English Vinglish is India’s answer to Shirley Valentine.
It is a must watch movie for every woman. Young and old, single and married. Every woman who goes to watch this movie may do well if she takes her man along. You never know, with some luck he may be able to relate to it.A touching and sensitive movie of a homemaker running a small home business of making sweets( laddoos) and a seemingly happy family of Husband , two children and a mother in law.
Sashi, the protagonist of the movie comes across as this selfless, naïve and innocent and ignorant woman that we all so easily associate mothers with. Beneath this stereotype of being the selfless homemaker lies this human being, whose emotional needs are repressed and taken for granted in the daily grind of serving her husband, a teenage daughter , a son and a mother in law.
A solo travel to New York to arrange her niece’s wedding before her family comes over, her complete mess up at a café in Manhattan, a secret enrolment for an English crash course in NY and all the rest that unfolds is funny, sensitive, gripping and most importantly inspiring to anyone who relates to the Sashi in themselves.
When you learn to love yourself, you will never need to look for gratification from those around you. Thank you for making me feel good about myself …It is what Sashi says in the climax of the movie.
I swear I am not the senti type, but I must confess I wept in a movie hall after a long long time.Because it touched a chord in me and took me down the memory lane almost 10 - 12 years ago.
Almost ten or twelve years ago , I took upon myself to teach swimming to a middle aged housewife who was going through the early stages of ‘empty nest syndrome’ since her children were growing up and did not seem to need her around as much as they did a few years ago. She lived around the place where I went to swim and would often sit near the pool and watch me swim. One day while I stepped out of the changing room, she came up and asked me if I would teach her to swim. She was a stranger to me and that was probably the first time I had a conversation with her. I had nothing to lose and I was happy to teach her as long as she came to the pool at the same time I did.
I learnt swimming when I was well into my adulthood and know how unnerving it feels to overcome your fears and learn something at that age. I was the lone woman student at the YMCA where I had enrolled for swimming lessons and my coach was too cautious (or may be shy) and reluctant to push me harder the way he pushed his other male and younger students.I instinctively knew how handicapped it feels to be an adult and a woman and still hold on to a child like desire to learn something new without the fear of being ridiculed or laughed at.
Her husband was a fitness freak and was a regular at the pool. But she wanted to learn swimming when he was’nt around. I think I Understood.
It took her a couple of months to get the hang of the whole thing. I think I really was a patient teacher. JBut finally when she did manage to take the plunge ( literally) I could feel and sense the triumphant self in her. It was not about having overcome the fear of water or of having successfully learnt to swim. This feeling of triumph was well beyond that.
I remembered her today when Sashi said,
’When you learn to love yourself, you will never need to look for gratification from those around you. Thank you for making me feel good about myself. … ‘
It was a triumph that comes from feeling good about yourself , letting go of yourself and believing in yourself.I experience that triumph , that feeling of being in love with oneself, everyday when I Drive my car to work. Drive my car to buy groceries and vegetables, Drive my car to do window shopping, Drive my car to go and see movies and meet up friends. May be some day even Drive my car to a different city on the highway...
After years and years of failed attempts to learn driving, all it took was a giant leap of self confidence for me to shut out in my mind all the silent discouragement, ridicule and dismissals that I had conditioned myself to believe over all these years and take my small baby steps towards what I then perceived as freedom and mobility.Very often when I go out for a drive I remember to count my blessings and I feel thankful. I feel thankful not so much for having learnt to drive but for having learnt to love myself and believe in myself.
That is all that matters.
Driving , Swimming, English, Vinglish are just different by-products that manifest themselves when a woman learns to believe in herself and love herself.