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Category: Reviews Date: 14 Apr 02


Last week I was sitting with my colleagues in the media in balcony, watching our parliamentary theatre.

 

It was startling, scary even, to actually see close up, the two sides in battle, neither giving in; each speaking of democracy, neither exercising it; each speaking on behalf of the people, but operating on behalf of themselves.

 

Although the farce that was Parliament was entertaining at one level, it was deeply disturbing at another. Now, more than ever as a people, we have to pick our way through the human theatre and shows that are being laid all around us like land mines threatening our economy and our peace of mind.

 

Thankfully for us, daily life is filled with unexpected revelations and flashes of hope, which make petty politicking irrelevant. For the media, somewhat traumatised and disillusioned by the politicians’ theatre, there was reprieve, an opportunity for us to get rid of the bitter taste in our mouths left from that particular assignment.

 

It came in the form of an invitation from the Indian High Commissioner, Mr Virendra Gupta, and his wife Veenu, to view a screening of the film, Monsoon Wedding.

 

The finest art, it is said, imitates life, is a clear mirror to our lives. It allows us to see the big picture. It puts life in perspective. Mira Nair’s highly acclaimed Monsoon Wedding, screened at the home of the charming and gracious Guptas, did that for many of us in the media.

 

Instead of sitting in the balcony of Parliament, we sat in a veranda, in a green garden. Instead of the stifling, closed-in atmosphere of the Red House, we sat in the twilight, as the projector whirred on, taking us out of ourselves into another world.

 

It was India all right, with its myriad of contradictions, its teeming masses, its excesses of wealth and poverty, its extravagant sunsets, its emotional, idealistic materialistic people, its curious mixture of great technological advances, its multitude of sects, tribes, classes.

 

In one scene, two wedding guests poke fun at one another:

Woman 1: You Punjabis are so ostentatious.

Woman 2: You Bengalis are so pretentious.

Its vast urbane, educated middle classes who retain ancient prejudices and wisdom is held together with another universal jell, humour. But like all great art (and this was no Bollywood formula, this was academy award realism material) it was universal.

 

And how much closer can you get to the human heart, whether you are living in Trinidad, Delhi or Timbuktu, when you see reflected on the screen a family that can be any family, can be your family, can be you?

 

A story unfolded. A wedding was being held in the monsoon season in Delhi. It was an arranged marriage. The boy came from America. The girl lived in Delhi. But the film dug in its heels. It unearthed the conflict, love, warmth, laughter, tragedies, skeletons in cupboards that make up all families.

 

The girl had secrets, a married lover in Delhi. Her two cousins were victims of incest, her father was heavily in debt due to the expenses of the wedding. The bride’s younger brother rebels - he would rather sing and dance than be sent to boarding school to be toughened up.

The west, relatives from Australia, and America, collide with the East. But in the end, it was about the triumph of the human spirit in all its forms. There was honesty - the girl told her fiancé about her lover in Delhi. There was compassion. The boy from America, after his initial rage, became closer to his fiancée because his love overcame his jealousy. The girl in turn responded warmly to his generosity and fell in love with the boy to whom she was to be married.

 

The uncle who committed incest was exposed and turned out of the home, despite his status in the family. It made me think of families. The way we quarrel and get distant but almost miraculously get together in times of crisis.

 

It made me want to celebrate the thousands of families across our country. It made me think of river and cricket limes, Sunday lunches, birthdays and anniversaries.

 

It made me think of mothers and daughters, sons and fathers, aunts and uncles, adopted friends who become family, in-laws, and pumpkin vines, providing a solid backdrop to our lives, pests at times, but indispensable ones.

 

Once we have this kind of solidity, once we can, as families, face crisis courageously, tell one another when we are wrong, forgive one another, and love generously, no constitutional crisis can touch us. Family by family, our country will remain intact because we the people, in the end, run our own show, are responsible for ourselves.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur