Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

14 Aug 2001, 9:30 a.m.

Zhili Buili

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Hindi film, steering, reading, writhing, and arithmetic. Title from the intro to most Russian fairy tales, "Once there was..." (mutatis mutandis for gender and number, of course).

Lagaan. Today I finished watching Lagaan, also known as "Once Upon a Time In India." Almost four hours long, and yet only containing about five song-and-dance numbers! And -- my goodness, can this really be a Hindi film? -- the subtitles are excellent, and the songs seem to emerge naturally from plot and character!

Some neat British/Indian compare-and-contrast and fusion -- in fact, the only time you see some painfully stereotypical song scene, with a scantily-yet-traditionally-clad woman dancing about in some historical locale and wind machines running full tilt offscreen, just watch -- it turns out that she's white! That scene just jarred me, because it reminded me that certain film devices really feel more laughable to me when white people do them than when Indian people do them. Perhaps it's just habit.

Oh, a few quibbles. First of all, people don't learn Hindi in a day. My sister didn't, I wouldn't, and some random English woman wouldn't, even in India. Also, I would have enjoyed Lagaan better if I had more tolerance for film cliches and more knowledge of cricket. That is to say, I should be more like an average member of an average Indian audience. But, overall, I would actually pay to see this movie again, whereas I'm pretty sure I could take or leave, say, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, except for camp value.

Driving. Today I had another driving lesson. My U-turns are much less death-defying than they once were. Ditto for left turns, three-point turns, lane changes, and general maneuvering. I like learning this skill, although I also like that my intended lifestyle won't require me to use it much. I think public transit just suits me better.

Writing. I'm actually making some progress on finishing up Russia travelogues. For example, yesterday I posted a big chunk of my Solovki travelogue. As much as I dislike the boredom of Stockton life, and miss my friends, I must admit that I like the way material is flowing out of my notebook and into my diary, as opposed to just accumulating untranscribed in shorthand in my notebook.

Reading. I'm progressing in The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. I must admit that the opening seemed pretentious and plotless. Pages and pages of mystical-leaning description isn't my bag. But stuff is sort of happening now. I'd finish the book even if it wasn't improving, just so I could be sure that every single person who raved to me about Eco was a loon. In any case, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis will be my reward for finishing Name of the Rose. At the moment, though virtue may be its own reward, finishing Name of the Rose might not be.

Of course, when I can't read my book, I chew Trident, er, flip through magazines such as Smithsonian and India Post.

Friends. Steve, thanks for the candy -- I'm still chomping away. Angel and I will have one of our far-too-infrequent summits soon, later this week. I'm seeing Alexei and Camille for the first time in months after I come back to the Bay Area this weekend, and I'm quite glad of that as well -- infrequent emails and weblog postings aren't enough. My sister is having various parties soon and I'll get to know more of her BILLION KAJILLION friends at said shindigs. Dan and I conversed a bit on the phone yesterday, and gave each other food for thought.

And here's a shout out to one other friend, who is having a rough time of it lately. I'll be the streetsweeper for your rained-on parade, old chum.

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at