English Vinglish: A Reality Check

Chandigarh based Vijendra Trighatia is a film buff and writes extensively on cinema.

Vijendra Trighatia

I had a friend in the University, an ex Air Force chap, who was some thirty plus and still not married. Whenever we would ask him about his marriage plans he would evade the issue but one day in a weaker moment he confessed that his choice of the ideal girl wasn’t meeting with the approval of his parents. And what was his vision of Miss Right? She had to be fair and beautiful of course, the logic for which was that if you didn’t know a person (as in an arranged marriage) you could at least exercise the choice regarding the looks. She had to be from a village, so that she is untouched by the bad influences of the cities which wasn’t so difficult then since village belles were more or less a cloistered lot (in a manner of speaking) and satellite television hadn’t invaded their lives and taught them how Saas and Bahus ought to be. And, amazingly, she should be illiterate. One may or may not agree with the first two conditions but illiterate? I had to ask why? The gentleman’s plan was to marry a piece of clay that he could mould to suit his concept of a wife. Irrespective of the pros and cons it sounded radical and hence interesting.

It left me wondering about the man woman equation which only got more complicated as one got into relationships, fell in love, got older, mature, married and not necessarily in that order. Most of us have had two decades or more of married life or relationships behind us and I am sure some us would have, at some stage, taken a stock check of what it means to us. What makes it work? What creates the magic? How does that chemistry come into being? Some are lucky to find compatibility while others struggle all their lives to find a meaning in it. Pretensions of married bliss are oh so common and yet the truth unveils itself in unguarded moments. The most frequent pearl of wisdom (a lament more likely) that is bandied about is that it’s all about adjustment. And who does that most of the time? An honest introspection would be interesting but the real question is why it should be more or less for either sex. And more importantly do we honestly assess and appreciate this so called adjustment of the spouse. Like my friend had sought to do somehow it always boils down to what you want the other person to be rather than appreciate what that person is and that to my mind is the root of frustration in married couples. Unfortunately the ‘adjustment’ reigns supreme and millions live on with their unrealized potential, suppressed emotions and fatalistic resignation to fate.

English Vinglish is an attempt by a woman to break that mould. A loving wife, a devoted mother and a proficient cook (the three ingredients desired by the seekers of the perfect wife) she is nevertheless the classic victim of a country obsessed with proficiency in the Queens language. Her comfort zone is shattered when she is required to fly alone to Uncle Sam to assist in her niece’s marriage. An alien environment heightens her insecurity but her desire to fight back leads her to train herself in the language. Her class mates are people with a similar quest but for different reasons. However she finds acceptance and appreciation for her abilities which results in redemption for herself in her as well as her skeptical family’s eyes. A simple story is brilliantly played out with a powerful message. Do NOT take you loved one for granted. Although the main protagonist is a female the lesson is for all to perceive. It is not enough to accept. It is not enough to adjust. It’s important to realize who you are but it’s equally important to let the other person be what he or she wants to be. The dynamics of life are never going to let it remain unchanged and therefore it’s vital that we grow together and in our respective spaces. Sri Devi has excelled as the demure, scared, insecure and yet a determined woman bent upon correcting what is perceived as a shortcoming by her family. Age may have marginally lined her face but she remains a fine actor. It’s totally her show and worth a serious watch. And of course, one could do with a revised reality check with oneself too.

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