Monday evening I drove downtown to see a German/Turkish movie called Gegen Die Wand / Duvara Karsi (Head-on) at the Goethe-Institute. The little room where they were showing the movie was packed with maybe 80 people, mostly Indian intellectuals, young and old. The movie plays in Hamburg, Germany, so I was happy to see some pictures of my hometown. It is about a slightly confused young Turkish couple living there. He is suicidal (well, they both are), she wants to get out of her traditional Muslim family. They meet and ten minutes later, she asks him to marry her for show, so she can live a little, have a little fun, do some drugs and fuck around a bit, and then it goes downhill from there. Not surprisingly, the movie is rated R in the US for strong graphic sexuality, pervasive language, some brutal violence and drug content, while it is PG13 in Germany (actually FSK12). So watching this in India, which is even more prude than the US, was quite interesting.
I quite liked the movie. The characters are very believable, the music is great, and the story is pretty good. Also, the couple might as well have been Indians living in London, so I thought, I wonder what the audience is thinking. After all, there’s a lot of suggestive dancing in Bollywood, but certainly no real kissing, let alone full-on sex, full nudity, or cocaine – and there was plenty of that here. Some seemed to be squirming around in their seats a bit and going tsk, tsk, and at least one was leaving early. Unfortunately, there was no talk or discussion afterwards, but given that censorship is still alive and kicking around here, this movie won’t make it to the theaters any time soon.
Tuesday was another long evening in traffic, and when I got home and the next day I felt kind of sick. It wasn’t anything serious, and I am actually surprised that I’ve been here for three months now and still haven’t been really sick. Judging from the doctor in NYC, who had given me all my shots, I would have thought that I’d be guaranteed to catch a life threatening disease just by looking at the food here. So I guess he was just full of crap. Another expat at work did actually end up in hospital for a few days a while ago, but that was because he went to get food at the local Subways, and, well, you kind of deserve to get hospitalized for going to Subway in India, or anywhere else, for that matter.
In other news, yesterday I read in the paper that India ranks way behind Iraq in terms of doing business, as measured by number of forms to produce and red tape to consume in order to open a business. It doesn’t really surprise me, because bureaucracy really is spelled in all caps here. There is a pervasive culture of rules and regulations that don’t seem to make any sense whatsoever and for which no-one seems to know or care about what’s the reason. My simple standard question Why? is regularly met either with blank stares or with excuses and explanations that are incredibly surreal and mostly represent a very tight circular loop.
But I’ll stop my rant there and move on to the Western Express Highway, which I have basically stopped using. After the sewage of the big floods had receded (final number is 944mm in one day), they had fixed up the highway pretty well and traffic was moving swiftly. A week or so ago, everything was great. Then there was another day or two of heavy rain last week, and the surface developed potholes the size of the Grand Canyon again, and the road looked like someone had set off thousands of little landmines. It was truly ridiculous. The funny thing is, there’s only a few long stretches like that. Other parts of the highway are perfectly fine. So it is obviously not incompetence or lack of construction materials or engineering skills. It is simply criminal corruption and big business. Well, if they fixed it up properly, they wouldn’t make any money, I was told. Is anyone going to try to throw the construction companies and the politicians that give them the contracts into jail? I guess not – after all, everybody seems to agree that law enforcement and the judicial system are pretty much non-existent. So I guess the Haliburton business model is alive and kicking here as well.
OK, enough of my rants, I will go get some sleep so that I will be fully rested and prepared for tomorrow’s final Ganesh extravaganza.