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The Recession was a major part of my life starting last year when I was a candidate for the United States Senate. Besides addressing it in speeches, I ran into people from all over Mississippi that were hurting and needed help and hope. It was a moving experience, especially talking with folks from our Gulf Coast, who had not recovered from Hurricane Katrina just yet.
Now as one of the unemployed, uninsured Americans, it has not been easy for me either, but fortunately, I have a support system that will get me through. I have been on the lecture circuit to gain some income, and job offers are starting to come, but I still can’t do the things with my six-year-old son that I normally would do, like rewarding him for good grades or taking him to Chucky Cheese.
When I have visited the Capitol to hang out with my former colleagues in the Mississippi House of Representatives, I see the frustration in their faces. Not only are they dealing with the Recession personally, but they have the weight of the state on their shoulders. Not only are they grappling with the financial limitations to provide basic government services, they have to also deal with the politics around the recently passed stimulus package.
It is not an easy time for us in Mississippi, but we will get through it. We always do.
Erik Robert Fleming is a former member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and had the distinction of being the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate twice, in 2006 and 2008. He is a father, husband and a Christian that lives in Raymond, Mississippi. He is a Chicago, Illinois native and has a BA degree in Political Science from Jackson State University.
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Slumdog did, in fact, clean shop, bagging eight of the ten Oscars for which it was nominated. The audience seemed to really like the song and dance number with A.R. Rahman and John Legend (small shout-out here to Archana, Anie, Lisa, and the other girls in Yuva, you were awesome!). Does that mean the U.S. will open its arms to all things Bollywood?
Yet Indian culture is slowly finding its way into people’s awareness. My friend recently showed me an exercise video structured around Bollywood dance and bhangra (both dance forms, by the way, are fantastic workouts). Indian cooking styles and spices have been warmly embraced by chefs across the board. I think there’s even a commercial for Emergen-C that features a Bollywood-esque dance number. I just don’t think Indian movies will be embraced as readily.
Case in point, A.R. Rahman (yes the one who got 2 Oscars) enjoyed immense success in London’s West End for his collaborative work with Andrew Lloyd Webber for “Bombay Dreams.” The same show closed after only a few months on Broadway, a few years ago. Granted this was before Slumdog Millionaire took the nation by storm, I don’t think we’ll be seeing people flocking to see films like “Dostana” or “Kal Ho Na Ho” anytime soon, for the songs, or anything else. I won’t deny, though, that there will be some increased interest in Bollywood overall, just not a lot.
Maybe American films may incorporate some of the glitz and lightheartedness that tends to characterize Bollywood films, though sparingly. In a time where we just need a chance to smile or laugh, a little Bollywood levity can’t hurt. Bollywood seems to have stuck with the musical style that was more reminiscent of American cinema from the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood. Perhaps through Bollywood, American cinema may return to the styles of those times, if but a little bit. That’s just a guess.
Slumdog Millionaire more likely represents the well-publicized start of America’s love affair with Indian culture, though in actuality it has been simmering steadily for a while. In Indian culture, there lies an exotic appeal that has sometimes been welcomed (the seemingly ubiquitous appeal of kurta tops) and sometimes shunned (yoga has been a touchy subject for some Christian groups, though most people have taken to it quite favorably).
Britain has already integrated Indian culture seamlessly into its own, oftentimes yielding a wonderful mix of East and West (chicken tikka masala, for those who may not know, was created by a South Asian chef working in Britain). It’s probably not surprising that Britain was more acquainted (and attracted to) Indian culture longer than the U.S., considering that India was the crown jewel of the British Empire for a little over two centuries.
Indians probably only started emigrating to the U.S. in respectable numbers after World War II, unlike most of the other immigrant groups in this country. Our culture was still being understood for the last three or four decades. Indian characters were a rarity in film and on TV until probably the last decade (Parminder Nagra in ER comes to mind, as well as Naveen Andrews in Lost, and Sendhil Ramamurthy in Heroes).
Now, though, we’re officially on our way to adding Indian culture to the proverbial melting pot of our cultural understanding and awareness. All it took was a little indie film about a young boy from the slums with an extraordinary story.