SPEECH AT PREMIERE OF INDIA AWAITING
NEW YORK CITY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2005
From right to left, actor Gabriel Byrne, Meera Gandhi, Kerry Kennedy, Justice Jay Snyder
Thank you all for being here tonight. Anne Marie Cummings was
introduced to me by dear friend Shaunali. When I first agreed to meet Anne
Marie I had NO desire to take on yet another project and also no idea how
involved I would get with this project. I read the script and was amazed- it
has taken an American to write a play about the conflicts felt by Indians and
I would say most people who move here from another country. The conflict
of wanting to fit into America and yet hold onto roots, foods, habits and
comfort zones of what one has grown up with.
As I read through the script which I finished in one sitting –by the way - I
was drawn to the theme for many reasons.
Many thoughts went through my mind. The central character Nikhil is smart
and successful and yet when it comes to making the decision of his life –
whom he would like to spend the rest of his life with – he is torn. The age
old Indian conflict is played out where his mother wants him to marry and
Indian girl and he is in love with an American girl.
Our community and I can’t speak for others- really don’t talk about these
cultural conflicts. For many reasons-
The first is that most people are simply too busy, its work, then dinner, if
there are children time for them and so on. This never gets addressed. If
you meet socially- one is too happy to see friends and would never really
bring this up. Besides, Indians don’t really wear ALL their emotions on their
sleeves even though we are an outgoing bunch!
So, I was really glad that we had a whole play about this and other serious
underlying issues set to an almost humorous undertone.
So, the conflict in the play about someone discovering a new country and
yet trying to do the needful to fit in with their culture is one level of the play.
Then there is the conflict of Nikhil’s mother who has fear of the unknown-
fear that her grandchildren will be alien to her if Nikhil marries an American.
To many of us in this room, we think about our own children – now second
generation- how can we help them assimilate the best of both cultures and
not let them loose their roots.
The Late Jim Mains – the superintendent of the American School in
Bombay said to us “The best way to children to learn and retain is to share”
If they have friends over – rejoice in Indian food, let them taste and learn, if
there is an Indian ceremony – let the children perform it at assembly and so
This is exactly how can they live in both cultures and not loose the
integrity of their traditions and their identity and yet be the strong Americans
we want them to be as well.
- People come to America from all over the world and regardless of
which country they come from experience the adjustment phase to a
greater or lesser degree.
Today, this situation is less acute, most people are better prepared for what
to expect thanks to MTV, just TV and globalization in general. Though
young nephew of ours had a rude shock when he went to study at
Berkeley- he thought there would be Baywatch babes everywhere and was
Why did I connect to the male character in the play. Firstly, because he was
Someone torn between two cultures, which happened to me when we first
came here 18 years ago.
The other is something that I advise many people NOT to do is to “try and
be American” its that trying too hard that kills the wonderful experience of
letting someone here learn from you.
However, no a days when I go to my Yoga class I see American yoginis that
are MORE Indian than I could EVER hope to be – so go figure.
Anyhow, since I have grown up in literally two cultures since I am half Irsih
and half Indian I now realize that my mother did a wonderful job of adapting
to India, wearing Indian clothes, running a clothing company and speaking
Hindi. But we retained many traditions, grew up Catholic, Christmas lunch
for 70 relative swas at at home every year and my mother simply shared
her ways and
Consequently endeared herself to all.
As children going to church was as natural as going to a temple and we
grew up accepting of everyone as we were taught no barriers to seeing the
universe as a global whole with intrinsic wonderful differences.
So in closing I will say, India Awaiting is treat, it could not open at a better
time, when the world is shrinking and the gap is closing as we become a
more global planet.
You will laugh and cry as you identify with the situations in the play and I
think you will really love seeing it.
Thank you again for being here tonight...
Doug Hughes, left, Director of Tony Award winning Broadway play "Doubt" with Anne
Marie Cummings, playwright of "India Awaiting"