October 21, 2014 4 Comments
The film is appealing on many levels apart from the sentimental. One of it the depiction of social changes that economic modernity has brought in India.
Unlike previous generations of Indian children, most of whom settled close to the son’s parents (if not in the same house), current young professional are setting up homes elsewhere, leaving elderly parents to tend empty nests without any real sense of fulfilment.
Urban parents of the previous generation also tended to have just one child or two, instead of the battalions of yore. If that child – or those children – happen to be daughters, then the chances of the parents leading such lonely and/or independent lives increase manifold. Not that all sons make their homes with their elderly parents, of course, but in our patrilocal society, there’s at least the expectation they might (whether or not that means domestic bliss); parents of married women are denied even that.
Of course, as the film shows, technology – not too long ago limited to shoddy overhead lines and whirly-disc phones – has seeped into most nooks of of our human living, simplifying it enormously. But banalisation of human interaction is often the flip side of that. It’s great to video-chat with one’s parents several times a week, but precisely because the technology of virtual nearness is present, distance might no longer makes the heart fonder, and regular family-time may begin to feel forced, banal and tedious. There is of course the convenience of shutting Skype off or hanging up the phone, but the discontent it produces ferments, and is either carried over into future conversations, or, as in the film, into deliberate silence.
On the other hand, in a country where intergenerational households are common, Indians are all too used to the multiple small and large conflicts of interest, lack of personal space and freedom (especially for women), and constraints on the development of individual tastes. Of course, marital units of a large intergenerational family saves more individually, and bringing up children becomes easier in a house full of adults and other children. But most people – again, especially women – who have experienced the lacks of a growing up in a joint family in post-liberalisation India are prepared to forgo these benefits for greater freedom of individual expression. Celebratory reunions, in such contexts, are sweetended by the guilt of living apart (against social expectations), and the assurance that the holidays of memory-making are fleeting, and separation will soon commence again.
Unless the holiday reunions happen under duress, or the family has a troubled dynamic, I’d say this is what makes holidays in contemporary India happier for the ‘separated’ family.
But the reason I like the film especially, is because it depicts the elderly parents as agentive: not whiny, not aggressive, yet capable of standing firm and demanding their needs be acknowledged too. Such a refreshing break from the tradition of weepy, self-effacing, ever-sacrificing parenthood on Indian screens. For that stroke of realism or encouragement – depending on your own relationship to your parents and offsprings – I recommend the film even more.