Last Saturday, Fu Julie invited us home to watch South Korean movies. Why is an American who was staying in Cambodia for 4 years, and now in China inviting two Indians to watch a South Korean movie? Globalization, eh? Having had nothing to do that evening, we readily agreed.
Fu Julie’s apartment is typical of many Chinese apartments. The buildings almost all look like they are about to collapse. Yet, they probably would have been constructed maybe 3 or 4 years earlier. It’s surprising to me how a nation that specializes in poor quality building construction can build such marvelous roads. But her apartment on the inside is not bad. A small living room – usually, these apartments come fully furnished. Which means that the TV, the bed, the wardrobe etc are all landlord-rented. There, I meet Naomi, an American teaching English at a kindergarten nearby. She was in South Korea for the past few years, and is now taking her first baby steps in the mad Middle Kingdom. We sit down to watch this crazy South Korean movie. It reminded me a bit of the Hindi movie, Saajan. The hero here is in love with a beautiful blind woman. He is her ‘beast’ the one who helps her all the time, the one who gives her a lift at the pub where she plays the piano. Literally, he is the eyes with which he sees the world. Then, one day, she obtains a donor, and regains her eyesight. What follows is a comedy of buffoonery. The hero decides that he is too ugly, and doesn’t want his girlfriend to see him. Meanwhile, a superhero police officer begins dating her while the heroine pines for her ‘beast.’ “Many South Korean men have low esteem,” Naomi says as we have egg pancakes, popcorn and Chinese bread with home-made American jam.
Eventually of course, we all know what will happen – a typical almost Bollywood-like ending. And then we all sat at the table and played Farkle. I won after a nerve-wracking final session when Birdy came very close to sneaking up on me. It was a little past midnight when we made our way home. Yet, Chengdu was still bustling with life. Xiao kao stalls were buzzing.
We stop on the way, choose our veggies, and watch it being roasted. Instant barbecue for less than Rs20. As we sit at the table, I glance at two other girls also sitting at the table. This is not in a restaurant, this is on the sidewalk. Both of them are having beer, while waiting for their food to arrive. Behind them sit a group of guys. I sit in the almost still night air, just a little bit of chill in the air. And I think to myself, that perhaps, this is why I like China and South East Asia. I didn’t feel this sense of freedom in the U.S. To just sit on the sidewalk, a woman, and to have beer and not have any one lech or leer at you, and to just feel completely safe. To me that’s freedom. No matter if it’s a democracy or a communist country.