Watched this sweet Chinese romance this forenoon. Almost felt like my fave M&B paperback.
First of all I want to raise a point here. What is this term ‘Asian.’ By Asian, mostly in America, they mean Chinese. America also clubs India, Pakistan calling us ‘South Asia’ as if we lack our identity. We are of the Indian subcontinent. Don’t America put us on the same board as Pakis, calling us Indians South Asians. In UK, the grooming gangs of Brit teen girls are Paki muslims not Indians or Chinese or Japanese. The UK media refers to these criminal gangs generally as ‘Asian.’ It is insulting.
So the title made me wonder which Asian this was about.
Also mostly the Chinese are stereotyped as the Kungfu type martial arts people. Their films are monotonous right from the times of Bruce Lee. Jackie Chan confirmed albeit with a difference what was chinese all about. So I was hardly prepared for this picture.
The film is completely shot in Singapore. I have been as a tourist in Singapore for more than a week over twenty years back. That Singapore is now history as I can see. The picture is a recent one – from 2018. Twenty years is a long, long time.
But I have to say, still a lot about Singapore may not have changed especially concerning their street food, train and taxi services and pan Asian culture. I saw a very few other faces than chinese in the film. It does no justice to the inherent multi-cultural set-up of Singapore. Leave alone representation.
Rachel, a chinese american professor with New York University follows her singaporean chinese boyfriend to the island nation to attend a family wedding of his. The infamous Asian snobbishness greets her to her dismay. It is chinese in the picture. It could have been Indian. Such a typical Asian mentality i must say! Omg, have I not been through this grind, married for over a quarter century! Is my family any different! I can author a book on the subject!
Whether Indian or Chinese, we have our way of forcing our dreams and ambitions on our children. I am sorry to admit this is exactly how Indian society is. Our children are not our property. We never realize this and take them for granted. We refuse to give them space and allow them to grow independently. Well this is one side of the coin.
During my four year residence in Malaysia, I have met with equally ambitious chinese parents like Indians. It used to surprise me always. I used to think back then, we Indians found our match only in the chinese! Our cultural values may be different but also somewhat similar in many ways. The elderly dominating the family, the family molding young minds from a tender age grooming them for a future business or profession, arranged marriages, marriages of convenience, extraordinary importance accorded to academics, etc., etc.. South Indians are less muted, but our north Indian brothers and sisters are boisterous like, nobody can enjoy life like them if you ask me. The world thinks we Indians and Chinese hardly enjoy life, but it is so much untrue. Our north Indians have to compete with the chinese on equal footing when it comes to partying! Again, i have been in Malaysia for four chinese new years. From casinos to local pubs to flashy cars, the chinese way of life used to completely amaze me. May be because who i saw then were Malaysian chinese not mainland chinese. Even their supper and dinner rituals every evening used to be a gala event. Every single day it happened without a break. Work hard in the day. Party hard at night. Booze flowed yet for not a single day, the chinese reported late for work. Something Indians can never ever manage. The significance and respect the chinese attached to wining and dining was a surprise to me in those days. Food and eating together were revered not to be disturbed for any reason! Most of our friends then were chinese who came home. It was an other world totally! I never got confused with Li or Chin or Lai or Cheng! Neither did they all look the same!
The kind of crazy rich chinese as in the film, I can imagine. We have such old rich families in India too. They don’t belong in our universe.
I liked the fact that young Rachel cared nothing for Nick (her boyfriend)’s family background. She was clear about what she wanted. She was mature enough to give him up to his mean mother on moral highground. That was stupendous. Her strength of character and integrity touched a chord in me. As she and her friend aver, sometimes some of us have just that left with us- those of us bereft of a family background and social circle that come by default of birth to the lucky few. No we don’t have to wait for anyone’s acceptance where we may never belong in a million years!
In my Malaysian days I knew many hardworking middle class chinese as well. The chinese women especially were very smart. When it came to money matters, the chinese were very shrewd. Corporate empires to side walk cafes, the chinese ran everything as family enterprise. Family restaurants were popular in Malaysia. The families worked as a single unit. I only once told them about my vegetarian habits and how for me, even the cooking pan has to be fresh. They kept it in their memory for our entire period of residence. Father was the chef and daughter was the waitress. Billing was by the son and the wife dishwashed. The chinese family values used to be so much like Indian even if the chinese were more westernized. One thing that cannot happen with Indians is this westernization!!! The south east Asians like the chinese and thai are easiest to adapt to the western influence and culture. Yet like us Indians having Ayurveda, the chinese took only their own herbal medicine. Their cuisine was as indigenous as our Indian. The contradictions were interesting!
The single mother of Rachel who brought up her daughter all alone by herself – this is again a very common chinese trait. Many of their families break up. Loose morality and alcohol are the reason although some may think I am cheeky to say that. But it is the truth. We have this single mother condition now in India too. Very brave and intelligent and hardworking women these single mothers are! However, the joint family sentiments are no exaggeration either. Joint family system is the very fabric of Asian societies be it Indian or Chinese or Japanese. Only in recent times we are having nuclear families. In fact for filing IT returns, we Hindus still have a category named HUF (Hindu Family) – where we can file tax as a single unit. This applies to joint family businesses where brothers may be carrying on traditional trades jointly for ages. Even cousins and extended families for generations may come under a single HUF umbrella. Even now this is common scene in India. Only business families can understand this custom and this breeding culture. Outsiders generally won’t. I am not blaming Rachel here but it is not easy for anyone to get a sense of this mindset unless you live this life.
After a long time I was kind of transported to Malaysia! A male chinese colleague of my husband used to get me my veggie ‘kuihs’ every evening from kampongs (villages) that were tucked in too interior. The dumplings we make in India by name ‘modak’ (kozhukattai in Tamil) but we don’t stuff non-veg filling. Some similarities there. Then the rice eating country people! I used to identify more with South East Asians like Malays, Chinese, Thai, Indos over the wheat eating north Indians for this single reason: they ate lots of rice like us south Indians!!! They can’t do without rice totally! Chinese are also much more than ginseng and fried rice and jasmine tea. And mathematics! There is a humane side to them that is hardly portrayed rightly in films/media. Fortunately, I have seen that side of theirs in Malaysia.
The bachelorette and bachelor parties are now common even in India. Once reserved for the well-off, now getting popular with the middle-class. The richie rich can get away with anything stupid literally. Why can’t we follow just the good things for a change from the west. Why do we have to ape their worst habits. The big, fat Indian weddings are worldwide popular. This film is centered around one big fat chinese wedding. Obscenely extravagant. Somehow I believe in nice warm and cosy marriages not in pompous weddings. Haven’t lavish weddings become showcase of one’s social status. Once upon a time on earth, character and wisdom made masses look up to someone as role models. Today money power is what buys one societal respect and recognizance sadly.
The curse of Asia is: the rich and the poor live side by side without any qualms. You can see dirt poor being the next door neighbour of the stinky rich. I respect the dignity in some poor people and not-so-rich who hold their head high come what may. It won’t take some of us more than a minute to tick someone off for their boorish, haughty attitude who think they are good because of their material possessions and ‘birth conenctions’ but we keep our ground for peace’ sake and for sanity’s sake. It is not worth it.
Finally all is well that ends well. Fairy tale wedding that left me with a good aftertaste! The cast is perfect. Light dreamy magical story. Made my sunday! I must say, our Asian guys have to have some guts and stop being Mamas’ boys!!! Sigh!