Saturday, November 05, 2005

Life is Beautiful

There was a wedding (the fourth in my generation on my mom's side) in my family a couple of weeks ago. So my son and I pretty much camped out at the wedding hall with family (but came home to sleep). We had almost every meal there for three days.

At one point, N had had enough of it. He clearly demarcates between "Indian Food" (rice, idlis, dosa, chapati, curries, sambhar) and "American Food" (pbj sandwiches, pancakes, pasta, cereal) and if he's had, let's say, idlis for breakfast, and rice and sambhar for lunch, then he flat out asks for American Food for dinner.

So after a couple of times of eating at the wedding, just as we were going into dinner, he asked to go home. He was tired. We had just returned from an overseas trip and he was recovering from a bad cough. Plus, at home, he could have pasta for dinner.

I hesitated. What will the relatives think? How will it look if I took off just as everyone was getting ready to sit together for dinner?

On the other hand, I really did not want to force N to stay if he did not want to. I could have imposed my will and made him stay. But why? He wasn't making a fuss. He was making logical arguments about why we should go home ("Mom, I'm tired." "Mom, look how bad my cough is," followed by a demonstration for my benefit.) I looked at N's pleading eyes and decided we were leaving.

We flagged down an auto and headed home. As we were riding back home he said, "Thanks Mom. Are you upset because we had to leave early?" I said he was welcome and of course not, I was'nt upset but glad he told me what he wanted to do. The relief on his face was palpable.

On the one hand I was thrilled that he had said thank you, but on the other hand was feeling wretched that he was feeling relieved and thankful at all. He was just being a five year old and I should be as understanding as I was in that instance every day, every instance.

But I'm not. Quite often other considerations creep in. I have my inspired moments, moments that would warrant a Mother of the Year award, if there were one, but those moments are rarer than I would like.

It is in those moments when I can see myself being a monster that I remember the movie Life is Beautiful.

Life is Beautiful is a movie about many things. It is a movie about the holocaust. It is a movie about the spirit of one man defying the might of the German war machine. It is a movie about love, about persistence. It is a movie about resilience.

Above all, it is a movie about parenting.

It is a movie about a father who, in the midst of all the misery and terror of a concentration camp, in the midst of the horrors taking place around him, never loses sight of the perspective of his young son.

Just so the little boy should not feel fear, the father pretends that the entire concentration camp experience is an elaborate game, translating the stentorian orders of the German soldiers into loud Italian (and not being faithful to the original German of course), pretending that the whole thing is an elaborate game of cops and robbers, a game of hide and seek.

I know it's just a movie and that in real life, practical considerations abound. But it's an insipiration nonetheless.

If you haven't already seen the movie, please do. Just make sure you have a box of tissues next to you when you do. And your favourite pjs, blankie and your favourite corner of the sofa will certainly help. We had some indication of the sadness the movie evoked as we watched the people from the previous showing walk out of the theater. But we had no idea until we watched the movie ourselves. When the movie ended, no one got out of their seats. People just sat and sobbed quietly.


karrvakarela said...

What a thoughtful child. And I can see where he gets it from . . . More power to you and Mr. Blogpourri, Sujatha.

I saw Life is Beautiful and yes, Roberto Benigni (was that his name?) was wonderful. It seems a little too fabricated at times but the spirit is infectious. Have you seen "Children of Heaven" or "Baran"?

Shammi said...

What a nice little boy your son is :) I'm 30 years older than him and believe me, I like to go home at the end of the day too, no matter whose wedding it is! Or else I end up whining to my mother about how I want to go home for some peace and quiet and unrich everyday food ;)

Sourin Rao said...

Beautiful perspective on the movie. Never quite saw it that way. But, well, I wasnt a parent when I watched the movie.

Anonymous said...

It was a splendid movie and I cried buckets too.

Never saw it from a parent's perspective, but yeah, I can see it your way :)

Anjali said...

I haven't seen the movie yet but have been wanting to.
Your son does sound very 'adult' for a five-year-old!

A Motley Tunic said...

I loved 'Life is beautiful' too. But I don't think I can watch it again. It was heart wrenching the first time. Nice write up and thanks for the blogroll.

Sujatha Bagal said...

KK, thanks.:)) I haven't seen either of those movies, but will definitely look for them when I visit the video store next. Thanks.

Shyam, thanks. I know what you mean about the unrich food...:)

Sourin and Ash, I wasn't a parent either when I watched it, but somehow that was the most important message for me of the movie.

Anjali, please do watch it when you get time. And yeah, N is quite a character.:)

Hi Sowmya, thanks and you're welcome! I know what you mean about the movie. I don't think I could watch it now either. My hormones have gone for a toss after I had my son.

Mridula said...

I personally thought 'Life is Beautiful' to be a very trivial and silly take on the holocaust. To me the movie just somehow didn't ring true. Even five year old or less have very uncanny perception and can sense reality! But that is just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sujatha. I think your writeup has just about given me the reason to include the DVD amongst others that I planned to buy here. On the subject of the film, I recall an awards ceremony in which the director - Roberto B - was so happy that he crossed over to the podium by walking over the chairs!!

Sunil said...

as long as your son doesn't think he's Calvin, and you're Calvin's mom......all is good...

Anonymous said...

"Mom, I am tired" - also mom, look how pasta starved I am :)
(you have an incredibly well behaved son - must be such a pleasure :))

Anonymous said...

wonderful movie...
and on an altogetherly different note.. wonderful mom & son :)


Sujatha Bagal said...

Mridula, I see your point of view, but I'm a firm believer in suspension of disbelief...:0)

Ravi, yeah, I remember that too. That was at the Oscars. I think he won the best director Oscar that year.

Suni, aye, there's the rub! For that is precisely what my Calvin bhakth wants to be!

Charu, yeah, he's a really cool kid.:))

Thanks Bhaskar.

Minal said...

Hey Sujatha,
N is really a sweet kid and as you said he should not be all thankful and all. Come on he is just a kid:-)
The movie is so touching. I dare not watch it again cause I fear I would sob endlessly. It's one of the finest I have seen.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Minal, yeah, I know...