Saturday, May 26, 2007

No Connect

My favorite childhood TV show Malgudi Days is now free to view online. I wasted no time in getting J to watch it. She does not understand Hindi, has no recollection of India and most definitely does not have a clue about rural pre-Independence India. Not sure why I thought she would love Swami and friends like I had loved them in my childhood.

I figured I knew nothing of rural India either but there was an universal appeal to RK Narayan's stories that transcended time and locale. Maybe it would work its magic on J as well. What I had not factored in was the cultural familiarity. The school room, the dirt roads, playing cricket where ever, the doting grandmother and the overbearing father were all within my cultural lexicon. I had no trouble relating to them. I just had to use my imagination to travel backwards in time.

Removing the cultural context leaves J as clueless as a western audience in a Noh performance. Through her eyes, I see India as an average American might - there is much astonishment, some dismay and a definite reluctance to reach out and participate. It is a lot easier to get her to watch Preity Zinta and Abhishek Bachchan dance to Wheres the party tonight. The ambience is western as is the beat. She is able to sense a connection and appreciates the perfectly synchronized movements that define a Bollywood dance number.

I think my India immersion exercise for J should begin in the 2000s and go back from there. Maybe in time she will enjoy the delightful simplicity of Malgudi days and remember it with nostalgia as I do. I never realized it would hurt so much not to be able to get my child excited about what mattered in my childhood.


gg said...

Don't feel so hurt. You have analyzed the whole thing well. We should be glad we watched the best of Indian TV.

I could not bear to watch anything on the tube in my last three trips to India. I have no urge to hook up to satellite TV which has all the indian channels.

Like J I felt completely at ease once an American sitcom came on at my sister's place in Bangalore. (I know, lame isn't it?) :-)

The JOngleur said...

You got it spot on...I hav been hooked since I discovered that they were freely available online!

I am wondering whether it has got to do with timeshifts- just like we seem to relate more to the eighties, our parents to the 60's and our grandparents to times at the beginning of the century. I certainly cant relate to walking to school bare-footed, but I can relate to Buniyaad and Amar Chitra Katha and pocket money of 5 rupees a month.

Anonymous said...

Long time since I was away. Love your posts. Yeah Malgudi days if its retold then it will be easy. I like it and introduced it to my kid with the stories first with our grandpa when we were in India, but then Harry Potter is the favorite of kids at 12. Just give your J some time and be patient with her, thats what parenting is all about. My parents liked me to watch 80s and I like their 60s and 70s movies too but the 21st century is more of magic world and kids are loving this new magic...
Puja Sadani.