This morning I was watching a Hindi Movie from the 1980’s ( it was not called Bollywood then) and it triggered in me a feeling that I have lived with almost all my life. What was that trigger? The depiction of Christians in Indian cinema. And what was that feeling? Shame, disassociation and stigma.
Somehow, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s and well into the 80’s, I always felt I was lesser than my neighbours, my friends and my peers. I was Hindi Movie shamed into believing this about myself. Don’t get me wrong I loved Hindi movie’s and I still do but I see now how this mega media influencer, made me feel like a smaller person.
I was raised a Christian in a tiny town on the East Coast Of India. As Christians we were a minority, and there was nothing wrong with that, but being a minority and having an “English” last name and parents who had ” English” name’s, I was a double minority!
Hindi movies had depicted Christians with fancy English sounding names, as secretaries, bar dancers and molls of villain’s ! Their dialogues were something like this ” are you mad or what?” ” no man!” The girl was never shown wearing any kind of Indian clothes, it was always a skirt, midis or blouses and shirts that accentuated her curves. The names were always Dorothy Johnson or Sandra D’souza. Why? because the Indian names were taken by a Ramola Sharma who was either a Doctor or a Lawyer! Her father was always the Albert Pinto who was a local drunk! Seriously!! I had all this to live up to and more!
The veil of ‘being loose” was spread over me not overtly, but it was there, because that was what Christians in movie’s did. They never sat like a good little girl at home waiting for their parents to “arrange” their marriages. We went out and found people!
Oh good Lord!! The gullible me, grew up with this. I ran for cover because I felt myself boxed into this silo. My last name was English sounding. My mother’s first name was English. My parents were divorced, because Christians especially the ones who had “foreign” names, could not make their marriages work, remember the “veil of being loose”? Yes, those were all of it and more. In our home, our food was not traditionally Indian, that was another reason we were put into that silo. I could go on.
Growing up and even well into being married, I ran from everything Christian. I pretended. I took on roles. But I was never successful, because being a Christian is all that I knew. Many years later today, I am just trying to be who I am. No longer hiding from anything, no longer aspiring to be someone else.
Today, I am thankful for Hindi/Bollywood movies coming a long way from those early days and creating and depicting subjects of importance. Today, however , Social Media has taken over our lives. All I hope is that we are sending messages out that are not putting people into silo’s and being careful of not pushing someone to walk on the wrong path like I did decades ago.