Thursday, 25 December 2008

Happy Whateverlah!

It is extraordinary. Not having television the dreams seem to make up for it.
I have just woken from a fascinating docu-dream. ‘The Compleat Guide to Being Asian’ – well South Asian at least since it seemed to be all about people from the sub-continent.
It started from the perspective of a woman arriving in a new village and how important it was to get to know an eight year old girl to introduce you to the society, all the unexpected things you needed to know and how the best and most neutral source of this information was such a girl. A young girl was the guide for the first part of the film/dream. She was from a rice-based culture and she was asked by the ‘interviewer’ how things differed in a wheat-based culture. She said it was completely different – there family status was far more important and they were a lot more snobbish and how much gold you had was critical. She talked about what you needed to know to fit in in a wheat-based culture and what you needed to say about your husband and what not to say. She also said what you needed to tell your husband and what to keep secret if you were to survive in a new society. She talked about the key to getting accepted in society as a second or third wife – not easy but there was a trick to it. All this from an eight year old girl! I don't remember any of the answers she gave, but I know what she talked about.
The next part of the ‘programme’ was about being Asian in Britain and again seemed to be initially from the perspective of a woman. It seems that the town you are settled in makes a tremendous amount of difference because each town is different. One woman said that Southall was awful because of the pervasive smell of flour (extraordinary – that is not the smell I associate with the place!) There was a short discussion of clothes and the type of clothes you could get away with as a young woman and the different family attitudes and how it depended on the perceived social status (i.e., snobbishness) of the female head of the family (the mother-in-law). The basic rule was get away with what you can – university students have a different ‘uniform’. We then went on to the young men and the unseen ‘interviewer’ asked what a young man needs to settle into a new place. A sort of ‘Bhangra rapper’ (whatever that is) said that he had a track on his new album called ‘Settling In’ and it said everything you needed to know. We heard some of it and it seemed very funny (can't remember any of it except the words ‘settling in’). There was then a scene in which a young man (in his twenties) visited another at home. The host said in a sly sort of way that he had some pig meat. The rather innocent looking guest said that, well actually he didn't really like pig meat because it made him thirsty (presumably bacon) thereby avoiding having to eat the stuff but also proving his credentials in having experienced it.
I think I can understand what Salman Rushdie was going on about when he wrote about Harun and the Sea of Stories. Where on earth do these things come from?