Perhaps there was some accuracy in that acerbic adage that we’d grown up with – the one about Asians and their love for Bollywood films. I remember in the late 80’s as a child waiting for the weekend. Dad would receive a list of films from my elder sister(s). The type of list which had no less than 5 to 6 names of films written in priority. They’d say “If option 1 isn’t available then go for option 2, and so forth”. Dad has the duty of not only bringing back 3 to 4 films, but the VHS video player too, along with its cable from the local video shop.
Today’s generation with the likes of online video streaming services – probably laugh at that thought. But for me, and many my age, now actually do cherish those times where the only social entertainment at home regularly was watching Bollywood or Pakistani films at home.
Sometimes the setup of the VHS video player was easy. The films played without requiring any tuning. There were occasions where some films wouldn’t play. We’d be the 76th family to have hired this film so can image the wear and usability of a magnetic video cassette.
I guess for our parents, these South Asian films were that access back to their homelands. Underneath their bravery and solid fronts, they missed their parents, their homes, their friends, their communities and the entire South Asian beautiful climate. It couldn’t have been easy for them. Perhaps these films allowed us to recognise their struggles and their ‘home sickness’ which they’d never uttered.
At times I lay awake in bed, think, and look back to those times, it was about unity, nervousness and to some degree survival on many fronts. It was survival on many fronts. A total change in culture for our parents and imagine having to turn up to work in a factory to see big machines churning out material and the noise, imagine the language barrier and having to work 12 hour shifts 7 days a week, imagine in addition having to learn where to pay the bills and the different types of bills to pay, imagine having to learn to stay sane and focused in the cold British wet weather further polluted by the fumes from coal burning, imagine having to bring up children in an environment which you didn’t understand yourself, imagine having to be rejected by the country men who you’ve come to support their economy and integrate? Often the struggle of the women, mothers who were part of the big change is overlooked.
The backbone to the home and survival was the mothers. Often they’re overlooked and forgotten in history. The mother aligned to a mothers unofficial society, where each mother bounced off the other for support. I mean real support. I guess if one mother failed then it’ll be seen as the whole group of mothers failing, so whilst the fathers confirmed their stiff upper lips, the mothers hardened their faith and truly became the backbone to our integration and survival.
The South Asian film industry ‘Bollywood’ was on the rise. The songs from the new released Bollywood movie would often play in all households, at the same time, synchronising the momentum and memories. Naturally back then new releases came far few and in between which meant change in the culture was hardly noticed.
Looking back at some of the scenes, I swear, if any young British Asian was to watch today, they’d have their side splitting moments. Back then, they were amusing, unreal and outrageous yet connecting. I guess between the lines, the parents could still see the connection to their homeland. Simple lifestyle living in harmony with other people and their animals and vegetation.
I don’t believe parents back in those days understood the two different worlds that existed. Although in their faith and memories they could combine both worlds but in reality they were, to some degree, two extreme ends.