Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Me, Amelie Nothomb and Other Japanese Dramas

Given my attention deficit disorder when reading or watching movies or serials, I must confess that Stupeur et tremblements has held me in thrall so far. I am not in a stupour when I read Amelie's entertaining story but I do kind of quiver with amusement. Each line draws such a caricatural vision of a French woman trapped in a nightmare world of Japanese enterprise. It strikes a familiar chord in me as I have had close encounters with the sort of experiences about which she writes. This is surely also true for many other Indians who live largely via their English language (or other European language) selfs. For those of us who live this schizoid life, our own cultures are inscrutable to us many a time.

Almost every Indian who lives this duality feels faced with insanity when dealing with various situations in India. And often we apologise to visiting Westerners when we perceive their exasperation at the "mysterious" behaviours often encountered in India.

In the book, for example, the young lady is made to perform mindless chores and is humiliated at every turn. The person she considers to be friendly is actually her worst enemy. I recall experiencing a lot of bewilderment when I was a school teacher in India briefly as I often failed to process what I found to be very strange behaviour from other teachers. There are ever so many pecking orders, a lot of intrigue and most of it is processed via some prior socialisation that does not take place overtly. Indian bureaucracy is still strongly capable of confusing many (sometimes even those who are in on this phenomenon).

In more than this do I empathise with the heroine. Take for example the trouble she has in copying figures from a sheet on to the computer. I will, exactly like her, commit many mistakes. My mind freezes when it beholds numbers. But, for all that, I will look forwards to a chance to visit Japan. I will crave Japanese friends. And, for the moment, for want of all that, I have discovered a taste for Japanese dramas.

Although I have watched a few Japaneses films earlier  it is only now that I have broached the dramas. I'm well into Bull Doctor, a series about forensics with two very strong female leads. I'm also thoroughly enjoying Gyne which as the name implies is about gynecology. Both far outrank House and other so called Medical TV serials that I've seen.

And in viewing these, I find myself at odds with Mlle Nothomb. It is so easy for me to follow the cultural subtleties these dramas portray. This is, obviously, not a world in which Mlle Nothomb would feel comfortable. She and her ilk perhaps think they invented the world and its cultures. Yet I will not condemn her and will hasten to recommend Stupeur et Tremblements as a very good read. Especially for those who cherish the special brand of French humour. 

Alas that more Indians who reach this blog entry will turn to her book than to the dramas for we are still, for the most part of the population who easily interacts with the world beyond our borders, schizoid: the deeper being has cultural resonance with other countries which were once colonies of Europe and the external interactive being is conditioned to think that it vibes with the people on the shows one catches on Star World and the like.