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Celebration through theatre

Neil Simon's ``The Good Doctor" ... the audience enjoyed the comedy.

"ANGLO INDIANS love to celebrate. They celebrate everything. They celebrate life with music and dance and food and wine." So, on August 2 the community (today scattered across continents) celebrated World Anglo Indian Day, commemorating the decision of Parliament to recognise Eurasians as Anglo Indians, giving them the status of one of India's communities with rights and representation.

Though the exodus to Canada, the U.K. and Australia continues, the community has lost neither its culture nor its identity. They even have a quarterly magazine, Anglos in the Wind in an attempt to knit together a dispersed community and raise issues of concern. In Chennai, the Forum of Anglo Indian Women and Anglos in the Wind jointly sponsored and presented the two-day celebrations at the exquisitely refurbished Museum Theatre. Harry MacLure, editor of the magazine said, "The Anglo Indian people, in the days before 1947, were a fortunate lot. Most of them had good jobs, had huge homes with many rooms, employed a host of servants to do their bidding, danced, drank and ate well. On the whole they lived it up..." They were a workforce to reckon with and respected in the railways, the army, in nursing, in teaching... . The scene since has somewhat changed. Many of them are financially not as secure any more. Some of them are perhaps not able to keep pace with the rapidly changing conditions in mainstream India. Questions are being raised whether immigration will offer solutions.

The theme of this year's World Anglo Indian Day was the integration of youth. It aimed to strengthen the bonds between Anglo Indian youth and other young Indians, "to build a future for us all."

Dr. Beatrix D'Souza, President of the Forum of Anglo Indian Women, Member of Parliament and a guiding force in the community says, "We have always been an Indian community rooted in the Indian soil." She is committed to rallying together the young, and helping them discover themselves and their strengths. Towards this effort she organised the launch of Theatre '47 to coincide with the World Anglo Indian Day celebration.

Neil Simon's ``The Good Doctor," a string of one-act plays based on the stories of Anton Chekov, formed part of the celebration. The play directed by Dr. Rajani had a cast of six young people between the ages of 18 and 22. The three post-graduate students from the university (Shobha K. N., Aniruddh Vasudevan and Annapoorni S.) who have been with Rajani's theatre group and have many a play behind them collaborated with Ricardo Brass, Natasha Telles and Mary Mannaseh, who sported much enthusiasm and potential. They seemed to hugely enjoy their time on stage.

The actors who started out a little stiff relaxed later and the audience began to enjoy the comedy that holds up the Neil Simon plays. Maybe in their future ventures they could pay more attention to finer details of sets and props, to lighting, the choreography of movements and the natural rhythms of language.

The evening moved on into the thick of the night with some skilled dancing from Andrea Jacob and Denver Nicholas and on the day after a concert of Country and Western Gospel music from four well known groups, Christ+Cross+Word, Young Rhythms, Apocrypha and the Flames. It was, however, a little unfortunate that the Anglo Indian community was not there in greater strength to celebrate their day and to encourage their young. But for the people who were there, it opened a window on a community that is by and large being taken for granted and increasingly becoming invisible. Beyond that window lies a history, the story of a people, and an amalgam of their cultures, traditions and cuisine.


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