Tag Archives: Slumdog

I can feel his pain ………… unexpected connections…..

Today we went to see the new Karate Kid movie. If you have not seen the movie, you might not want to read this yet. It’s predictable – you already know what happens, so I promise I am not ruining the ending – but I am all full of opinions about this and I might taint your viewpoint. Better to see it first then tell me how wrong I am.

At one point in the movie, the 12 year old boy who was forced to move across the globe has a mini-tantrum and tells his mother that he hates it in China and that he just wants to go home. After the movie, Bear said that he could totally feel his pain. And then he laughed. And we marveled that we had already been gone a year and a half and that we are now back home. We all agreed that the experience was amazing but we could totally relate to the main character wanting to get the heck out of there – even if the ice cream is really good.

One of the beginning scenes was at the airport and they showed this statue.

We all simultaneously looked at each other and laughed. Several parts of the movie were filmed in places in Beijing we had been – the markets, Olympic Park, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and Tiananmen Square, etc. That was bizarro. I knew the movie was filmed in Asia but I didn’t realize it was filmed in Beijing where we had just visited not too many weeks ago. We went out for a little family bonding time in front of the big screen and behind bags of popcorn and we found some tremendous unexpected connections.

Right before we left for India, Slumdog Millionaire came out and that was really my first introduction to India. It’s wasn’t a warm and fuzzy “how ya doing” introduction – it was a “holy crap you want me to move where and take our children with us – yeah, that sounds like a great idea” kind of introduction.

And then, when we return, Karate Kid comes out. That is about as full circle as it gets. And as much as the Indian population was not that impressed with Slumdog, I don’t think the Chinese people and mothers in general are going feel the l.o.v.e. for Karate Kid.

It missed the boat on a number of fronts. The bottom line is that a father has apparently died and a mother moves her son from Detroit to China for a job. But knowing how tough this decision really is, I was disappointed that they just started the movie with the move. A move that they made too simple and too uncomplicated. There weren’t really any tears – the family just picked up and left with a few hugs in the rain as Dre’s (the Karate Kid) best friend gives him his skateboard and they knock knuckles. That just is not reality. When you move around the world, you are tearing yourself away from just about every little level of comfort you know – especially if it is your first international move – and even if you don’t love everything about where you are leaving – you at least mostly know what to expect. Anytime you move, you are leave people you care about and routines and just a life that is familiar. Surely, there is a thrill in the new adventure but it just doesn’t begin with a hug in the rain.

Those of you who know me will probably laugh when I say this – but I also simply cannot believe that a widow can take her 12-year old boy to Beijing and let him just run about town. He spent a good deal of his time unattended. Let me say this about Beijing. We wanted to take a cab from our hotel to the Hard Rock Cafe and back to get my brother a hat. The hotel “strongly” discouraged us from doing that because most people in China don’t speak English. It’s not easy to navigate a big city even as an adult and even when you can speak the language and can read the signs. It is totally unrealistic to think that a 12 year old could find his way around that town alone and that a mother would be comfortable with that happening. I know you are supposed to suspend reality when you watch a movie. But I think that when people put together a movie that they want you to believe in – they should make attempts to make it believable. A woman alone with a child in a completely foreign environment just would not give her son so much freedom. I could not get past that. Every time Dre was walking somewhere alone, I could not help but think that he should not be doing that.

After the movie, I asked Bear what he thought the chances of me letting him roam around Beijing by himself would be. He laughed that I would probably let him do that before I would let him delete a text message from me and then not respond. Oh yeah, that happened too. Dre’s mom was looking for him and he just hit “delete” after receiving the message. Excuse me? But she was on his arse about not hanging up his jacket. Huh?

At one point, the boy and his instructor take a train ride to train at the Great Wall. Seriously? She’s going to let this total stranger take her son on a train? So, the mom might win an academy award for this movie (but don’t bet on that) but she certainly will not be getting mother of the year honors.

Anyneglect, then there was the whole issue of Dre making friends. On the day he arrived, the Karate Kid met a boy about his age and played some basketball with him. Then he saw a cute girl and went over to meet her. Enter the bullies who were unimpressed. He got the crap beaten out of him. Frankly, it was a little much. I certainly do not claim to be an expert on the Chinese teenager – but this seemed so out of character for what I have experienced. Five or six boys ganged up on the new kid and pummeled him. Exit the new friend. This blond boy is never seen again in the movie. Again, really? Not even at school, not even once? Really, Chinese teenagers would pummel a foreigner within hours of his arrival in the country. It just didn’t all add up.

When Dre’s mom saw his black eye – and not until the next morning by the way – she accepted his “I ran into a pole” excuse to avoid having a discussion in front of the school administrator. Again – not gonna happen. You realize your son has been beaten up, you did a little deeper. You don’t leave him at the door with a “I love you, honey” and send him into the wolves den. Guess who some of the first kids he saw at school were? Bingo!

It was never clear what type of school the boy was going to. But it seemed to at least be an international school. They have this new student thing down pat – they usually assign a “buddy” to kids to help them navigate through their first few days. Didn’t happen. Dre did run into his “crush” at the cafeteria but the bullies didn’t like him talking to her and turned his tray upside down on his shirt – right in front of the school administrator. She just sent them on their way in opposite directions and did not address the conflict at all. Huh?

The boy got bullied a few more times and then finally saved by the maintenance man (Jackie Chan – lucky to have him as the maintenance man). Jackie Chan agrees to train Dre and they become fast friends.

I also had a really tough time accepting the bullying nature of the group of boys in the story. Everyone I know who has their kids in some sort of martial arts touts the discipline the art teaches. It is not about the fighting but about strengthening the mind and the body and learning focus. You become strong so you do not have to fight. But the motto of the teacher of the bullies was basically if you have any mercy, you are weak. Fight until someone cannot get up. Yes, you remember that correctly. These boys are 12.

I guess, it was possible to believe that the fights on the street got nasty. But even in competition these boys were giving blows to the face and trying to maim their competition. They were more like MMA fighters than 12 year olds learning martial arts and competing in a respectful manner. It did not give a great impression of martial arts training in China. Dre’s teacher did say that there were no bad students only bad teachers. But still. The whole premise of the fighting was that these boys were out for blood and trained to be so.

There were just too many missing pieces in the plot. Not enough of a front story. Not enough of what we loved about the first movie – the training sessions and the growth of the character. And a very predictable ending – which had to be predictable because it is after all a remake of the Karate Kid. I can forgive it the ending – and, no, I was not crying at the end. The theater was extremely humid.

What’s it really like………..

This is the most common question I have been getting since we came back to the U.S.

Describing India in contrast to the U.S. is nearly impossible. It is an amazing place – full of culture, history, and fascinating people. It is also so very different from everything I am used to. Some of those differences weren’t even clear to me until I returned home.

Some of the things that are so very different really have nothing to do with India – but encompass more the differences between living in a house and an apartment. My husband has always wanted to live in a city – rather than the suburbs. That is what we are doing. I don’t care for it. It is hard to be in a 3-bedroom flat when you are very used to a 3-level home with a yard and a drive way and friends all over the place. There were times I frankly felt a little claustrophobic.

Doing homework is hard when you have 3 kids and no where to go. Having friends over is hard when you just don’t have the room to entertain. The kids in India don’t really seem to be outside playing a lot. I am not sure why – but we just don’t see it that often.

Having staff sounds like a great gig if you can get it. But again – if you aren’t used to it – well, it is also a big adjustment. I don’t like explaining everything to other people when I am used to doing it myself. But I like going into the closet and pulling out an ironed shirt that I had nothing to do with getting cleaned – if only they would wash it and iron it somewhere else. Cooking and cleaning might be a little difficult to accomplish somewhere else – but that would be nice too.

We have two people who work in our house. And after some trial and (some very big) error, we have people that are a really good fit for us. But it is still someone in your house – your little house.  I calculated that our staff works for us for almost 80 hours a week. They work hard and they work almost the entire time they are there – really only rarely stopping for tea. So that is 80 hours of work I do not have to do. Yes, I am very thankful for that!

One thing my husband always says is that there are nice people everywhere. That is true. I have met some kind and generous people who I hope I will be friends with for the rest of my life. I have met some people who are more interesting than I will ever be. The expats who live in India are adventurous and smart people. They soak in the world.

I am writing delicately on this one – but parenting is different in India. And on this issue, I am talking mostly about expat parenting because that is what I have been exposed to. Some of the parents I have met depend on their staff a lot. Drivers drive kids to and from parties. Not everyone is that concerned with meeting the parents on the other end. Ayahs (babysitters) supervise play dates. This is all about comfort level and, again, if you are used to it, surely this is easier. But I cannot let go of my parenting long enough to enjoy this benefit of India. I like being the one to take my kids places and I want to meet the parents any where I might be dropping them off. I know this is all about balance and I am a little heavy on the side of caution. But it is who I am and I do not want to let India change that part of me.

And this is not the friends that I have surrounded myself with. I gravitate toward people who think more like me. I roll like that.

The expat children I have met are confident and outgoing. They all seem to find their niche and thrive in their own circles. They are comfortable talking with adults and don’t seem too affected by moving around the world. They are impressive in that regard. They will surely accomplish great things. On the down side, some of them are a little entitled. I mean, really, if you have a driver, a cook, a house cleaner, a gardener, and an ayah – yeah, you might feel a little more than special. But a lot of parents I have met work hard to keep their kids on an even keel.

I have written a lot about shopping. Haggling is fun. Very fun. But I do miss Target and Costco and the grocery store. It is just so convenient in the U.S. But I have gotten some very fun Indian items that I probably would never have found in the U.S. – even at World Market – and I negotiated good prices for them.

The best way I can think to describe  living in India is that it is like living in the U.S. about 30 or 40 years ago.

People do not have answering machines – well, I guess technically they have human answering machines. Everyone has a cell phone but nobody leaves messages. It’s all about texting. I stink at texting so it takes me a really long time to do it. I am usually about half-way thru my message when the person I am calling calls me back. Augh.

I am not used to electricity and water being sporadically available. Although we are really fortunate that we will have not been inconvenienced by the outages.

And I know many Indians are not thrilled with the portrayal of India in Slumdog Millionaire – but honestly – it is a dirty place. Pollution is abundant and it is dusty and in many places, very dirty. You see people working hard to sweep the streets and move the garbage – but there is just so much of it. There are lovely places that are not dirty – in fact, they are meticulously maintained. But there is a hazy sky almost everyday. It’s just not what I am used to.

Delhi is less organized than my little corner of the U.S. And India is less predictable. Which makes everyday interesting. You really, truly never know what you might see.

In some ways I feel we are living in a little bubble of expats. We really spend most of our time on the school campus. Most of our activities are there. We have not met that many Indian families. The Indian people we have met thru number one hubby’s work are delightful and kind. They are generous with their support and thoughtfulness. They certainly have made me more comfortable about living in India.

So – what’s it really like – it’s very different. I miss all my routines and friends  and family and conveniences. I am enjoying my new friends and experiences. It’s a mix – it’s a great adventure that really makes me homesick.