In Between Worlds

As I was enjoying a pleasant lunch at an Indian restaurant in Temple Terrace with my mother this afternoon, I had the pleasure of watching an Indian-American Bollywood network.  Given my surroundings of mostly Non-resident Indians and the music videos and advertisements (mostly in various Indo-Aryan languages like Hindi and Punjabi with occasional bits of English), I was able to indulge one of my favorite habits as an easily intrigued observer of the cultural habits of those around me.

I must say this is not an unusual habit.  I was struck by just how closely the music videos of the Bollywood For You (I believe that was its name, in some fashion like B4U or something close to that) mirrored the Arabic music I have seen before on Rotana (when I visited Jordan–I am fond of music videos, as they say a lot about the culture of a nation, in its ideals about relationships and beauty), just as the words of songs often provide the conventional view of generations or groups of people concerning the enduring human search for love and respect.

It was in light of this habit that I was struck by just how much the mostly young people I saw in the music videos were caught in between worlds in different ways.  There were aspects of traditional Indian culture, to be sure, whether that was the buildings or the saris some of the people wore.  But there were also signs of complicated mixtures of culture, including a lot of attempts by the youth of India to blend aspects of the hip-hop culture with mixed phonetic English/Punjabi rapping.  Other songs blended the look of the 1980’s with Indian sensibilities.

While the music videos themselves were usually odes to love, sometimes cute and innocent, sometimes coyly flirtatious, sometimes obviously jokey, sometimes filled with anxiety and socially destructive behavior (including one fellow who guzzles down 2 40 oz. bottles of something and then passes out after throwing up), and sometimes sensual, but all of the music videos appeared to be about love of some kind, whether the love of friends and family or (more usually) romantic love.  In these cases, with the exception of the drunk guy avoiding his own wedding party while a couple of Elvis impersonators sing (not in English), the portrayals of the cultural mixtures seem positive.

However, one of the longer advertisements advertised a historical television series based in 1979, where a non-Resident Indian in England is playing cricket on the English national team, which sparks a lot of problems with his much more traditional family.  I saw a lot of arguing going on, a lot of hostility, a lot of tension, as the cricket player (who appeared to be the only Indian on the team) was accused of being a traitor to his own people and nation while not being white enough to escape racism in England.  It is that aspect of being in between worlds that strikes me as particularly poignant.  I imagine it is a sense of belonging nowhere and being caught in between no matter whether one looks to the cultural roots left behind or the present culture one does not belong to that many people feel who frequent that excellent Indian buffet.

I must say that though I do not share the particular cultural background of most of the clientele I have seen at that restaurant, I know what it is like to be in between worlds, to have an alien culture (I would hope a godly one, as a citizen of the Jerusalem above) to that around me.  As someone who does not and has never really fully belonged, and who has always remained at least a little bit apart, I have a great sense of identification to those who are likewise out of place, and who try to recreate a little bit of home to make themselves feel more comfortable.  If I knew what home felt like, I imagine I would do the same thing myself, but as it is I appreciate the attempts of others to create some sort of oasis within their environments, some small space where they do not have to pretend to be what they are not, but can be themselves without being afraid of being shunned or rejected.

Perhaps I think too much, in that I cannot simply enjoy a fine meal of goat curry and tadmori chicken without thinking of such serious matters.  Nonetheless, watching others feel at home and enjoying fine food, pleasant conversation, and an excellent ambiance is a pleasant way to pass the time for someone who cannot help but analyze what is going on around.  At least one can feel a sense of identification with others who are aliens and strangers, for I am certainly a stranger myself, no matter where I may roam.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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1 Response to In Between Worlds

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Uncle Fred In The Springtime | Edge Induced Cohesion

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