They also had various musical and dance performances. Before the tables opened up, an elementary school orchestra played a few multicultural songs. And then a bunch of Hispanic kids from a San Jose middle school played all sorts of things with traditional Irish tin whistles. Irish folk songs, Mexican folk songs, Native American folk songs, a bit from "Ode to Joy." Objectively, they were this side of terrible, of course, but subjectively, they were totally frickin' awesome.
During the afternoon, a few white girls and a white boy did a bhangra-esque dance in traditional Indian garb.
I took a tour around the world and learned all sorts of things. Germans import more beer from Belgium than Belgium imports from them. Madagascar is 40% larger than California, and their official languages are French and Malagasy (which I had never heard of). Rubik of Rubik's Cube fame was Hungarian. Vegemite tastes like soy sauce.
I talked to a Korean woman in a pink hanbok about the difference between North Korea and South Korea because I wasn't quite sure whether they were different countries since no one ever said they were "North Korean" or "South Korean," just "Korean." She said that if someone said they were from Korea, they meant South Korea; it was difficult to declare yourself to be from North Korea because of the whole Communism thing. I also wanted to know whether the cultures and food were different since north India and south India were rather different.
Manning the India table, I watched girls of all colors try on bangles and put on bindhis and have henna applied to their hands. I served them chaa and samosas and biryani. We had put on Devdas as an example of a Bollywood movie.
As I watched the kids going around from table to table, I thought, is this cultural appropriation? Is this a wholly superficial representation of our cultures? Does eating pasta teach you about the Italian culture? Hispanic children playing Irish folk songs, white kids doing Indian dances, Chinese girls wearing bindhis, this is MADNESS!
But is anyone going to honestly say that it's bad for kids—and, hell, adults too—to get exposure to different cultures in this way? I thought it was awesome, and I was really glad the school was doing it, raising a generation of kids who are more culturally aware of the world around them. Hell, I was reminded that I'm kind of lucky to have a culture. Note to self: BE MORE INDIAN.
On that note, that very night, we watched a Bollywood flick that really highlighted how watching foreign films can give you an idea of another country's culture and values. The movie was Ek Vivaah...Aisa Bhi (which the subtitles translated as A Marriage...So Unique), and it was perhaps the most frustrating love story I've ever seen because I'm a Westerner. Now, there are only, like, three of you who watch Bollywood movies, and I don't think you'd have any interest in this one anyway, but I'll cut since I'm going to describe the entire plot of the movie.
So Prem and Chandni (who is really pretty and one reason I sat through the damn thing) meet during some national singing competition or something, and they fall in love, and they're about to get married, and then, I shit you not, the DAY AFTER THE ENGAGEMENT, her dad dies.
The facts are these: her mom died when she was fifteen. She has a little brother and a little sister. Her dad put so much love and money into their house that he considers it their "temple."
Now, when Prem marries Chandni, he is to take her to live with him. That is how it works. The man takes the woman away. That's fine; she has an aunt and uncle who can take care of her brother and sister...BUT OMG THEY ARE WICKED AND DO NOT CARE ABOUT THEM. So she won't let her siblings be in their care. That's fine; Prem can just live with her after they get married.
WRONG. THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. HIS MOTHER WILL NEVER STAND FOR SUCH SHENANIGANS.
Cue twelve years of love songs.
I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING. TWELVE YEARS, YOU GUYS. AND NEITHER ONE OF THEM SO MUCH AS LOOKS AT ANOTHER PERSON.
(Meanwhile, one of Prem's bandmates gets married, and Prem and Chandni are both at the wedding, and it's, like, awkward.)
Chandni's brother, Anuj, is now ready to be married! And he can marry this Natasha chick, and they will live in the house, so Chandni will be free to go off with Prem. BUT OMG NATASHA IS A SPOILED BITCH WHO CANNOT LIVE IN A HOUSE WHERE THE ELECTRICITY GOES OUT EVERY NOW AND THEN AND SHE HAS TO, LIKE, FOLLOW TRADITION AND RESPECT HER HUSBAND'S SISTER. So she leaves. That's fine; she sucks and Anuj should just divorce her anyway. But no! Chandni tells him to go live with her! And now she is stuck and trapped in the goddamn house again.
Her little sister, Sandhya, is also ready to be married! And, luckily, Chandni started this music school after her father died, and her very first student, Rajiv, is ALSO grown up. He's in America, and Sandhya is going to visit America! So she's all, okay, my sister can stay with him and if they hit it off, they can be married next month. Yes, next month. That is how we roll.
Oh yeah, I forgot the part where Chandni keeps telling Prem to go off and marry someone else and stop waiting for her, but he doesn't, and she's still happy that he doesn't. It's now been, like, thirteen years or something in total. And Prem's mom is all, "You know, I didn't get you two crazy kids at first and I still don't, but I'm going to die at some point, so I'd rather my son be happy or something."
And then Sandhya and Rajiv have their wedding, which means that Rajiv will be taking Sandhya to his house...BUT WAIT HERE COMES PREM FOR LO IT IS FINALLY FUCKING TIME FOR CHANDNI AND PREM TO GET MARRIED. Oh yeah, I also forgot the part where Natasha wouldn't even let Anuj go to his own goddamn sister's wedding until her dad bitched her out for being a crappy wife, and she realized she sucked. So now Prem can take Chandni away to his house and, presumably, Anuj and Natasha can live in the dad's house and keep it alive, as long as Natasha stops sucking. And Prem and Chandni live happily ever after. FINALLY. FOR FUCK'S SAKE.
Family and tradition and duty and sexism. That is how we do it, Indian-style.