05 January 2009
It is one resolution worth doing for 2009.
Go and see Slumdog Millionaire.
This movie, filmed in the reality of the emerging world that is Mumbai, India, is tough to watch, stunning and as good as all the hype surrounding it. I will not bore you with the details of the plot or the Bollywood / Hollywood analogies. There are far better sites for that. Let me just share with you my impressions. I have an indirect connection with the leading country of the subcontinent. It is perhaps the nation which is the birthplace of the majority of my non-USA friends. During an earlier assignment, I was responsible for establishing operations there to support products being imported to the United States. India presents a lens in which the whole of human struggle and aspiration can be viewed. It is a multicultural nation fraught with problems and promise. It has a population which is fiercely competitive and ingenious. It has the vestiges of British Imperial governance to shape its masala like population. It is deeply religious and secular at the same time. The nation also is awash in artistic talent and expression, perhaps only equaled by the United States.
I have a fascination with this nation of a billion or so people. It has sustained itself despite overwhelming odds against itself. It created the "green revolution" by which it fed itself when a whole continent to its West can not do so. What can we learn from India? Surely it is not the pop psychology of its most famous expats (Deepak Chopra and a host of gurus and swamis). It is not the tenets of Hinduism, which are fraught with as much contradiction as Christianity and violence as Islam. It is, I believe, their adaptability and embrace of change. At the end of the 19th century and for much of the 20th, India was an agrarian, balkanized society. British governance brought many of the states under unified control and laid the foundation for its infrastructure. But it was the dawn of the technological age which propelled the nation into preeminence.
One of it's distinct advantages was a strong civil service and a cadre of fluent English speakers. Despite the vast cultural differences between the west and India, their population was able to leverage this gift of communication into viable business opportunities. Couple this with an increasingly capable education system and India's best resource, its people, stormed onto the world stage with a vengeance. The Indian diaspora has also made a positive impact on the globe. They have adopted the necessary cultural aspects of their new nations and retained the core beliefs of their native one. As such, Indian communities are strong, vibrant and generally lacking the negative aspects of many other nations expatriates.
In this spirit I saw the film. I was eager to get another look at the Indian self image. I was not disappointed. What transpired for the young protagonist, Jamal Malik, is a lesson for all of India. The fact that his religion and that of his love interest appeared to be polar opposites only underscored the hopefulness of the movie.
Resolve to see this film.