When I saw the preview for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I knew I wanted to see it. Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and a whole slew of other British actors who I was sure I’d seen in something and who, in the trailer, made me laugh at least once? Oh, yeah. Plus, India. For years, since reading Rumer Godden’s kids books, then finding her memoirs, A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep and A House with Four Rooms, when I grew up, I’ve been intrigued with that country. It’s a place I’d love to visit, and a place–honestly–I’m a bit afraid to visit, for various reasons. Obviously, it’s completely different to fall in love with a place on the page than to actually step into the streets and interact with people. I don’t typically do well with loud, crowded, and seriously bright, and I know the poverty would get to me. Someday, I hope I reach the point where I can let the worries go, then make the trip and somehow manage to just experience it all.
Which brings me to what I loved about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It’s what I love about the idea of growing older and doing it the “right” way. It’s what I’ve always loved about books with “older” women (as in, not THAT much older than me now) who have loosened their own reins, the ones they’ve spent years holding tightly onto, the ones they’ve finally learned to relax. I read books like these when I was a teen, when I was in my twenties, and I still do. (For a light, but wonderful representation of this feeling, read Dorothy Gilman’s first Mrs. Pollifax mystery, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax. I love the whole series, but this first book, especially the first few, choice-making chapters, totally hits it for me.) They represent a goal, a dream, the person I want to grow up to be. And, yes, I think the person I am growing up to be.
It’s about expansiveness.
It’s about, as I said, loosening the demands and expectations and restrictions we place on ourselves, or that we let others place on us. It’s about looking for opportunities to change, to change one’s life and/or attitude. It’s about welcoming those opportunities when they come, even if you do it nervously and with baby steps and with one hand on the door behind you in case you decide to step back through. It’s about stretching past those fears, like the ones I have about traveling to India, and taking a chance that there will be bad stuff as part of an experience, but that there will also be good stuff, and the one will make the other worthwhile, even okay.
You have to go see the movie. I am not going to give you any spoilers. But it was just beautiful to watch these people, all at some different place along this path, at an age when expectations might tell them to just sit still and quit moving, to just accept the parts of the world that cometo them and ignore any of the parts they have to get to themselves. And it was wonderful to remember which way I want to do this life, from now until the time I absolutely can’t. And even then, to keep trying.