Global Village Idiot: Ola! (No, not the cab ride)... A dip into the lexicon of humanity
Sometimes it is not the right time for an idea or a direction. And sometimes, the time is just right, but we are not ready. But then, there are times when the time is right, the opportunity arises and we are open to revisiting an old idea and it sort of starts working out.
Like my desire to learn Spanish, which dates back to … I don’t know: high school?
The past two years have been a good learning experience, especially thanks to Netflix. And a good bit of what I have been watching has been in Spanish.
As a general rule, I watch to learn about cultures and people rather than to just get entertained so the content has to be meaningful and engaging, which automatically rules out a bulk of regular and mainstream programming and movies.
Spanish movies and serials have been a revelation for me in terms of quality of story-telling, performance and production value. When these three elements are firmly in place, language has never been a barrier.
The thing about language is that it is spoken not with the tongue or throat or the lips, but with your whole body. The facial expressions, the gravity of sound, intonation, the depth of the gaze of the eyes, the body language... all of it are the true essence of the communication - the words we speak are the end result of a complex set of communication processes that the mind and the body constructs. And Spanish is a language that is as animated and immersed in human emotions as any other significantly evolved language: I imagine it is a very accurate reflection of the nature of Spanish-speaking people.
I have limited direct experience with the people of Spain, and some limited direct experience with Spanish-speaking people from other parts of the world (South America and North America). But, I am fascinated with their passion, zest for life, and ability to connect with the world. My first direct interaction with Spanish came in 1989-90, when I started studying the language at the School of Foreign Languages in Mumbai. From the beginning, it always felt familiar, although I never persevered to achieve fluency.
Then in the mid-2000s, my wife and I were on a trip to Ajanta Caves where we met a young Spanish photographer, Marcos Rebollos. Listening to them talk photography and art and travel, was mesmerising for me - it was the first time I had met a native speaker and it confirmed everything I had imagined about the language and the people: they were full of life and fascinating. Marcos was from Santander and I remembered Santander because they had a football club that was at that time in La Liga, Racing Santander. I kept an eye on the club’s progress for many seasons simply because we had met Marcos.
And I think human beings are like that: we make connections and feel connected to their places and their lives and their cultures.
I am not much of a traveller. In the sense that if life takes me somewhere, I go, but I don’t plan travel or have an intense desire to go and see places. My professional work has been centered around media, technology-based education, aviation and hospitality for the past three decades and it was work that took me to Orlando in Florida in the USA in 2008. Since then (till 2019) I had an annual trip to this delightful, delightful city where you see innovative emerging trends in all these industries thanks to the collaboration of industry, educational institutions, government and citizens. And: most of the locals I meet speak some dialect of Spanish (last I checked 37% of the population is of Hispanic origins).
It was also work that eventually took me to Madrid in 2018 for a few days. And while I was staying mostly on the outskirts and didn’t see much because I was attending a trade show and conference, the three days were great because I was able to speak Spanish (haltingly) with the local people I met at the hotel, restaurant, conference and airport.
I think I got on to Netflix at around the same time or a little earlier, and the first series I latched on to was Gran Hotel, watching Amaia Salamanca and Yon González. The series, which is set in the early 1900s, was shot on location at the Palacio de la Magdalena. And where is this Palace located? Near the city of Santander.
I am a person who believes that there is more to the world and life than what we see and believe, and that it is not necessary that life is a series of coincidences - it is more inspiring to believe there is some reason why we meet the people we meet. Even if it is to feel that we are part of one world, made from the same fabric.
In the last two years, I have discovered La Chicas del Cable, Tiempos de Guerra, Velvet, and 45 RPM, the last one about a young musician and the recording business. Music, love, pain, joy, failure, success, death, parting, anguish, food, relationships, disease, death, parting, suffering, recovery, hope ... Life is the same all over the world. Even in pandemic times.
And while I am as inquisitive as ever about Spanish, I have realised we all speak one language all across the globe. It is the language of being human.