Every month I spend in Amsterdam, I find myself drifting away a little further from the India I knew. Yesterday was my third Diwali away from India and I couldn’t work myself up into any kind of celebratory mood. Talking to members of the family scattered across three continents didn’t make it any better. It was just another day in Amsterdam and I wanted to keep it that way. I did make a small concession – Lunchbox was being screened at the Amsterdam Film Week and I decided to catch it. Watching a Hindi movie with Dutch subtitles at a 100+ yr old theatre by Prinsengracht is a very surreal experience. The audience in the small theatre was largely Dutch. They followed it through the subtitles and got the humour but I wondered how much of the socio-cultural context would have come through. The strangest thing for me about watching Hindi movies in Amsterdam is what happens to me when I step out of the theatre. Back in India, the noise, the crowd, the chaos you see on screen is exactly what you find yourself blending into the moment you are out. Here it was just the relative quiet of the 400 yr old canal ring. The feeble winter sun was peeking out and the air was nippy. Fluffy clouds were languidly drifting across the sky. After the scenes of Mumbai’s streets and crowded local trains it all felt very dissonant.
After all the food they showed in the movie, it was quite natural that we’d order a mini feast from the Indian takeaway. I might not want to celebrate Diwali here, but I have no qualms about using it as an excuse for going a little overboard with the food. During the meal, the wife switched on the TV for a special program on Diwali. It featured cut scenes of local children of Indian origin staging a Ram Leela in their school (or community centre or whatever it was). The singing and chanting was in Hindi but the dialogues were in Dutch. I’d never thought I’d hear Indian deities referred to in such Dutch adjectives as groeter and sterker but then I’d never thought I’d ever be living here either.