Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A Momentous Hair Cut

Today, while at the hairdresser's to get my two-monthly trim, I had an itch to write. This itch was provoked by a turban lying on a nearby chair as I sat waiting for my turn. Glancing ahead, I saw a mirror with the reflection of an Indian-looking man, a pair of scissors swiftly moving across his forehead. Glancing below, I saw a garden of dark hair against the light-coloured floorboards of the salon - big and small ringlets forming such intricate patterns that their random beauty almost broke my heart.

Born in a Sikh family, I first cut my hair five years ago when I moved to Australia. I suspect this was the case for the aforementioned gentleman as he later took a picture of his newly hair-shorn self on his phone camera. This photo would now be on its way to friends and lovers, but what about family? I am still reprimanded every time I go home with slightly shorter hair, or unusual layers, or anything deemed too foreign. And despite being independent in every way possible, I occasionally experience pangs of guilt. Not for breaking some religious code, but simply for missing my former long, thick, straight locks in all their natural unruliness. They are not all gone, simply altered over the course of the last few years. This progressive change has not made me more Australian and less Indian, but it has reflected the changing colours and textures of my inner turmoil as I spend more time overseas. 

Love of Life

I love life so much that to my senses, every moment is a photograph worth capturing - sometimes joyous, at other times imbued with pathos, but mostly beautiful.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Unaccustomed Earth (Aut. Jhumpa Lahiri)

In this book, a collection of eights stories in two parts, Jhumpa Lahiri outdoes the humane literary genius she displayed in The Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake. Like her previous tales, the most recent ones are about first and second-generation Bengali immigrants in the United States. Her narrative style pays close attention to small, seemingly trivial items that compose the domestic sphere and populate the lives of dis/placed migrants. This sphere is the fragile zone where the negotiation of cultural identity and inter-generational conflict takes place. Also important is the subtlety in the writerly staging of this conflict as rarely do we come across shouting matches or catastrophic events. Instead, there are siblings growing apart, spaces left by dead mothers that the surviving members of the family struggle to fill, inter-cultural marriages and relationships that are often not very different in their love-strife dichotomy from unions arranged by parents, lives variously taken over by lovers and careers, and children who inherit both a heritage and a sense of loss.

As the book progressed, the stories seemed to become more tragic rather than being simple chronicles of the migrant condition. When the flawed hero of the final story jumped into the fatal tidal waves of the oncoming tsunami, I was compelled to confront this question - Are these stories life-affirming or simply realistic? While I, as a displaced reader, would like to cling to any remnant of hope, it appears that Lahiri is keen for this hope to emerge from the loss itself. The loss then, whether cultural or human or material, becomes an absence with the potential to be filled with something else. Something equally flawed, equally tangible.

Monday, 14 July 2008

I don't know how to know

Instead of introducing writer-director Adam Brooks's film Definitely, Maybe (2008) with the regular movie title and filmmaker's name that I use for film reviews on this blog, I decided to make an exception this time. Then the question arose - is this film worthy of an exception? A quick skim through Google, IMDB and Wikipedia revealed that although it was released around Valentine's Day this year, the so-called rom-com indeed fared well with the critics. Some even went to the extent of calling it a 'sophisticated chick flick' or a 'seriocom'.

Pre-decided genres, new classifications and critics' opinions aside, what did I think of this film? Aware of the gushing honesty of my next comment, I must now reveal that I felt more than I thought. Even intellectual gems like one of the lead female character's declaration to politcal consultant Will Hayes ('I don't know how to know') evoked an embodied rather than a cerebral response in me. I did not sit down and ponder over the philosophical implications of not knowing, or the historical antecedents of the science of ontology, or the postmodern anarchy resulting from a generation faced with too much choice. Embarking on the film's dialectical journey of the despair of succesive heartbreaks and the hope of potential discovery, I was swayed, moved, tossed and turned until the destination beckoned. And it was a sweet end. Realistic or willing suspension of disbelief? I'll tell you when I know how to know.