Sanabel’s first dosai (and a 70 mm one at that!)

Sanabel’s first dosai
Originally uploaded by marcynewman.

Finding an open establishment on Christmas in the U.S. is a bit like trying to get a cup of coffee during Ramadan at a cafe in Jordan. So Murli, Divy, Sanabel and I took off for Little India today. Everything was open and it was great to have sambar and dosai since I haven’t had a drop of Indian food for the past six months. Probably this is the thing I’ve missed most since I’ve been gone. I don’t know why, there are a few Indian restaurants in Amman (though I assume they only have Punjabi food), but suffice it to say we packed in some good eating today: bhel puri, samosas, dosai and mango lassi. For Sanabel it was great fun because it was a way for her to see a community that maintains its culture and language and does not feel the need to assimilate into American culture. She was able to see people dressed in traditional Indian clothes, listening to bhangra pop music, eating kulfi on the street, and speaking Gujarati among other languages. She noticed all of these details and she remarked how much she likes the culture–not just Indian cultures but also the fact that it is maintained in the U.S.

We also went to see a Hindi movie, “Bluffmaster,” which was a clever comedy that was sort of a caper heist/romantic comedy. I was worried that Sanabel was not going to be able to read the subtitles very well because sometimes they are even too fast for me, so I sat her next to Murli so he could translate any ideas or words for her that she might miss. But actually, she understood everything very well and it was Divy who needed a bit of help reading and translating some of the ideas. The movie theater, Naz 8, which calls itself the “multicultural cinema,” though I think they only show Indian (and some American) films. They serve samosa and chai so one doesn’t have to eat popcorn and coke making the experience far more enjoyable than an ordinary cinema experience. This was the second film we took Sanabel too, the first being “Paradise Now,” which she found deeply troubling and problematic for many reasons not the least of which was its unrealistic portrayal of Palestinian life as she knows it.

After the film we went to one of our favorite restaurants Udupi Palace for dosai. Sanabel got her fill of batata (potato) today, one of her favorite foods, but usually she prefers the fried variety. Today we gave her plenty of batata, but of the Indian variety. Her dosai, which we shared because we ordered a 70 mm paper dosai, you can see in the photograph above.

On the way home we listened to some new Hindi cinema music which we were sampling for Fida (including a film with her name as the title!).

Pictures posted of our last couple of days on the companion photo site.



7 thoughts on “Sanabel’s first dosai (and a 70 mm one at that!)

  1. I’ve been wanting to see Paradise Now for ages, and even more since Hafiz Elmirazi interviewed the director on aljazeera…altho he seemed a bit weird, nattering on about artistic vision as opposed to political vision.

    happy new year 🙂

  2. I found “Paradise Now” interesting. Could you explain more why Sanabel found it unrealistic portrayal of Palestinian life? -thanks

  3. I won’t speak for Sanabel, but I can comment on some things that I found unrealistic. For one thing, Palestinians don’t go around with guns strapped around their bodies. You just don’t see that in the camps or in the cities. For another thing, the checkpoints are nothing like what that main female character goes through in the opening scene of the film. In fact, one of the problems I have with this film is that I think it doesn’t do a good enough job portraying how intense and horrific the daily trial of these checkpoints are. There are no people waiting at this checkpoint, even though Nablus is one of the checkpoints which is most difficult to pass through in Palestine–with the longest lines, with peopel being held for no reason, with people being denied entry or exit. I also think that the director’s choice of a reason why the two characters want to become shaheed is problematic. Certainly there may be many reasons why someone would make such a decision, but I think that if you are a Palestinian director and you are making a film that has a wide release and being sent to the Oscars, then you have an obligation to demonstrate the daily struggles of what life is like and why someone might make this choice as a political move. To show that this is a war: Israel has all these weapons and control and Palestinians have nothing. Israel is a military society and not a country made up of innocent civilians. These are things that need to be conveyed. It’s hard for me to see how these things are understood by Americans because I can’t imagine how it is perceived by someone who hasn’t lived there. My partner and son thought that it did all of these things well, but they are speaking as people who have never been there. But I’m speaking as a person who is craving a film that portrays Palestinians as human beings who have families, lives, desires, needs–who are human. I am sad to say that I didn’t see enough of that in this particular film.


  4. thank you for your long comments! i think your points are valid, but we shouldn’t expect a relatively short movie to portray all the realities there, and we also shouldn’t discredit the movie so strongly. i think the movie did an acceptable job in showing lives and desires, such as the message about the water filter by Khaled or the relationship betweem Saeed and Suha and his final struggles. we should be more supportive of these very few movies that try to show different images of the conflict.

  5. Dude, chill out. I daresay you’re being too harsh on Hani Abu Assad. I don’t think in any way that an Oscar nomination was the main thing on his mind when making “Paradise Now.” Just because his portrayal is not spot-on and hardcore political does not mean that its impact is lesser as a result. In fact, I’d argue that by not bludgeoning the audience with the horror and the minutae of life in Palestine he actually may be getting them to think about his overall theme and better relate to, and sympathize with, his protagonists.

    I often find that it’s those of you yelling the loudest and every which way who end up making the struggle seem a bit cartoonish. Not that we don’t need to be yelling or we aren’t angry about the situation as it stands. What’s the advantage, though, in not supporting those who are making a real effort to show a Palestinian narrative that many people can empathize with? What’s the point, really, in cutting them down?

    Really, I don’t intend to sound harsh. I often look at your blog and am happy that you’re plugging away in Amman. I don’t doubt your sincerity at all, but sometimes your writing gives me a feeling that you’re in a sense “exploiting” these Palestinians that you obviously care so much about. I don’t know who Sanabel is and it appears the two of you have a sweet relationship, but I keep thinking she might benefit from a bit of space. All the pictures of her in the U.S. give me the feeling you’re writing an anthropological ethnography.

  6. You make some good points about the film. I think that the film does present some important issues about life in Palestine, but are these the images that should be exported?

    In terms of the sense that I’m writing an anthropological ethnography, I have removed all of Sanabel’s photographs from my companion website and put them instead on a private website for family and friends. These photos were on my website for Sanabel’s family and mine as well. These were never really supposed to be public. So friends & family who want to see them let me know and I’ll give you the access code and website address.


  7. It’s true that there was a lot that the movie didn’t show but the main characters referred very compellingly I thought to their feeling that they had no future and any intelligent person watching the film would leave the theater wanting to find out more.

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