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Good golly Miss Bolly
I am 40 years old and married to an Australian lady for the last twenty years. While I try to follow some aspects of my Indian culture, I have generally become Australianised. Of course, I still support the Indian cricket team! Now Auntyji, my wife – while she is a lovely lady – has mostly been ignorant of the Indian culture. We don’t have any friends of Indian descent, and all my relatives are in the US. So Auntyji, here is what happened a few years ago. One day, while I was watching cricket, my wife got angry and switched the channel to SBS where a Bollywood movie was playing. I don’t recall what it was – because I have not seen one Bollywood film, even when I was in India because my parents didn’t consider it high culture. But Auntyji, my wife was hooked. She and I had a massive argument. Since that day, Jennifer became hooked on Bollywood. She watches these films all the time, listens to Bollywood music and even when she is on the iPad, I can see her reading up on film stars. I don’t know what’s wrong with her, but she says she is imbibing Indian culture from watching these films. And slowly she is changing. She has made herself some new friends who are Indians who arrived here recently. She goes to every new Bollywood film that opens. And just the other day, she insisted that this year, she was going to keep Karva Chauth. Auntyji, when I heard this, I went on an automatic fast myself for the entire day. I could not eat or drink. What has overcome of my poor ignorant wife? When do you think she will return to her old, ignorant, uncultured ways instead of trying to do an adaab whenever she sees an appa in a burka because that’s what happened in Mere Mehboob, or so I’ve been informed. Please advise, I am at my wits’ end.
Oh you crazy crazy man! You are such a philistine! Don’t you know that Bollywood is a key tool that the Indian diaspora utilise to understand who they are and where they came from? Today, if you go to Mauritius, South Africa, Fiji, Maldives or Malaysia, you will find people of Indian descent whose ancestors left India over a hundred years ago, and these folks watched Bollywood to learn about India and the traditions of its people. Bollywood has its place in society. It allows people all over the world to be entertained, amused, perplexed, flabbergasted and occasionally outraged by what they see and hear on the screen. They then try to emulate this in their lives – why else would brides insist on doing the saat phere when everyone knows it’s a Marathi custom, and why else are Fiji Indians now having a sangeet night at weddings – when this was never part of their culture. As for Ms Jen, she has seen the beauty of Bollywood. You should be happy that she is learning more about your people – there is nothing wrong with educating oneself. In fact, if I may be so blunt, it is you who is uncultured by looking down on an important educational tool. Something that has given people so much joy, happiness and understanding should not be mocked. I suggest that you leave your wife alone, and instead go and watch a few Bollywood films yourself. You should start with Raj Kapoor films, because as everyone knows, this was the hey day of cinema. And then evolve to Amitabh Bachchan films. Jug jug jiyo.
(Desi) Men behaving badly
I am an Australian girl and have started going out with an Indian man who is wonderful to me. I have had a strange experience I was hoping you can shed light on. A month ago, I met Neel’s sister and her husband and we decided to have dinner together. Afterwards, we went back to their place, and for some reason, Neel’s sister’s husband had done something to upset her. She was cranky with him, but the way he was trying to placate her left me gob-smacked. He started speaking to her like a little boy – and tried to get her attention and favour. He kept on walking to her and saying “suno nah” or something like that, but in a little boy’s voice. At one stage, he even grabbed her hand and tried to get her to look at him, shaking it as though he was six years old and had done something to upset his mother. Alisha, meanwhile, was hell-bent on ignoring him and was trying the silent treatment. I was so baffled by this perplexing drama going on in front of me, but not as much as I was all shook up when last week, Neel did something to irritate me, and then tried the same behaviour with me! He kept on talking in a little boy’s voice, like a petulant little brat. And then, he started accusing me of not loving him and not caring for him because I wasn’t giving in to what he wanted. Auntyji, I am still in trauma from this ridiculous event. I don’t know many Indian people, but I need to know immediately if this is how Indian men are. When they are in trouble with their wives and girlfriends, do they carry on like little boys? And more important, how do I deal with this? My natural inclination is to tell him off, or walk out the door temporarily to avoid the horror of a fully-grown man regressing to an infant during moments of stress. But what do you suggest I do? I am all ears.
Oh, there are so many options available to you, my dear girl, that I do not know where to begin. You do not have to tolerate this rubbish for a second. But allow me to digress a little and tell you what I did when Uncleji tried this on me when we got married 55 years ago. Now Uncleji was the youngest of seven brothers, and as you can imagine, he was an absolute laadla. Family lore has it that he did not walk until he was five years old, because everyone carried him everywhere because he was cho chweet, cho precious. And would you believe, his mother, Rani Ma made him kheer every single day with her own two hands for the first seven years of his life, and fed it to him? Further, one day, in his youth, he came home from a shikar and fainted because he did not have anyone to pour him a pitcher of water and he didn’t know how to do it himself? So you can see he was as cosseted as they come. Apparently this is normal nawabi behaviour. So one day, after we had gotten married, he did something to irritate me and then when I glared at him with my hirni jaisi aankhen, he threw himself on the ground and literally pounded the earth in a full fit of fury. My reaction was immediate. I was so surprised and incensed by this child-like behaviour that I drew myself up to my full five feet one inch glory, puffed out my chest, and hissed at him that if he ever behaved like a child again, I would talaq him on the spot! My face was red, I was quivering with rage and breathing like a witch on roids. That got his immediate attention. I then declared that I was going to take my favourite horse Sheru out for a ride and needed to be left alone, because I had never seen such despicable behaviour in a grown man. He never behaved like that again. So what do I recommend for you, my dear? Two options. Secretly record the event and then play it back and laugh uproariously at your poor paramour, and he will be humiliated enough never to try this again. Or, you could be mature about this, and do what I did. Give him a withering look, stare at him for 60 seconds, and with a dismissive and contemptuous tone, declare that if he behaves like a child ever again, the relationship is over. Tell him that you don’t find this attractive in any way, and if anything, it makes him repellant to you. It is just as annoying as women talking like little girls. It’s not cute. It’s disturbed. Good luck my dear Anarkali, let me know how you fare.