We just saw the new Mira Nair film "The Namesake", based on the very satisfying novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. Visiting the official movie site, I read comments from viewers on how much they have been moved, how they didn't want the movie to end, how authentically Bengali were the touches of decor, dialect, and mannerisms. All I can say is that the movie narrative flows like life itself, until its somewhat awkward end, moved along by the wise, humble and affecting characters/performers in the lead roles. Tabu shines in the role of the steadfast mother who learns how to let go.
I was in Calcutta and Jamshedpur once -- can't say it was pleasant, but it was certainly memorable and unlike any other experience I've ever had -- and the way Nair films her India summons up the smells, noises, dust-on-the-skin memories. The movie's American children return to the ancestral home and are desperate to leave instantly, shocked at the heat, and the lack of air conditioning and of familar references. But in showing how packed together the people are, the proximity of the home to the street and its crowds, we understand how unnatural isolation is for most of the people of this world.
It is first and foremost a movie about family, and how families of a diaspora such as the Indian one evolve, what they give up and what they have to strive to regain. Most migrating people move for opportunity and an incremental accumulation of little compromises are endured to make the most of it. It takes work, time and sacrifices to rise to the challenge. So many Americans' parents and grandparents and great grandparents have done it.
A generation later, the feeling of what's been lost is overwhelming but they must come to terms with it. And yet, there's a loss. And it is usually connections, not just with the homeland but with what makes a home and a family. Maybe the enduring custom of arranged marriage is a means to keep what is Indian in the family.
I've remarked before about the idea and even virtue of slowness. Here is another place where it fights against the current. It simply takes time to build and maintain connections, even with those it is easy to take most for granted.
An article a friend sent recently from Italy talks about the "insatiable" demands of the market, actually its "vampirizzazione" (translation probably unnecessary) of our time. And that's it -- the frenetic pace of modern life sucks the energy out of the flow of life.
I have not been blogging lately because of a deep and painful ergonomic injury, probably brought on by too much time at the keyboard. My body was telling me something and I'm listening. I'm not going to stop blogging, but other things will have to go. Stay tuned.