviewed English Vinglish yet. But I was preparing to do that and that is how I came to visit your blog.

    I thank you for describing your very personal connections to E/V.

    Mike

    Reply
    • Raina

       /  September 2, 2013

      Thank-you for taking time to read my post on English Vinglish and commenting. I have been postponing watching this movie since its release. It is really close to my heart. When you post your review, let me know so I can check it out.

      Reply
  2. Raina

     /  August 20, 2013

    Let me know if you like the movie. Your story is funny. I thought you might had an easy time, but then again you are right about southern English. “D” always complains that I speak softly when I am speaking English and very loud when I speak Telugu. He told this to my brother too. My brother said “that is because she probably feels more comfortable speaking in telugu.”
    NYC people don’t even give you a smile. It feels like we are lost and everyone is in a hurry.

    Reply
  3. Omg I loved the clip and will watch the movie now 🙂
    It reminds me of when I first went to college in the Southern US when I was 17 yrs old and I spoke so softly and with a Canadian accent that all the African American ladies in my dormitory’s sub shop thought I was actually deaf. I also could not understand their thick Southern drawl accent. They always used to say, “Here comes the mute white girl”…I was so timid that I just pointed at the chicken and everyday they just made me the same chicken sandwich. I was really intimidated so I could only go once per day, so I ended up losing 40lbs in my first semester. They eventually came around to me, and towards the end of the year they were pleasant and took me under their wing. They did not realize that I was not American, they just thought I was weird. I was embarrassed to speak louder because I was raised to think that speaking loudly is rude. When I came back home after that semester for my Winter break, my parents got mad that I was talking so loud! lol
    Similarly, even though I had been in the US for 4 years already, when I went to live/work in NYC for 3 months it was also a scary experience for me. People are much ruder and headstrong in a big huge city like that, it’s like survival of the fittest mentality. That coffee shop is pretty similar to many places in NYC!!!

    Reply

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