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Culture

I've written umpteen posts on culture since I started blogging.  I don't want to reinvent the wheel here and bore anyone who reads my regularly.  I think it's fairly well established by now that Maria/gaelikaa suffered from culture shock when she married into a different culture.  My traumas and tribulations are fairly well documented here.  I plan to repost some posts from my original blog 'Out of Ireland, Into India' soon, so writing that stuff again would make for a predictable post and make me sound like a drippy pessimist.

What post would I have written on 'Culture' had I not left Ireland?  I racked my brains and remembered.  When I used to refer to 'culture' in the past, it was with reference to going to the theatre or the opera or the ballet or something similarly 'cultural'.  When I lived in Ireland, a friend gave me a video cassette of a comedian named Brendan O'Carroll.  I played it at home one evening and was horrified.  The man was a person like me, with his roots in working class Dublin.  But I didn't like his humour at all.  Every second word out of the man's mouth seemed to be an expletive.  It's not that I never swear, but I like to reserve that activity for special occasions.  Like when I drop a computer on my foot or something.  Also, he had absolutely now qualms about referring to stuff which I think is unacceptable in mixed company, like the menstrual cycle of the female and the like.  I mean what I laugh at when I'm with the girls is one thing, but I'm not into laughing along with men laughing at women.  The whole act culminated in Mr. O'Carroll giving a blow by blow account of a Dublin 'wan' (woman) having sex with her fella!  I stopped the cassette and handed it back to my friend with as little comment as possible.  That particular cultural experience was a flop!

A few years later, I was home from India with Yash and our (two) kids.  Someone had given my mother an audio tape of Brendan O'Carroll reading his novel "The Mammy".  This was the story of a Dublin inner city woman, Agnes Brown, who worked as a dealer (selling vegetables) on the streets of Dublin and rearing her seven children alone.  My mother wasn't listening to it as she was regularly listening to a meditation tape recorded by a priest.

One day I switched on the Brendan O'Carroll tape during an idle moment.  As I'd predicted, a string of expletives (recital in F major) poured forth from the tape.  Agnes Brown was having a flashback to the first time her late husband (Redser Brown) beat her.  Yash walked into the room right then and stood there, stunned.  'Is that the priest?' he asked.  'No,' I replied.  Yash walked out of the room shaking his head.

I listened on.  A section came up about the day Agnes Brown met her daughter Cathy after school and was shocked to see that the little girl's hair had been cut roughly with a scissors.  When she questioned the child, it seemed that a nun at school, Sr. Magalen, had spoken roughly to the child in front of her class, making nasty remarks about untidy hair.  Then she got a scissors and cut her hair.  Agnes comforted her daughter but felt helpless anger.

Next day, she was sitting at her vegetable stall.   She decided to go to the school and confront the nun.  She left her stall in the care of the neighbouring stallholder and as a favour carried a packet of sandwich making vegetables for the neighbour's mother (the priest was coming to tea!).  Agnes reached the convent, met the nun and was rudely rebuffed.  In fury, Agnes hit the nun over the head with a cucumber saying 'who gave you permission to cut my daugher's hair', knocking out the nun's dentures.  She walked away in fury.  She was later arrested by the police and forced to stay the night in the lock-up.  She appeared in court the next day.

In court, all Agnes's friends and neighbours were there to show support.  The judge reprimanded Agnes for her rowdy behaviour.  Agnes replied 'all I did was knock out her false teeth and that never harmed anyone.'  Everyone laughed loudly and the judged asked for an explanation as to what led to the knocking out of the teeth.  Sister Magdalen, incidentally, was nowhere to be seen.

Agnes explained the reason and there was silence in the courtroom.  Agnes's friends were ready to start a lynching party for the nun.  The judge let Agnes off with a caution and warned her that she should never again take the law into her own hands.  Agnes replied 'what nun would be arrested on my word as quick as I was arrested on hers?'

My opinion of Brendan O'Carroll is now revised.  I think the man is a genious.  He encapsulated the culture of 1960's Dublin in that novel.  The fear of clergy and the way ordinary people were so oppressed.  I still haven't read the novel 'The Mammy', but I intend to as soon as I can.

In India, arts are almost considered as nothing and science is everything.  Well, writing isn't rocket science, but it takes a really good writer to make us look at our culture, warts and all and make sense of it.  Real sense.  Brendan, if you're reading this, I think you should stick to writing.  That is your absolute talent.

This is my weekly post for the Loose Blogger Consortium. We are a group of bloggers from different parts of the world with diverse views and styles of writing, and we post simultaneously (well, we try to) on a weekly basis on a given topic.  Our members  are, in no particular order,  Anu,  Maria Silverfox,   Magpie, Will Knott,   Rohit,  Noor, JoePaulAkankshaDelirious, Padmini, AshokConrad, Maria, Grannymar, and Rummuser.  This topic 'culture' was chosen by Rummuser.  

 

Comments

  1. Mrs Browne's Boys, a radio series written by and starring Brendan, led to the creation of Agnes Browne as the central character in Brendan's first novel, The Mammy, published in 1994. The book topped the bestseller charts in Ireland for months and the film rights were snapped up, the film starred Anjelica Huston and Tom Jones.

    The sequel to The Mammy, entitled The Chisellers, published in 1995, was also a long-running bestseller, and the final book in the trilogy, The Granny, (1996) went straight to No 1 in the Irish Bestseller list.. Meanwhile Brendan wrote a play, The Course, which had a five-month sell-out run in Dublin in 1995/96.

    Dublin has a humour all its own, the word ‘Chisellers’ for those born outside of Ireland, means children.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'll have to get that film and have a look at it. Somehow, I can't see Anjelica Huston playing a Dublin woman - not a working class one anyway!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would not quite go so far as to say that India has cast off the liberal arts education in favour of the sciences. The vast majority of students still go in for BAs and MAs and strive to get into business schools or into the UPSC positions failing which they strive for state SSC positions.

    Whether it is in the sciences or in the liberal arts stream, we do not seem to produce employable young people barring from the IITs and the top IIMs.

    There is something seriously wrong and unless parents take up this seriously, the coming generations, which will include your children will find life very difficult.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is fascinating. I'm not sure about Brendan O'Carroll myself - but I love your decision to reassess your opinion of him and keep an open mind.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Maria!

    You have an interesting post, thank you!

    And thanks also for coming by my Nicola Marsh and her BUSTED IN BOLLYWOOD giveaway post!

    ReplyDelete

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