Indira S. Somani, journalist, PhD

Indian students’ reaction to “Crossing Lines”

I screened Crossing Lines with all 69 students today.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew the students would have different perspectives than the South Asian audiences in the U.S.  After the screening, we had a class discussion about the film.  I admit in the U.S. I pride myself on learning the names of students quickly.  But why is it harder for me to remember so many Indian names?  Is it because I don’t have as much interaction with them (only teaching a couple workshops a week and that too with two different groups of students)?  Most of my friends are Indian in the U.S., so Indian names, I would think, would come more naturally to me.  Or am just conditioned to remember names like Killeen, Katie and Holly?  There are definitely more female students, and this batch actually has more Bengali students.  I’ve remembered the male students’ names, but then again there are only about 10 males students out of 69.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The overall reaction to film from the students was positive.  Some talked about how they are used to seeing India portrayed negatively in Western media and added that Crossing Lines was “refreshing.”  We talked about some of the themes of the film, such as the loss of a parent, the father-daughter relationship, the Indian Diaspora, Hinduism and the identity of a single woman.

I was curious to get their reaction to certain scenes, like the tea scene, which they thought was funny.  The scene about my father’s ambitions to get me married.  I asked students to raise their hands if they could relate to the prospect of meeting someone through their parents.  Almost everyone raised their hands.  Some also admitted that they had been (or expect to be) introduced to possible future life partners from their parents.  But they didn’t necessarily want that.  Then I asked, “don’t you trust your parents’ judgment?”  Most said “yes,” but they wanted to find someone on their own.  Some admitted that they would feel content even if they didn’t meet someone and stayed single.

One student shared with me how she could not relate to the film, because she was not raised with such strict conservative values.  She said her grandmother’s mother was married at age 30 and her own grandmother was married at age 36.   In fact the post-film discussion then turned to how my generation was raised by parents stuck in a “time capsule”– meaning they (the people who migrated to the U.S. between 1960 and 1972) still think of India the way it was when they left in the ’60s.  Many students suggested they (my parents’ generation) have not changed with India.

Hardly anyone could relate to the scene of me holding the mala to meditate.  In fact, one person said that she has seen her grandmother use a mala, but she does not use one.  One student mentioned that he follows religious traditions and goes to a Gurudwara every Sunday.  But many of the students explained how they have been taught certain rituals of their religion from their childhood, but not all understand the meaning of what they practice.  They just follow the rituals, because that is what they have learned.

A few students shared how they have experienced the loss of a parent, specifically the loss of a father.

For me, it was highly refreshing to hear students appreciate a film about an Indian-American.