Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thoughts on Documentary Pink Saris

I recently watched the documentary Pink Saris (on HBO On Demand through my cable company).

Just the other day I was reading an art magazine in which an amateur artist remarked that she enjoys making art with influences from India becuase "she loves everything about India". I would question that amateur artist's statement. How much does she know about India, the poverty, the caste system and the lives of women?

This is a terribly depressing movie about the realities happening today in India. If you know something of a woman's life in India, but it seems too remote or faceless, I urge you to watch this movie to get a sense for the real people and what life is like living with the thousands of year's old traditions which include marrying very early not for love but by arrangement, the caste system, being verbally and physically abused by both of one's in-laws and sometimes being pursued sexually or raped by one's father-in-law, as well as being abandoned by one's husband and left alone with the abusive in-laws.

One of the most moving parts of the movie is right near the end where Sampat Pal says, "A girl's life a cruel, a woman's life is cruel."

This movie is about a woman, Sampat Pal who has been an activist for 20 years for women's rights. To this American woman what she is saying seems not extreme, it's like the women's liberation movement albeit being just her as leader and a "gang" of followers who show their alliance to the cause by wearing solid bright pink colored saris all day, every day, to show the world what they stand for.

Pal wants girls to be able to marry for love and to marry up into higher castes. She wants an end to abuse of the girls and women. She is very "in your face" with her attitude which is not appreciated by the men who she yells at and demands that they change the way they live. They don't want to hear it, of course.

What was so depressing is seeing the terrible living conditions and the abuse of girls and women and realizing that truly not much is being done about it. This is complicated. I'm an outsider looking at how India is, what their culture says is normal and fine. I'm horrified. It's depressing also because this American woman is helpless to affect change, and because I worry that the work of Sampat Pal will not amount to change on a grand (enough) scale.

The movie uses subtitles to translate to English. The photography is stunning and whether it's the dirty city or the wide landscape of the country, we get a real sense of place by watching this film.

I didn't have my sons watch this with me but I should have.


Postscript: I was also reminded when I watched this that life as I know it in America is not how the rest of the world lives.

I don't know exactly why but upon graduating from public school I didn't have a true sense for the cultural differences between countries. I somehow thought that "all the bad stuff" was all in the past and that everyone everywhere had become enlightened and were living in better conditions, all as part of progress. For example, I knew of the genocide of the Jews by Hitler but thought no genocide went on after World War II ended, which is incorrect. I also was never told who else Hitler killed (the handicapped, the deaf, the homosexuals).

In school, I learned nothing about India. I also never learned anything about China or other Asian cultures and learning nothing about the Middle East. As a senior in high school I got to choose between a half year of Russia or China and I chose Russia. It was the only time in all those years that I learned anything about that country. Given that we are a more global world today it seems ridiculous that kids aren't learning more about other countries in the world and current events and things like cultural differences that show how others view the world and how it compares to the United State's views (i.e. women's rights, murder is illegal, physical abuse is illegal, the age of consent for sex, marriage of minors is illegal, so forth and so on).

External Links About This Film

Women Make Movies Pink Saris

The Guardian article

1 comment:

Crimson Wife said...

I read a tragic story today about a little girl in India (IIRC she was 7 years old) who was murdered as human sacrifice in the belief that the offering would make it rain :-(