NEW YORK CITY
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 on—
- 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 sorely disappointed. 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…