14 June 2016

Life Lessons From Hindi Films

Recently, over on Dustedoff's blog, on her latest post, reader Thandapani wrote: “I hate these kind of ‘the whole world is out to rape a woman who steps out of a house’ thing." That gave me a brilliant idea for a new post. (Yes. I'm also very modest.) You see, I have been a lifelong student of Hindi cinema. I started young, sitting on my mother's lap when I was two, turning my face away from the screen when the dhishoom-dhishoom started. Over the years, many, many films in various Indian languages, but especially in Hindi, have taught me some very valuable lessons.

Though half these lessons hold universally true for both genders, the rest are especially meant for women. [I must confess that I have been a bad student in that I haven't really learnt any of these lessons, even after Hindi film after Hindi film tried to teach me how to be a 'good' woman.] But, in the hope that someone might actually learn something from these, here's a summary of some of the things I've gleaned from watching Hindi cinema.

Lesson 1. If you go to a fair, with or without your siblings, you will be separated from your parents. 
In case you do go, in order to ensure that after 20 years [bees saal baad], you're reunited with your family of origin, please ensure that you a) have learnt your 'family song'; b) have tattooed your name / family symbol on your forearm; c) were born with a birthmark that identifies you as the long-lost child of a wealthy family; or d) have a locket with your parents' photographs in it. 

Of course, today, there aren't as many fairs as there once were in my childhood; besides, with the ubiquitous cellphones, you are more likely to get lost because your parents (or beloved) let go off your hands so they can take a selfie, than anything else. If that happens, please pull your own cell phone out, and post an update on FaceBook or Twitter. Someone, somewhere will answer your post with OMG!  (Even if they don't call the police.)  

I must confess, sadly, that I was not separated from my family at any of the fairs I went to in my childhood. (Perhaps I didn't go to any of the right fairs.) I'm quite sure my parents wouldn't have minded 'losing' me, but either their sense of responsibility, or my persistence in remaining stuck to their side, stopped anything so fortunate from happening. Of course, that also meant that no wealthy royal family identified me as their long-lost daughter when I was 20 years old. Haaye, meri phooti kismat!  

However, just in case I end up getting lost at a fair, even though I'm not a child any more, I got my husband to write me a song that will allow my masala sister to recognise me and reunite me with my husband. (I can hear him groan already!) 

Lesson 2: Never, never, never sing a song promising your relationship will endure forever. 
I cannot stress this point enough. I learnt this lesson very early in my film-watching career. If you sing even one line about 'hum tum juda na honge' or express similar sentiments, you can just bet that the Fates are waiting around the corner to hand you a wallop. Songs like these are our cue that all the happy times are ending, that the next scene will lead to the accident / death of one of the lovers (see Lesson 3), or the heroine will be wedded off (always the heroine, never the hero, who's left to sing songs about the heroine's bewafaai, usually at her engagement/wedding), or the hero-heroine will be separated due to a misunderstanding.  

The fact that S and I haven't either a) died [yet!]  or b) been separated because I was married off elsewhere, is because we didn't sing any such songs of eternal love. Me, because I can't sing, and S, who probably  didn't sing because the sound of me caterwauling in the bathroom hurt his sensitive ears. Of course, S is probably wishing that I had been married off elsewhere, but he's loyal and kind and will not say so. Not aloud anyway. 

Lesson 3Never travel by train, especially if you've promised someone that you will return soon.
This is a lesson that I'd forgotten about until fellow blogger Dustedoff reminded me about it. It is a very important lesson for both men and women Indian Railways is dangerous to anyone in love. (So are cars.) Especially if, just before boarding, you promise your partner you will return. So remember, if you have to travel by train, don't make silly promises to people. And if you have to make sappy promises, then fly (airplanes don't seem to be struck by the same affliction), or take a bullock cart, or walk... or something. No trains, cars, or crossing bridges. Ever.   

To think of all the years I waved S goodbye at the railway station without fear that he wouldn't return the next year! Of course, it probably helped that he a) wasn't my boyfriend then and b) didn't make promises to return to me when he was. 

Lesson 4: All rich people are bad
(Unless you're the hero, in which case you're only 'bad' until you become good. Also, if you're the heroine, in which case you will become 'good' once you're tamed by the hero, who is always poor.)

That's a lesson that was dinned into my head all through my Hindi-film-watching years. All rich people are bad. Remember that. Therefore, all poor people are good. Very, very good! So if you're a woman and you're rich, you will be shown the error of your ways by the poor hero. 
You will turn into a coy, docile, 'good' woman who looks upon your beloved as your parameshwar, and you will find joy in seva. You will give up your 'modern' clothes (see Lesson 5) but as consolation, be allowed to slip into designer ghagras (with backless cholis) and chic silver jewellery (especially payals), and learn to walk with a pot on your head.

If you're a man, you will turn over a new leaf and the love of a good woman (remember, only poor women are 'good') will make you give up all your riches and earn your living by the sweat of your brow. Of course, you will get a job just as soon as you apply for one, and you will soon be able to give her your mehnat ki kamaai, upon which she will cry tears of happiness. (Actually, 'poor' women in Hindi films are always crying.) More likely, your rich father will beg you to come back with tears in his eyes, having learnt the error of his  ways, and willingly accept your poor beloved as his bahu.
Or, your rich father will get you married to a poor girl because only she is sanskari enough to be a 'good' bahu
Corollary: It is perfectly okay for poor women to become bahus of rich men, and thus become rich themselves. That does not take away their essential goodness. Rich women, however, cannot remain rich, and take their husbands back to their own houses. 
They have to earn their 'goodness' medals by sacrificing their wealth and becoming poor. Which will earn them a medal for being 'good'. 

So, remember: 'Poor' = 'Good'. 'Rich' = 'Bad'.

Lesson 5: If you really, really, really get mad at God, he will answer your prayers.
This, apparently, only works if you haven't asked Him (Her?) for anything ever before. That is a very important condition. And if you are asking on behalf of someone else. You have to remind God that this is your first request. (Frequent requests may be denied. He's extremely busy, and cannot remember all his devotees' requests, much less that of someone who wasn't his devotee at all. ) It also helps if you are the prodigal, returning to the fold

Corollary: For very devout people, your faith is enough. Even accidental blindness can be cured. (Apparently, there's fine print even in God's contracts he's not going to cure people who are blind from birth!) You just have to align yourself with the flames that leap from the idol's eyes. 
This hasn't worked for me. Ever. That could be because I'm a) an agnostic and b) not blind mercifully or otherwise disabled. I leave this lesson here, however, so others can benefit from this gyan.  

Now, for lessons that are primarily meant for women. (Of course, it might help men to learn these too, so you can teach your women how to be 'good'.)

Lesson 6: A man and woman can never be friends.
It's worth repeating once again. A man and woman can never be friends. Take it from Hindi films down the ages. 
Babe, you cannot be friends with a guy

If you are a woman with a male friend, he will fall in love with you, and assume that you're in love with him as well. Even if you are already engaged elsewhere. It doesn't matter. He loves you, therefore you will have to love him. Friendship? What friendship?

Also, if you are a woman with a male friend, at some point when he begins to fall in love with someone else, you will suddenly realise that you love him. And only him. And you will try your level best to make him fall in love with you. 
Only to realise that he doesn't care for you because he wants a 'good' Indian woman to fall in love with. One that he can take home to mother, you know. You, with your short hair, and your jeans and Ts, and hoydenish behaviour cannot compete with the 'hot' babe (with long hair) who's very traditional at heart and can sing 'Om Jai Jagdish hare'. 
Nope.  Not unless... you decide to get an excellent makeover, and look like this...
... and lose your ability to beat him at basketball. Because you're wearing a sari and, he still cheats. But. You look pretty. And he can take you home to mother. Because now you have long hair. And you're wearing a sari.

To elucidate this last point further, please proceed to Lesson 7. 

Lesson 7: Once you fall in love, you have to wear saris or salwars.
This is an [absolutely] mandatory lesson that all young women should learn. Until you fall in love, you will have been perfectly happy in jeans, or well-tailored trousers, or skirts /dresses. The man you fall in love with will have wooed you in the afore-mentioned clothes.  
Once you fall in love, however, you will have to dispose of all your jeans, trousers, skirts and any such 'modern' attire. He will expect you to do so, even if he doesn't explicitly say so. 
You don't expect to wear the pants in the relationship, do you? 'Good' women don't do that!  

Once again, I don't seem to have learnt much. Or at least, I don't seem to have retained anything that I was taught. I lived in saris and salwars right through my college years, but immediately after I got married, promptly stole my husband's jeans and shirt to wear on the train. (An act of petty larceny that I've followed up with outright theft pretty regularly ever since.) 
You do have one consolation, however, to make up for your ultimate sacrifice. Your short, lovely bob / sophisticated chignon will *usually* transform overnight into long, thick, tresses in a single braid or a sedate 'bun'. Magic! ('Good' women have long hair, that they will keep covered, thankewberrymuch!) 
Corollary: If you continue to wear 'modern' clothes after you are married, you are a naari jaati par kalank. (Looks sadly at self. I appear to be a blot on the old escutcheon. Sigh.) Definitely not a 'good' woman. Or in other words, multiple blots on various escutcheons. Of course you deserve all the bad things that happen to you!  In fact, if you wear short skirts or even jeans, married or unmarried, you deserve to have bad things happen to you anyway. 

Lesson 8: Beware of rain, deserted huts, and boyfriends not necessarily in that order. 
I would have thought that a dash of cold water would dampen anyone's libido, but Hindi films have taught me that if you get wet in the rain with your beloved, there's only one thing that can happen next. There will always be a convenient hut /guest house to lead you astray, and these will be quite well-furnished, deserted, and will always be left unlocked. 

Funnily enough, in real life, when a group of us were caught unawares by the monsoons, there was nary any shelter to be seen, much less such luxuriously appointed 'huts' as seen in the Hindi movies. We had a very cold and uncomfortable bus ride back. 
This lesson is especially for women  –  especially in today's sanskari Bharat. Any woman who enters a deserted hut with her boyfriend is asking for trouble. Besides, everyone who has ever watched a Hindi film knows that this one night is enough to make you pregnant. 

Which brings us to Lesson 9. 

Lesson 9: If you faint, you're pregnant. 
Absolutely. There's no other reason why a young woman should faint in public.  
Only mothers faint in private, and that usually meant they were going to die. Or at least land up in hospital where the missing son (never daughter!) will either be a) the doctor treating her or b) conveniently on hand to give her blood.
If you faint in public there will be one person who, just by looking at you, will be able to proclaim in public that you're pregnant. So, all you women, young and old, who are reading my blog please do not faint in public. Not unless you're married. In which case, see the parenthesis you are going to die! (Don't say I didn't warn you!) 

Lesson 10: A woman's place is within the four walls of her home.
This is absolutely the most important lesson for women. Forget emancipation and independence and women's rights. All that 'feminism' rubbish is not for us. All that is 'modern', and anyone watching Hindi films know that 'modern' women especially, are B-A-D! A 'good' Indian woman knows that her rightful place is within the four walls of her own home. Therefore, my sisters, all the bad things that happen to you are all your own fault. If you stay within the lakshmanrekha, no harm will come to you. If you step outside the line, you will be punished, and like Sita of yore, have to go through your own agnipareeksha. Don't say that you haven't been warned.
Once again, in all honesty, I do have to disclose that having been emancipated, independent, modern, and yes, a feminist, I haven't had any 'bad' things happen to me. Yet. I live in hope that my run of luck will continue. It appears that with all my other bad qualities, I'm also a gambler in that I'm willing to take that risk. Deepest sigh!

So, my dear readers, these are some of the lessons that Hindi films have imparted to me. Tell me, what lessons have you learnt from Hindi films? Please add them in the comments so we can have the benefit of these, and other, moral lessons, so we can all better ourselves.

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