Monday, May 13, 2013

D. It is Destiny.

D. It is Destiny

I am a world traveler.  It is what I live for.  It is what delights and terrifies me the most.  The act of boarding a plane and traveling for several hours to land somewhere where the locals speak a different language, eat a different type of food, follow different customs, worship different gods and live in a world completely different to mine exhilarates me.  However, in the last few years, this experience is not what it used to be.  These new worlds that I venture to are beginning to eerily resemble each other.  Walking past a Dunkin Donuts in Buenos Aires or a Panda Express in Mexico City takes a little bit of the fun out of my adventure.  In Slumdog Millionaire, this is the theme that stands out for me.  It appears that the “Western Uniform” has arrived in India and it is what drives the palpable greed, misery, ambition and even love of this film.
According to Merriam Webster, the definition of globalization is “the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets”. Globalization and urbanization are incredibly present in the world around us and in this film, they almost take on the film’s backdrop.  Some may argue that globalization and urbanization are overwhelmingly positive by connecting wealthy countries with those that are not, and assisting them by implementing their business models and urban structures, in areas where structure, by western standards, was non existent.  This is turn results in thriving economies in third world countries, international connections and the bi-product of this grand idea is that the larger wealthy country benefits slightly, but this is only secondary, of course.
In the film., Jamal, a Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who wants to be a Millionaire”, a popular game show that originated in Britain and had equal popularity in the United States.  Because the show is a game of cultural trivia and Jamal, a humble “Chai Wallah”, is advancing steadily, he is arrested on suspicion of cheating.  The film begins at this point and during his interrogation, the audience is taken to the points in Jamal’s life that explain why he knows the answers.  These points were often incredibly tragic and usually surround his pursuit of the girl he loves, Latika.  Because Jamal makes it known that his motivation for coming on the show were strictly to find Latika, some may argue that this only proves the point that technology by way of Western influence assists Jamal in his romantic pursuit.  I however, lean in the direction of Randy Martin when he says “For the last twenty-five years those who might have been lulled by capital’s utopian chords have been subject to a rude awakening.”   Because of the ever present caste system in India it would be nearly impossible for a boy raised in the slums to ever become rich in India and this is why it can be perceived that this game show is a wonderful addition to Indian culture, but globalization is like  “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.  It is the promise of a real chance for the less fortunate citizen to strike it big and become rich.  The only problem with that there is always a “Prem Kumar” in this equation, the character who plays the host of the show, that is waiting to collect or hoping for their failure and, as they say in Vegas, “the house always wins”. 
 In the film we see several references to the west, and in most of them, they seem to represent a lure.  When young Salim and Jamal are left to live in Mumbai’s landfill after their mother has been murdered, they are found in this dumpster my Maman, a gangster who exploits children, among other things.  The boys are scared and alone and when Maman approaches they are mistrusting until he produces and ice cold Coca-Cola and the boys are hooked,   They maintain a relationship with Maman until Salim turns the tables on him and kills him in an attempt to rescue Latika, but this forces Salim to flee and eventually fall into the service of Javel a powerful rival of Maman’s, for protection from retaliation.  Salim follows a path of greed, ambition and power as Javel is deeply involved in the “gentrification” of the slums in which he was raised.  Jamal on the other hand is a Chai Wallah at a call center that provides customer service to British and American customers.  Both brothers are at the mercy and employment of greed, one of them is highly driven by it, the other by love.
Ultimately the question at hand does Globalization have a positive effect on India as portrayed in the film “Slumdog Millionaire”?.  I agree with Randy Martin once again when he says “As a social force, capital not only dispossesses people of old habits of life but also attaches them otherwise”.  I believe that when analyzing our main character, Jamal, we see a character whose life has been eternally marked by tragedy, death, greed and loss.  All of these things have lead to him to the very moment in which the film starts and he is on the verge of becoming a millionaire.  Every question is tied to a pivotal moment in his life that is marked in his memory and while outwardly millions of rupees and the prospect of seeing Latika again would make anyone believe that this is the best and happiest ending that he could wish for.  I disagree.  I believe that Jamal would trade the fame, glamour and millions of rupees that he could potentially win for his autographed picture of Amitabh Bachchan, his mother, a life spared of living in a landfill, witnessing children be exploited and blinded, child labor, and the life of his brother.  The price of globalization and greed was much to high for Jamal, and while some may argue that he would not have met Latika had all of these things not occurred, I argue that a simple life in India surrounded by your loving family is all you need.  It may not make for an Oscar winning film, but nonetheless a happy existence.
And as far as my travel woes, while an occasional Starbucks or McDonalds sighting is not going to ruin an entire international cultural experience,  I do view them as eye sores that I skip in favor of authentic local flavor.

Works Cited

Martin, Randy. “Where Did The Future Go?” Logos 5.1 (2006). Web. 30 Apr. 2012.
Slumdog Millionaire.  Dir. Danny Boyle.  Fox Searchlight Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, 2009.  DVD.

Final Reflection

As someone who attended high school a VERY long time ago, ENG 495 was defnitely enlightening.  I came from a generation of textbooks, multiple choice tests and the occasional movie on VHS that we would write an essay about.  Part of me resists the idea of incorporating technology in the classroom and view it as just another way to cater to an already entitled teenager.  But the realist in me recognizes that transparencies and overhead projectors are probably not going to cut it when trying to engage students and maintain their interest. 
After seeing all of my colleages' media presentations, I softened.  I actually envied the students that they will one day teach.  I mean, imagine being given the assignment of taking on the persona of a literary character and being given facebook time as homework?  WOW!  Or animating presentations for the classroom?  My high school mean girl competitive juices would be flowing for sure! 
I can only hope that by the time I am finally a teacher, powerpoint, facebook, pinterest, twtitter and all that other stuff are not seen as an old school ditto machine or overhead projector ;).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Team Work

Team Work....Sounds so noble, right?  Individuals coming together to conquer a common goal.  The Yankees, The Celtics, the US Relay Swim Team....I wonder how these guys would do if they had to plan and execute a lesson presentation in English Class?  Something tells me it wouldn't be so glorious.
Why is it that Team Projects are so challenging?  Despite taking a semester long course on the joys and challenges of group work you never really know how its gonna go....It seems that there is always a dictator, a slacker and a bunch of folks that don't care to get caught in the politics or hard work....But I'm the eternal optimist and have a good feeling about this time....

Monday, March 18, 2013

Public Displays of Reflection

Female Divine, Creation Myths and Tricksters, Oh my!
This week was an impressive display of everyones teaching prowess.  Mythology is no my forte, nor is it of great interest to me, but hats off to all the presenters, because they not only held my attention and interest, but I actually learned a thing or two.
I know I am biased, but I thoroughly enjoyed the female divine presentation.  Not because I am female, or because I was in the group, but because the concept of a female being at the center of a narrative or the driving force in the creation of culture in a society is pretty exciting! Who knew that Kali would be such a badass?  Torn between her logic and her body's desires.....welcome to the club!

Monday, February 25, 2013


You stand regal and proud
retelling tales of battles won
of poets and grandeur
of your days in the sun

Time has not been kind
Your lustre has grown dull
Still your conceit is resilient
You defy the journey from haughty to humble

Yet your beauty remains
Your verdant countryside
Your ripe vineyards
Nature’s gifts are Eden-like

While your leaders have betrayed
And your riches may have dried
Your dignity remains
And your majesty continues to survive

To Mexico City

To Mexico City

You are not alluring and seductive
As a city that never sleeps
You are untamed and audacious
And with this you have made peace

Your skies are thick and muddy
Amid them lights hardly seen
They lack grand and ornate towers
With lovers kissing underneath

The Thames’ celebrity does not daunt
The Seine’s beauty does not distress
You have Frida, Xochimilco, and Rivera
You don’t care to flaunt nevertheless

I never cared to know you
I never cared to see
I feared you and disliked you
But you embraced and accepted me

Monday, February 18, 2013

Miss Dickinson''s Finest

Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me –  
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –  
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility – 

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –  
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –  
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed us – 
The Dews drew quivering and chill – 
For only Gossamer, my Gown – 
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads 
Were toward Eternity –