My First Kannada Movie Jeevana Chaitra

How we found it:  Last week Satya and I rented “Jeevana Chaitra” (Satya said it translates roughly to “Cycle of Life”) from NetFlix.  We were both surprised that NetFlix carried Kannada movies because when we would type in “Kannada” in NetFlix nothing would turn up.  Eventually, Satya just typed in some popular Kannada movie titles and was surprised when a few turned up.  We also found some by clicking on the actors in the movies to see what other movies of theirs NetFlix carries.


Plot Summary:  This movie traces the adult life of a man played by Dr. Rajkumar.  The movie opens with him and a young woman falling in love at first sight at a wedding.  They eventually marry and have three sons.  While the sons are growing up, the man is a benevolent leader of a few villages.  Villagers come to him with their issues and he tries to help.  Quickly he discovers that alcohol is a major problem in the villages—men buy alcohol and get drunk using up their few rupees and not working while the wives and children get neglected and abused.  He shuts down the store and factory and thus creates an enemy, the owner of the liquor store and factory.  Later in the movie, the three sons all make disappointing matches thus breaking his heart and his wife’s heart and leading to her death.


What I liked:  the songs, seeing more of Karnataka, and hearing Kannada. 


What I didn’t understand:  The relationship between Dr. Rajkumar’s character and the villagers seemed very feudal.  He seemed like a king listening and solving the problems of his subjects, the villagers.  Is that how villages still operate?  I thought that there was a village council, not just one person or one family.


I didn’t quite understand the heartbreak over his sons’ choice of wives.  One married the daughter of his enemy and didn’t want to live in the family compound and become a doctor in the village.  I can understand his disappointment that the dream he made for his son didn’t come true, but he should have consulted with his son first.  The other son carried a photo of a girl which his mother discovered.  They soon married.  The man and his wife planned to marry the last son to their niece (daughter of the wife’s brother) because she was willing to live in the family compound and because she got along well with the man and his wife.  The last son instead snuck off and quickly married a girl he had found himself.  He snuck off because he didn’t want to face the anger of his parents, he called himself “a coward”. 


I can understand him being shocked at first, but the movie didn’t show him trying to get to know the girls and what they value.  Perhaps this question is answered near the end of the movie…after a very long time the man returns to his home and walks in on his sons and their wives hosting a party with dancing and drinking and loud music  (sounded to me like the instrumental part to Rod Stewart’s “If you think I’m sexy song”).  Satya joked that the only thing that could have made it worse was if they were also eating meat.


The ending was positive.  The sons and daughters-in-law have a newfound respect for the man and will respect and uphold the values of the man.  I guess the movie could have shown the older generation in Karnataka that the younger generation will listen to them if they provide a good example.


Cultural Background:  This movie was made in the early 1990’s when India was still mostly closed to the world economically.  Dr. Rajkumar’s character offered the liquor factory workers a deal: a few acres of land if they would leave the factory.  The tech explosion was still in the future.  The movie resulted in many liquor store owners closing their shops, although Satya says that Karnataka is still one of India’s leading manufacturers of alcohol.  Within his family, alcohol consumption is still a taboo.


What I didn’t like:  Why were all the young men in the movie so ugly?  Has anybody else noticed this?  They weren’t even average looking-very chubby.  Of course the bad ‘90s hair didn’t help. I also didn’t like the film quality.  Even though it was made in the early ’90s, the picture looked like one from the ’60s or ’70s which was too bad since there was some gorgeous scenery.


Also, the movie was a lot like a morality play because some parts were very melodramatic and unbelievable (esp. death of Dr. Rajkumar’s wife).  Basically, the message seemed to be that people should uphold traditional family values, not drink, and should farm rather than work in factories.  I wish the characters had been more fully developed. 


Conclusion:  The movie was ok.  The songs and scenery were gorgeous.  I’m looking forward to seeing some more Kannada movies.  Right now we are watching Malgudi Days.

Linga and Omphalos…Related?

Satya and I were going through some of my old postcards.  He looked at my postcard of the Omphalos at Delphi, Greece and said, “That’s a linga!” 

Here is a photo of the Omphalos at Delphi.  A little background on the Omphalos…Ancient Greeeks believed that the center of the world (or belly button) was located at Delphi. 

Here is a photo of a linga-a form sacred to Shiva and especially sacred to Lingayats. 

What do you think?  Related or not? 

I think it is interesting that many cultures think of themselves as the center of the world.  The Ancient Greeks thought Delphi was the center, the Chinese called their kingdom “The Middle Kingdom”, etc.  Also, the Northern Hemisphere is always shown on top in the Northern Hemisphere and sometimes in the Southern Hemisphere it is reversed. 



Personality Map of the U.S.

Ever notice how places seem to have unique personalities?  Or feel like certain areas “seem like home”?  A researcher from Cambridge, Jason Rentfrow, confirmed this with his personality map of the U.S.  Certain personality traits seem to be more common in some areas than others.  Rentfrow asked people all over the U.S. to complete online personality tests.  The tests categorized personalities according to:

  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness to Experience

 I’ve had the experience of living in many different places for educational and career reasons.  Some of his findings do match my own findings. An article in the Boston Globe says

Or perhaps, personality is influenced by our surroundings. More emotionally stable people who live in places where neurotic types form the majority may become irritable and stressed because the people around them are getting to them.

Satya and I have experienced this on the East Coast.  While there are many things I love about the East Coast, like the museums of NYC, it is not a very gentle or polite place.  It does tense our shoulders and quicken our pace.  The energy of New York City is palpable and can be intoxicating, but can also leave us exhausted. 

We know we’d like to leave the East Coast to raise a family, but aren’t sure where yet. For educational and career reasons will be most likely be here for at least another year.  Our short list of places so far is CA (either San Diego or Silicon Valley), MN (Twin Cities, or Rochester), WI (Madison), or MA (outside of Boston). 

Here is an article from a Kansas newspaper about Rentfrow’s research.  Hmm, it says that mathematicians and computer scientists would match well with Kansas’ high conscientious ranking.  Maybe we should move to Kansas?  I do have some relatives there.  Here is what else Rentfrow says about Kansas:

In an e-mail from Cambridge, Rentfrow indicated that Kansans are more than dour drones mindful only of structure and rules.

Kansas’ complete profile, he wrote, shows that Kansans are friendly, trusting and kind.

“It’s probably a place where people feel connected with their communities and are able to rely on family and friends,” he wrote. “The low Neuroticism score suggests that people are fairly relaxed, calm, and easygoing. And the low Openness scores suggest that people value tradition, are pragmatic and down-to-earth.”

I’d worry though about Kansas’ low ranking on openness (38 of 50).  Would a mixed couple be accepted there?  Would they accept a half Christian/half Hindu family?  I don’t know. 

Do you think that research like Rentfrow’s is helpful or reinforces stereotypes?  I’m not sure.  Where in the U.S. do you feel most comfortable?  Is where you live a result of happenstance or a conscious choice?  Would you move to a place based on research like this?


What are your favorite Hindu names?  Satya and I like to day dream about the future and think about what we’d name our hypothetical children.   This day is a few years off, but it is still fun.


We have a few names for girls, but are having a tough time with boy names.  Also, we’d like to keep close to our family’s naming traditions.  In my family everyone is named after a saint and after a beloved family member.  This isn’t too hard to stick too because nearly all Western names are matched to a saint.  It does eliminate newer names like Britney or Ashley.


My favorite grandfather’s name was “Valentine” which is a name that I think would work for a girl.  Satya is afraid of that name—he thinks that if we give a girl that name she will take after her name too much and if we gave the name to a boy that he’d get bullied at school.



In Satya’s family it is a bit different.  All the men in his family of his generation and back are named after an incarnation of Shiva and end in either “esh” or “ish”.  He says that kids should not be given the name of a beloved elder because it would be disrespectful to use the elder’s name when scolding the child. 


His cousins who recently had kids are changing this up a bit.  Maybe Lingayat name fashions are changing?  His cousins selected names for their children that aren’t related to a god or godess, but are related to a positive quality.  One of the names translates to “Long life” and another to “Success”. 


Our girl name is “Anushka” or “Anoushka” because it is both a Slavic European name and a Sanskrit name.  Also, it can be shortened to “Anu” which is a common name in Karnataka.  The middle name isn’t decided yet.  Satya kind of likes the name “Kiran”, but I’m not sure.


One of my sisters and I created a name from the middle names of our beloved grandfathers.   We came up with “Blaise Eric”, but Satya thinks that is a terrible name.  I suppose it does seem a bit too “romance novel” like.  Also, he would be creeped out by giving them the names of my dead grandfathers. 


We haven’t found any boy names yet that we both like.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

Book Review “Climbing the Stairs”

Yesterday I finished reading “Climbing the Stairs” by Padma Venkatraman.  Overall, I would recommend the book.  It is a quick read, but brings up issues relevant to today and the characters are likable, if a bit one dimensional.


Setting:  South India in the early 1940s.  The two main world events are the Freedom Struggle and World War II.  The family is Tamil Brahmin. 


I enjoyed learning about some of the culture.  For example, in her grandfather’s traditional household the men live on the upper floor and the women on the lower floor.  Even married couples live mostly apart.  The only nights they spend together are when it is their turn to use the private bedroom.  I’m guessing that this practice faded out by now and was only for the wealthy when it was in place.


Plot:  How can a young girl come to terms with her father’s life-changing injury?  How can she maintain her identity when her family is forced to move to her father’s ancestral home controlled by unsympathetic relatives?  Will she have to choose between romance and her dreams of education?


Issues the book brought up:  Sometimes I thought Vidya was too modern and too outspoken, but strong women are everywhere and existed in every time.  I don’t know enough about Tamil Brahmins to judge accurately.  The issues she encounters are still current today.  For example, she asks Raman if they can be equal partners in their relationship.  Raman cares a lot about her, but is sometimes extremely clueless about the everyday struggles of women.  The same can be said of men today (and vice-versa.  I don’t pretend to know what it is like to be a man in today’s world). 


Vidya’s impassioned speeches are memorable.  When Raman carelessly joked about how women got a vacation when they were sequestered monthly during their periods, Vidya stood up for herself very well.  I liked how she brought up the point about how women’s bodies are not private, but monitored and discussed by many.


Sometimes I wonder about the position of women in India vs. the U.S.  For upper and middle class women, there don’t seem to be many differences.  India seems ahead in some respects- higher percentages of female doctors, engineers, and computer techs.  Is that true, or only a skewed perception?  Indian women perhaps face more pressure to marry than American women do.  Women in both countries are the main caretakers of children and elders. 


This book was a reminder of the tremendous sacrifices made by freedom fighters and their families during the struggle for Indian Independence.  Satya has told me of some old footage he has seen of freedom fighters lining up to protest.  Men would line up to get bayoneted or clubbed by rifle butts and women would be in the rear with stretchers to give aid to the injured.  I don’t know if I could watch that.  It sounds very chilling, but I’m in awe of the discipline and courage of the freedom fighters.


In school here in the U.S., I watched the Gandhi video starring Ben Kingsley in one class, but we weren’t taught much or anything about the history of the independence struggle or of the partition (learned about that in another book of historical fiction).  Satya is very proud of Gandhi and how India gained its independence.  He says he is a Gandhian and says that real change can only happen through non-violence.


Conclusion: Even though this book is aimed at teens, I think adults may enjoy reading it.  I enjoyed the peek into another culture and time.  The book brings up some important issues and is a reminder to stand up for oneself and one’s beliefs.

Mixed Matches, Chapter 2

The next chapter of “Mixed Matches” focused on why a person chooses to be in a mixed match. The author’s idea is that sometimes people do not feel comfortable in their culture/family of origin.  They seek out relationships with people in cultures different from their own so they can experience what they think they are missing and create more balance.  For example, someone from a subdued culture might be intrigued by more expressive cultures and seek out relationships with people from expressive cultures.  The danger though, is that the very differences that drew people towards each other can also divide them later on after they have to live with their partner’s quirks day in and day out.  The author wants each partner to be aware of stereotypes they may carry about their partner’s culture/family of origin and to proactively discuss differences before they cause major difficulties.


At the end of the chapter, there are exercises to do.  Each partner has to discuss how they view and experience sex roles, religion, etc in their own family and in their partner’s family.  We did these out loud instead of writing down our responses.  I still don’t have any easy answer about what makes me an American of mixed Swedish-Slovenian-Swiss heritage.  Satya doesn’t know what makes him an Indian. 


So far, we didn’t discover any earth-shattering truths or huge roadblocks.  Both of us come from very practical, religious, quiet, close families.  Surprisingly, in some my family is more conservative and authoritarian than his-for example, everyone was required to go to church once a week, my siblings and I underwent the full Catholic initiation.  His family left religion up to personal choice, but both of his parents are firm believers.  Both of us had fathers that worked full-time and mothers that were homemakers and caregivers most of the time.


Both of us were willing to date outside of our cultures.  I had always been intrigued by India, but from a distance.  Satya was only the second Indian man I ever went on a date with.  I’d gone out on dates with a variety of others.  Satya had gone on dates with Chinese-Americans, Indians, and Caucasians.  


Before I met Satya, I just had a superficial appreciation of India.  I liked the music, movies, colors, food although I didn’t know much about it and most of what I did applied more to North Indian culture than to Southern Indian culture.  The close family relationships seemed familiar.  The rituals seemed fascinating.  The gods and goddesses seem similar to Catholic saints.  I guess you could say I had positive stereotypes about India before I met Satya and even now before I’ve been to India.


For those in mixed relationships, what did you know or believe about your partner’s culture before you started dating your partner?  What major cultural differences have you encountered?