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lundi 23 janvier 2012

Shopping for Cuban Friends and Family in Bangalore

My friends in Bangalore always joke that I am buying things that is not in great demand locally. But little do they know where these gifts are destined to: The Island Republic of Cuba, the moveable feast of my life!
Incredible it may seem, I received an email from Baracoa requesting kurtis and Mohabbatein! I had not idea what these things were, but was told that Kurti is a short form of Kurta and that Mohabbatein is a Bling movie from Bollywood!  My question was: how did they know these things in Baracoa? I know that Africans love the bling movies from Bollywood, but our Cuba, where there is thriving movie industry and the country that takes pride in its movie culture? 
After watching the five minutes of a bling movie DevDas, I had the answer..
In Cuba, whenever there is a telenovela from Brasil is being screened there is a total silence over the entire country as if a celestial command had been issued. I knew it was one of the ways for the Cuban population to see and observe the lives, however distorted, of other people in other countries. I remember a very popular telenovela from Colombia and on my next visit there I carried a bunch of handwritten letters from Baracoa to the lady who was the lead actress.. all of them started, my dear...., My name is .... and I watch your telenovela without fail....This is truly a cultural equalizer in Cuba.
Why this fascination for the mindlessness of the Bling Movies from Bollywood. After all Baracoa is not Africa, it is in Cuba.. In the first five minutes of the movie Devdas shown to me (and that is all I watched), there is a palatial mansion, the head of the household, a lady with shiny skin and even shinier hair had herself decked out in jewelry and brocades beyond any imagination and she ran from room to room, there seemed to be many many rooms, and from each room came cleaners, chefs, maids all swinging to the rhythm of the hypnotic music..
Opium of the Masses?
I can see why Cubans are fascinated, it is one of the few ways to get a glimpse into the culture of India, however falsified it may represent of the every day life in India. They get to see glitter and glamour, dresses with sequins and jewelry that cannot be seen in magazines... In fact, Bling movies are a fiesta for the tired eyes of people used to bland TV programmes and to the tired minds of reading and loosing in discourse.
I had a difficult time finding clothes which would satisfy the cuban mind of its fantasy with Bling Movies of Bollywood.. Shops after shops sold very inferior imitations of western clothes. Looking around the streets of this confusion contributed by the shallowness of the IT crowd and others, I did not see any one wearing saris the quintessential symbol of beauty in India..let alone the bling saris of Bollywood movies.. (but why do Indian object when Hermes introduced a print sari last month in India? its price of 5000 Euros?)
The request list from Cuba included: Mohabbatein which is a movie and some Bling songs from Bollywood.. 
I realized what a pleasure it is for me to shop for my loved ones in Cuba.. I bought more fashion jewelry, clothes and incense and coffee (the latter for my native friends in USA, Cuba does not need coffee!)
I am proud of Baracoa that it has people who know the difference between Kurti and Kurta!