Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Life with Pi

I've known for some time that my writing needs to become more regular, so without further ado (or apologies), let me begin. Again.

The other day, my daughter and I went to see the movie, "Life of Pi." I saw the symbolism - the entire movie consisted of it - but on this one rare occasion, I wanted to verify with my daughter that I'd seen the message, because I'd not heard one of the final lines in the movie. Once she told me what the line was, it all fell into place for me and I said "Oh!  So it's a parable about parables."  My daughter, who has her M.S. in English - thought for a moment and said, "I really like that explanation." 

The story I am about to share is the reason I had to ask her in the first place.  

It was 1984.  My husband was going to grad school at KSU in Manhattan, KS, and we were renting a house in an older part of town.  Our neighbors across the street were a married couple a few years older than us; Gina was from Ohio and Utsab was from India, they had met while attending grad school at Ohio State University. To this day, I believe there were more connections between us all than we ever had time to discover.

Utsab was a great joker, whose delivery was very dry. I got to be pretty good at knowing when he was trying to put one over on me! He was also a huge OSU fan, to this day the house is still gray with red trim, the school colors! Gina was working towards her PhD in Philosophy and teaching a few classes at KSU. In July of 1985, they brought their son Simon home from the hospital the day I found out I was pregnant with our daughter - Gina and I had gone to the same Obstetricians. I loved our neighbors, and everybody else did too - I think Utsab was the start of my fascination with the East Indian culture.

Gina had this gift - when you were talking with her, she turned you into (and tuned in TO you) the single most fascinating person in the entire world, and she couldn't stop asking you about yourself and listening to what you had to say. I got the biggest kick out of watching her her do this with my husband.  I don't think I've ever known anyone else quite like her.  Together, they were one of the more unique couples I've known.

My husband completed his studies, and in 1987, his first job took us to South Dakota. We kept in touch sporadically, and heard a few years later that Gina had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She was successfully treated and cancer free for several years. Then at some point in the late 90's, it came back in different areas of her body.  She seemed to be taking the treatments well, and we would hear from them or connect with them every so often - at this point, we had just moved back to Kansas City from Wisconsin - we didn't touch base with them very often due to the distance, and long distance telephone in those days was still quite expensive. 

In May of 2002, our family went on a trip out to Hays, KS.  It had been close to a year since we'd heard anything from our friends, so on the way back to Kansas City, we decided to stop by and say hi.  The kids and I stayed in the car while my husband went up to the house and knocked on the door.  After a few minutes, he came back with a strange look on his face - he'd talked to Utsab but found out that Gina had passed away barely a month prior - we were as shocked as Utsab was crushed.

A few years after this, I will never forget - I had a dream about her one night, and she was holding an infant.  Since that time (in the past couple of years) I've had at least two more dreams that she is featured in - Utsab was in one of them also, they were living across the street, just as before - and always a baby figures in them.  She is so real in these dreams - and it's only now, as I'm typing this that I realize how emotional I get talking about my friend Gina.  She is one of those people in my life that I dearly loved, and deeply miss to this day.

So what does this story have to do with watching the movie "Life of Pi?" It's like this.  Irrfan Khan, the actor who portrays the older Pi looks and sounds exactly like my friend Utsab...and that brought the memories of him and Gina rushing back to me.  Herein lies the reason for my distraction, because I could not get over how much it was like looking at my friend on the big screen! I'm quite sure it doesn't do that for everyone, but maybe the movie was my trigger for thinking about my friends again, and revisiting all that they meant to me.

I do know that I'm such a wuss when it comes to movies like this - I have a very hard time watching all the dramatic parts and watching the animals suffer hardships (even though I know it wasn't real).  I actually bought the book from a thrift shop for 50 cents this last summer. I tried to start reading it and couldn't get past the first dozen pages.  So I re-donated it to the library.

I am an avid reader, and a true believer that "everything happens for a reason." Perhaps I wasn't meant to read the book, because it would not have elicited the same memories or response in me (as the movie did) about Gina and Utsab? I'm going with that, and I think this is one of those movies that every person who sees it may well have a different experience - I can only tell you that I'm incredibly grateful for my own.