Since the manager of the restaurant where I worked explained that the waiters needed the better stations because they were guys supporting their families. Actually, they all played in the same rock band and had no families to support — as opposed to the waitresses, who were either single moms or, in my case, putting a husband through grad school.
Since a teacher friend of ours had to go to court to keep her job after the first trimester of her pregnancy.
Since my female department chair cautioned me not to discuss my own pregnancy or children in the office. Women were routinely advised against displaying family photos on their desks.
Since some wag in the Engineering School used to call my department (Textiles and Consumer Economics) around graduation every semester and ask if we could iron their robes.
Since the University began studying the feasibility of convenient, affordable daycare for the children of faculty, staff, and students. We have a state of the art recreation center and a whole bunch of other nice things, but still no child care. still along way to go in that department!
Most of all, I remember how refreshing — and yes, liberating — it was to find someone who loved me, brains and all, and who encouraged me when the rest of the world wanted to stand in my way. Who has never treated me like a child, or anything less than a full and equal partner.
The world has a long, long way to go before every child has the same birthright. But we have made progress, and we won't turn back.
Here is a great op ed that provides more context on her/my/our times back in the day.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is one of my favorite Hindi actresses, ever since I saw her in Bride and Prejudice, the British Bollywood-style remake of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. (I tend to burrow deep when I like something -- you may have noticed -- and Austen's works have been a long-time passion. I read or listen to all the novels every year, and can't pass up an adaptation.) She is stunning in a very classic movie star way, and she is an excellent dancer. Her dance duet with Madhuri Dixit from Devdas is glorious; I never get tired of watching it.
I'll admit that it has taken me a while to appreciate Mohabbatein (Love Stories), probably because instead of the usual love triangle, the three interconnected lovers are a young man, the young woman he loves, and her father. And the girl is dead. So the central love story is about a different kind of relationship. Still, this counts as a first date for SRK and Rai; they go on to the very successful pairing in Devdas. We don't actually see them together (and both alive) until well into second half of the film, in flashback to the day they declared their love for each other. Up until then, SRK's character, Raj Aryan, has been a more mature hero than most of his 90s films -- he is now a grown man, working as a teacher at Bachchan's tightly-run school. His dreamlike interactions with the spirit of Megha (Rai) are deeply romantic, but also constrained by the existential distance between them.
Not too reminiscent of the gazebo scene in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, right? But much less physically passionate.
The earliest scene, chronologically, is this flashback. (Runs from about 50 seconds to 2:42)
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Raj? Grown-up Shah Rukh! At last! He was 35 when this film was released, and is playing close to his actual age. There's enough suppressed mischievous humor to keep him from being too much of a paragon. In the flashback, he does a great job of portraying the awkward student, without being at all annoying.
What is Megha's first impression of Raj? We don't get to see the very beginning, but clearly she sees him as "different", though that could be a result of their attraction for each other. But she trusts him, just as she trusts her father to accept him.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Steady and pure. It has that "first love" aura throughout. SRK and Rai are well-matched physically, and I think she makes him a better dancer, just as Madhuri Dixit does when they are paired.
If you had a first date with Raj, would you go on a second? I did. Just a different guy. In fact, dear reader, I married him. And no, our parents did not approve.
Dipping my toe into fiction
I'm retiring in less than a year. Once people hear you are retiring, they nearly always ask what you plan to do. (This gives me flashbacks to senior year in high school.) My pat answer is, "I want to learn to write fiction. No more citations! Well, maybe just funny footnotes..."
But I really do want to write Something Else. I have been publishing academic stuff for almost 40 years, but my mind is always telling stories, reciting poetry, and playing private movies. I am researching and starting to write my last professor book (details on my other blog), but have begun to move some of those ideas out of my head, in a tiny way. I downloaded an app called talehunt, for reading and writing flash fiction -- in this case, stories and poems 250 characters or less. Here's a sample:
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Happens, aka KKHH) is a super popular film, especially among SRK fans who were teenagers when it came out in 1998. It features two love triangles separated in time by nearly ten years, both combining Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol with a third supporting player. In the first half of the film, Rani Mukerji, in her major film debut, plays Tina, the gorgeous, sophisticated, feminine new girl on campus who wins Rahul's (SRK's) affections away from his tomboyish best friend, Anjali (Kajol). The rest of the film, set years later, pits a widowed Rahul against Aman (Salman Khan), who is engaged to Anjali. The film swept the Filmfare Awards that year, including all four acting and supporting actor awards, and it really is just that good!
As the college-age Rahul, SRK is his usual insufferable dude self at first. (I am getting used to this, but still find myself looking forward to his inevitable transformation into Mr. Charming Sadder-but Wiser-Guy.) Anjali sees through his macho facade and they enjoy a close, platonic friendship. When Tina arrives and proves immune to his tried-and-true ways with the ladies, Rahul falls hard, just as Anjali is starting to feel attracted to him.
Because this is a film that argues that love and marriage can happen more than once in a lifetime, it is important that Rahul's connection with both Tina and Anjali are credible as real love. Their chemistry is different, though. College-age Rahul's feelings for Tina are infused with youthful passion in the flush of first love, and the conviction that there is just one such soulmate for each of us. Grown-up Rahul realizes, as he realizes the depth of his feelings for Anjali, that this, too, is love. Compare the previous scene with this one, which always gives me chills.
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Rahul? Nobody does insufferable young pup like Shah Rukh Khan. Newcomers may hate collegiate Rahul; fans will know that he grows out of it and cleans up his act really, really well.
What is Tina's first impression of Rahul? She's not impressed by his Big Man on Campus act, and teaches him a thing or two. She also befriends Anjali, which earns her major points for being able to spot a quality person.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Credible and very sexy. She goes on to win his heart over and over again in many memorable romantic films. Chalte, Chalte (2003), Paheli (2005), Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006) are all fabulous romantic stories.
If you had a first date with Rahul, would you go on a second? Young dude Rahul? Yes, if only to beat him at basketball. Grown-up Rahul can park his slippers under my bed anytime.
Next first date: Aishwarya Rai - Mohabbatein (2000)
The first time I saw Dil Se, I was disturbed by the violence and devastated by the ending. I will admit to being a delicate flower when it comes to violent movies. Strong violent imagery stays with me longer than any other part of the film. You say "Godfather" and I see a horse head. Star Wars = the burned bodies on Tatooine. Indiana Jones = melting faces. So you can imagine that many of Shah Rukh Khan's films are tough for me, and Dil Se is full of scenes that, for me, are the stuff of nightmares.
But. It is also poetic and beautiful. The music (A.R. Rahman) is magnificent. The performances are outstanding. It is fast becoming one of my five favorite SRK films.
Preity Zinta, in her debut role as Preety, Amar/SRK's fiancé, is one of the reasons this film is so wonderful. It is an arranged marriage, so we actually see them meet for the first time and watch as they awkwardly get acquainted, and eventually agree to the match. He is already hopelessly in love with the mysterious Meghna*, and she has also loved and lost. Her honesty and directness is fresh and disarming, and Amar responds with a tragic mixture of resignation and pathos. Her attraction to him grows, and he plays along as the dutiful son and grandson, keeping his family happy while still pursuing Meghna. Preety represents his option to return to a normal life, to give up on Meghna, and she makes that choice very attractive. Clearly, Amar would not be "settling" for her. She is quite a catch, and would make him happy under other circumstances. But he cannot make that choice. It is poignant and powerful. This role won Zinta the award for best debut, and set her on a path of several more roles with Shah Rukh Khan, all of them fabulous!
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Amar? Earnest, passionate, and utterly sincere. Even though his obsession makes no logical sense, SRK makes his attraction to Meghna completely believable. His acceptance of the marriage to Preety is equally credible; at that point in the film, he has no hope of ever seeing Meghna again. The match with Preety will please his family, especially his beloved grandmother, and they definitely have the beginnings of good chemistry. In a different movie, she would be perfect for him.
What is Preety's first impression of Amar? You can tell that she think's he's pretty cute. Any hesitation she has comes from her own reluctance to marry and lose her independence. (The fact that he abandons her to chase after some random guy on the street gives her pause, but is evidently not a deal breaker.) Think of the kids! Guaranteed dimples!!!
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Sweet and natural. A bit awkward at the beginning, when it needs to be, and comfortable enough to lead you to hope it will all work out. I realized watching this how great he and Preity are as a working pair. They rarely get to "happy ever after", though. She loves and loses him in Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (both great movies, anyway.) Only in Veer-Zaara do they finally seal the deal -- eventually, but worth the wait.
If you had a first date with Amar, would you go on a second? Oh, yeah. He's good company and super polite with women. But his heart would never be mine, of course.
My favorite interaction:
Next date: Rani Mukerji in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai!
*Meghna is played by the amazing Manisha Koirala. I only wish they had made more films together, because their interactions are electric!
It's been a hellish week -- personally, nationally, and globally. The terrorist attacks in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. Violence of all kinds in the United States, but especially the police-involved shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the murder of police officers in Dallas. These alone would be enough to send me into a fetal crouch in the corner of my house. Add to that the week of worry and caregiving for my husband, who is home now but not well, and facing surgery. Yesterday I came to the sobering realization that, with both children diagnosed with chronic illnesses, I am the only healthy person in my immediate family. So self-care and monitoring my own health becomes essential. I wish I had the energy and focus to respond to the world outside my house, but frankly, I don't.
So there's this blog, where I can put my swirling thoughts and jumbled emotions into words about "everything else". And the word for the day is love. I believe in the power of love to connect and heal. If love is a miracle, I believe in miracles. Otherwise, I don't. And sometimes love can feel like a miracle, when it comes out of nowhere -- from a stranger on the bus, or a Samaritan coming down the road. But love for others is as much a miracle as Dorothy's ruby slippers; it's the unused power we already have. (I wonder what the Wicked Witch of the East used them for? But I digress.) Love can overcome hate, but not passively; it needs to be made visible, transformed into action.
If my focus on Indian films seems escapist, you're right. But it's the best kind of escapism -- the kind that heals and help me keep going.
I was not sure whether or not to include Dil Toh Pagal Hai in this series, because (1) Karisma has only been in two films with Shah Rukh Khan -- not counting her friendly appearance in Om Shanti Om, which is adorable -- and (2) she doesn't exactly play his love interest. She's the odd girl out in a love triangle with SRK and Madhuri Dixit, so the love is unrequited. DTPH is a light film -- a bit of musical romantic puffery that features four of the best actors in Hindi cinema. In addition to the triangle of lovers, there's the dashing Akshay Kumar completing a second triangle with SRK And Madhuri. So the performances are all great and the music and dancing is delightful, even though the plot and dialogues are <<eh>>.
So the synopsis: Nisha (Karisma) loves Rahul (SRK), who thinks love is bunk but still harbors a longing for an imaginary woman he calls Maya. He's a dance director, so he is designing a show around the mythical Maya, with Nisha in the lead role. Nisha injures herself, and Rahul seeks a replacement, discovering Pooja (Madhuri), who is literally the girl next door. Pooja is engaged to her childhood friend/foster brother Ajay (Akshay). Of course, Rahul and Pooja fall in love.
Nisha, on the other hand, is in the friend zone from the word "go". When, after a few too many tequila shots on her birthday, she blurts out to Rahul that she loves him, this is the look she gets from him.
Uh-oh. Compare with the look on his face in the other video as he repeats "closer".
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Rahul? Adorable! This is high energy SRK, with his cheeks still boyishly chubby enough to create the best dimples.
What is Nisha's first impression of Rahul? They seem to start off as friends at the beginning; we don't learn about her feelings for him until later in the film. Their relationship is very much like a brother and sister, especially on Rahul's part. He teases her in a very big-brother way that conveys connection and friendly affection, but not a tiny hint of love. Nisha knows almost immediately that her love will never be reciprocated. Meeting Pooja seals the deal; she knows Rahul's feelings better than he does.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Their friendship is actually believable; their interactions are so natural that you almost wish the filmmakers hadn't felt the need for the love triangle.
If you had a first date with Rahul, would you go on a second? Yes, of course, but that wouldn't happen, because I can't complete with Madhuri Dixit. Karisma gives it the old college try in this epic number called (appropriately) "Dance of Envy".
Where have I been?
It's been quiet here, I know! And I am behind on my First Date Schedule, as well. Here is a quick recap of my last two weeks:
I attended the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association in Columbus, Ohio, from June 21 to 27. My head is still spinning from a week full of business meetings, chats with friends new and old, and fabulous music and worship. Here is a sample: poet/musician's "god is no noun", the meditation from the Sunday morning worship service. And a nice Storified look at the week on social media. These are the kinds of experiences that convinced me to get a UU flaming chalice tattoo on my 60th birthday.
Then as soon as we got home, I went back to work on the worship service I was leading at my church on July 3. We have two professional ministers, but in the summer, our services are led by members or visiting speakers. This year the worship committee organized a series on aging, with speakers representing the 30s, 40s, etc. (ages, not years). They wanted me and Jim to do the 60s, but I suggested doing a "framing" sermon on how our culture shapes our stories about age. It was perhaps half done. By June 30, it was 2/3 done. (I will post a link when I am done tidying it up.)
I got up on Friday morning to a husband in pain, and spent most of the next 14 hours in the emergency room with him. Life is what happens when you are making other plans, right? John Lennon was so astute. Somehow, between trips to the hospital as they moved him from ER to observation to a regular room, I finished the sermon, found a replacement pianist for my musical partner, and delivered the worship service. Whoosh!
So now it's Monday, and he's still recovering. I just finished answering all my emails and am about to head to the hospital again to check up on his progress. This will probably be a great night to watch Dil To Pagil Hai! I am accepting all thoughts, prayers, meditations, candles, and other expressions of care and healing.