“First they killed my father”

It’s a wet fall morning. I didn’t hear the rain at night, but the driveway is wet and so are the plants. Rain is good for us. It’s just that it means that my little Tara cannot play in the park. And it also discourages us from walking to downtown whenever we want.

I should not lose steam in sundry chats. I watched First they killed my father last night. I  was moved and disturbed by the movie. The glance of the central character follows you through the movie and beyond. She is only five, but the world around her has changed and she is yet to make sense out of it. She does not waste her time to answer the whys and what ifs. She maintains her grit, as she goes through the motions of being a victim of a revolution. She performs her tasks as expected of a child laborer, and then a young soldier, without question. She crumbles only when she feels she is the only one left in her family. It is a wonderful movie.

Through the movie you watch the child lose that twinkle in her eye, sometimes to see it come back only because of the light reflected in her tears . And eventually recover that twinkle when she reunites with her siblings and then when the war comes to an end. I am a believer of the twinkle in the eye. I saw mine disappear for a few years after my Dad passed away. It has returned with Tara.

I had a lot of emotions run through my body, and a lot of thoughts clog my mind in the two hours I spent alone with Luong, the central character. Coming to think of it, when was the last time I spent two hours all by myself, with ample amount of time to think and reflect. Such an arduous challenge for a working parent.

The kid is hardly five when the movie starts. She is just 2 yrs older than my Tara. I was probably more emotional because yesterday Agam and I established our will and trust. We made decisions like – who will be Tara’s caretaker in our absence. And also ones like – if I want my life to be prolonged by advanced health care if I am incapacitated. If I’d like my organs donated? If so, for what purpose – training, education, research or transplant? And lastly what should someone do with my remains. I chose to be cremated, it does not matter where. I don’t want to be buried. Claustrophobia won’t impact me when I am dead. But hey, it’s my call to make.

I found this particular question very rhetorical. “What should someone do with my remains.” My remains are inconsequential after you take out my organs. And in one way, remains are not my body, but my Tara. She is all that remains after me. All that I would have achieved and established.

I know we are not getting into another war, just yet. But I am also sure that Luong’s Dad had never imagined that his princess daughter would have to sleep on a barren land with the night sky as a blanket. Or that he will one day have to send his kids to the frontline, with no guarantee of them coming back. Or for that matter that his youngest daughter will have to learn how to lay out mine fields and hold a gun. Life is so unpredictable. No matter how much we plan, there is never a guarantee. Never an assurance.

Angelina did a fabulous job of depicting memories in this movie. We think of memories as a replay of something that happened. But they are not – memories are the event that happened, and some more things that we add to them from our imagination. The way the scenes play out in our mind, are a sum of the event that really happened and our impression of it. That’s what makes memories happy or sad. It is our impressions that lend that lens to them.

I have a memory from the  the fourth day of my father’s death. One might assume that all memories from that period must be scarred and sad. But no, I have a happy memory. After we came home from the funeral service, some of us were really hungry and an instant plan was made to make Magggie. I remember the joy on everyone’s face – my cousins, nieces, nephews and aunts, when we made that instant plan. It is the one joyful memory I have of being with my kin, despite of the tragedy that happened to us just four days back. I derived joy out of that memory. Most people who were part of this event, won’t even remember it happened. But for me, it is a beautiful memory, because it is tagged with an emotion I derived out of it.

Similarly in the movie, Luong’s memories of her father and mother are paired with her derivation from them. It’s a tough concept to capture in a movie. I am sure there is a lot of hard work that went into making this movie.

Lastly, Luong and I had similar fates. We lost someone we really loved. We did not quite understand why and we both did not waste a lot of time in digging into the why. We picked up the cards that we were dealt with and moved on to fulfill our duties. Our grit helped us cope with the loss, and it continues to manifest itself in a lot of what we do.






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