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Monday, June 13, 2005

Love in India

I got into Bollywood at the insistence of one of my older friends, a woody-allen-look-alike new-yorker atonal-composer with a thing for 1930s musicals, who used to host sing-alongs to Cole Porter piano musings at his dinner parties.

So there we were one day, eating pork buns while he told me about the teary eyes of the Chinese violinist who was performing his pieces, lacing his ironic allusions to tender emotions with lyrics from the Grateful Dead. He claimed that Bollywood was virtually the only form of culture left where the plot compulsively had to tie up all the traditional relationships of individual, lover, and family, in concentric circles of pleasure and happiness. No Bollywood film can end if the mother-in-law still isn't speaking to daughter-in-law, if the grandparents aren't reconciled, if the son hasn't earned his father's approval and the father hasn't gotten over his own old-fashioned ways.

And so, Aaron decided, his New York Jew tribalism prevailed in his love of women from real families and musicals and Indian film in particular. Finishing the pork bun and smearing his fingers on a napkin, he announced that he was breaking up with the clever mathematician he'd been dating, leaving behind expectation and ambition to follow his heart. He had discovered the divergence in their film tastes, and film, weaving together self and society, family and passion, symbolized a level of aesthetic epiphany he could reach in no other way. In a sudden awakening, he knew: he could only ever marry a woman who understood Bollywood.


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