A few nights ago Nisagul and I watched a DVD together: The Red Violin. It was the first time for both of us seeing the movie. I had a general sense of the story, knowing beforehand that it spanned several centuries and continents. However, I hadn't realized that a major portion of the movie was filmed in China, set in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution.
In one of the first scenes set in China, Red Guards denounce their music teacher for playing the violin, a western instrument. I casually remarked to Nisagul that, "You're sure lucky you were born after all this stuff was going down." Her response was not what I expected.
"Oh, those were really funny times."
I knew that Nisagul's father had been an imam at a local mosque in earlier days; he himself served several years in prison during that period.
"What do you mean funny?"
"Oh, my father would tell stories about those days. Of course everything was really crazy, but because it was so crazy it was just really funny as well. When he'd get into telling a story at the dinner table. We couldn't stop laughing."
"Oh, for example, each room had to have a a picture of Chairman Mao in it. Every morning you were supposed to salute it, saying, 'Long live Chairman Mao!' in Chinese. Well, one guy my father knew couldn't speak any Chinese at all, just Uighur. So, when he tried to get the Chinese sounds out of his mouth for the first time, he accidently sprayed Mao's face with spit. He got three years in prison for that."
Nisagul laughed and laughed.