English 583- My Experience

End of the quarter! I won’t lie and say it went fast, but I will say that I did enjoy class. I’m not shy, but I am more of the silent type, and that’s because I enjoyed listening to what others had to say. I think it’s rather refreshing to get so many perspectives on something that is unfamiliar to most of us (at least me for sure). I did like the infusion of pop culture with the class, though I honestly would’ve liked to seen more of that. Most of the stories we read were very stimulating and different, though I admittedly thought Gandhi’s autobiography was an absolute struggle to read, and The Shadow Lines I didn’t really enjoy all that well, though it’s because of the novel’s structure, not the content. The only time I’ve ever enjoyed a jumping chronology is the Back to the Future trilogy.

Prior to this class, my experience and knowledge with India was very limited to much of what I blogged about, along with a couple of films I never mentioned (see Fire. It’s really well done and entertaining). I was initially concerned with how this would strengthen me as someone who one day aspires to write my own novels, but I can honestly say I feel much stronger as an author due to my experience in this class. Thank you all for making it very enjoyable!

-Justin O’Riley

Future writer of fantasy sci-fi


Review of “Firaaq”

I found Firaaq to be surprisingly a very good film. I was initially skeptical, as I do not usually like multiple narrative films (like Traffic and Babel). However, this did do a lot of things right. I didn’t find the switching of the narratives to be at all confusing, and it give the characters with more emotional weight the proper amount of screen time, such as Arati, Sameer, and Moshin. I actually liked the blending of languages (though I can’t tell the difference between English and everything else), although I did think it odd, as it’s something not commonly seen in American culture.

I did have some criticisms though. I did not like how the movie ended, as I felt it was a very cheap way to keep the “indie film” feel alive, though the movie did not need it. I think that more closure was needed with some of the characters. Leaving a bit of interpretation is fine, but too much just leaves too many questions. What is the fall-out of Hanif being assaulted (did he die?), leaving behind a wife and newborn? What was the deal with the marbles? Is Aarti coming back or going for good? For someone like me that has a very limited knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, I think some of these questions should have been dealt with.

Overall, it is a great and powerful film that is equal parts drama and thriller. It has its flaws, but what it does well it excels in. In hindsight, I’m so glad this movie was suggested over Slumdog Millionaire. After all, winning an Oscar doesn’t mean your movie is enjoyable (The English Patient. Trust me, it really sucks).


Image via Wikipedia

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Americatown has the best Barbecue Ribs!





Americatown in Mumbai? Hm… What if Americans did migrate abroad in search of job opportunities?


In other news… I met someone from Chennai, India at the Taj Mahal open mic last week (great food, fun music… highly recommend!). I felt really cool, or maybe dorky, that I was able to bring up some things from this class during conversation with him. He got really excited when I mentioned some of the books we have read. You never know when this info comes in handy outside of the classroom!

I am sure many of you have heard of the 8 limbed girl from India.  If not here is a short clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM82Hs0LEpc 

She is seen as a goddes in her town.  I think alot of people in America see Indians as uneducated people because they may see someone as a goddess when really it is a parasitic twin.  I think the clip I showed does not make them seem uneducated, but they do bring up that she is seen as a goddess.  There was another documentary that I tried to look up but was unable to find.  It is shown on tv quite a bit so I am not sure if any of you have seen it.  It features all parasitic twins in India.  This girl is also in this documentary, and I feel like in the documentary is focused more on her being seen as a goddess.  Why do Americans portray Indians as such religous people and why do we see them as stupid for being religous?  Is it because many Americans do not have the same beliefs so we think beliefs that are unfamiliar to us are stupid?  Does anyone else have a response to this? (hopefully you are familiar to this or another similar story – I know there are a lot of stories portraying Indians as religious, not just this.)


Snake Charmers

This subject I noticed has not really been mentioned much, if at all, which I find interesting because it’s one of the most common stereotypes associated with India, especially the misrepresentations of Indians as mystical. I thought about this because of this infamous viral video that shows an infant playing with a defanged cobra. It’s very easy to judge upon viewing, because even a defanged cobra could be dangerous. However, I did read on Wikipedia (the most trusted source on the net…please don’t judge me) something that would not have made sense to me prior to this class, which is a better understanding of the caste system. Certain caste systems force entire families to become snake charmers. In many cases, it’s an inherited profession (similar to sweepers in some aspects), so a look at that same video with this new perspective, it’s not so….ok, so it’s still hard to watch, but growing up with snakes probably makes it easier to be a snake charmer, since both snake and human become acclimated to each other. I know I would cry, cause like Indiana Jones, I hate snakes.\


So While At Work…

Context: I have been recently working at an enrichment learning program where I teach as well as create content for students ranging from Pre-K to 8th grade. Most of our clients are of Indian families, so it’s actually very uncommon to have a student who is White, Hispanic, Black, or Yellow. (I just realized how weird it feels to refer to non-Indian Asians as yellow!)

So class finishes and my student and I have about three minutes to kill, so he asks me if he can color. He’s a kindergartener going into first grade. He hasn’t had much of a chance to be fully integrated into America because of his lack of schooling thus far. I let him color, and he asked for crayons. I gave him what we had, and so he colored. Then he asked me,

“Mr. Tang, do you have the skin crayon?”

 Surprised, I just lifted one eyebrow and asked “What do you mean, Dhruv?” He continued to say that he wanted to find the skin-colored crayon. Then he found it. Peach. I laughed, thinking it wasn’t much, and asked him, “How is that the skin-color crayon? It’s not the color of your skin though, is it?” To which he replied: “My skin is skin-color and brown.”

Speechless. Not sure what to think about all this, and I’d like to hear someone else’s input.

end of quarter

Reflecting back on this class.  I first thought it was going to be awful.  Summer course on an area I knew very little about.  Though the class was very enjoyable.  I liked being able to see all the different sides of India through the literature and the class discussions.  This blog also really helped expand my knowledge. 

I thought about the White Tiger more.  Balram may not have had many options to get out of the darknes: killing his boss was really his only choice.  But weather he stayed in a tea shop, or as a driver, or became and entrepreneur he would have been involved in some corruption.  He did use his position as a driver to make more money.  The people back home weren’t much better either.  The school teacher refused to teach and sold the uniforms and if there was a boy getting married in your family then your family screwed the girls family out of so many things. 

I also considered if there is a “roosters coop” here in the U.S.  Maybe not entirely across the country, but I think in different communities, religions, and schools there is definately a “roosters coop.”  Consider a high school.  The stereotypical high school has the jocks and cheerleaders at top and they are the ones who make all the decisions while everyone else follows, because if you don’t follow it would be “social suicide.”  Not every high school is like this but there is probably some form of a “roosters coop” in many high schools.  I definately cannot speak for every community or religion, but where I grew up my community is based strongly around the catholic religion.  Marry another catholic or “social suicide.”  Put money in the collection basket every Sunday or people will definately look down on you.  The consequences are nothing compared to those in The White Tiger, but there are “roosters coops” in the U.S. too.

Hope everyone enjoyed the class!  Enjoy your Time off!