19 February 2003

Concert of Indian music and classical dance, Bronx House, Bronx, Wednesday, 19 February

Kali and Krishna: The Power of Shakti in Indian Dance, Odissi and Kathak Classical Dance Styles [‎کالی اور کرشنا: اوڑیسی كتھک اور کلاسیکل رقص…‏]

Upon my arrival at the Bronx House Jewish Community Center [برانکس ہاؤس کمیونٹی سینٹر according to the flyer], the woman at the front desk thought I was a performer. I was wearing my dark green shirt with the dark green, almost fatigue-looking trousers and bright green long necklace. When I arrived downstairs in the gymnasium with its outlandish echo, I met Diana Vayserfirova [װײַסערפֿיראָװאַ] who instructed me to go into some room to meet so-and-so. When I indicated I didn’t know who that was, she indicated she too thought I was part of the talent. I took a seat in the audience, but I of course attracted attention. Diana asked me how I heard of the event, and I showed her the Bronx newspaper page I had brought with me. She asked me why I hadn’t therefore attended the other Bronx House events “advertised” on the same page. I hadn’t even noticed them, but later realized they were religious events that were probably attended by too many children. In fact, a black child entered the room, ran in front of everyone, and ran in a circle stomping his feet very loudly and creating a deafening echo. Then he left the room. No one else seemed to have been annoyed by this, but I guess I just hate children. A handful or two of other audience members arrived, almost exclusively senior citizens. There were two videocameras, both operated by what appeared to be one Bronx House personnel member. Diana’s friend there, also on Bronx House staff, took still photographs. Only one of the four performers (Bani Ray [بانی راۓ on the flyer]) was actually Indian. Can you believe it? This is not to say they weren’t all fine performers. Osundara Mayuri [‎اوسندارا مایوری on the flyer] was a black woman dressed up in Indian costume. Explaining a Hindu myth she’d be reenacting, she tried to get us to relate to the story by comparing it to what might happen in church. She didn’t seem to understand she was in a Jewish cultural group and the audience was primarily Jewish. The instrumental performer just didn’t look Desi to me but East Asian. When he was introduced as “Prasant Kumar” or some such name, I thought I must have been mistaken. However, the accent he revealed to us during his verbal introduction convinced me he was pinoy. Plus, he uttered a Hindi [हिन्दी] or Sanskrit [संस्कृत] word, but didn’t use that typical Indo-Aryan v/w pronunciation. I really enjoyed the two dancers, particularly Bani. All the narration and introduction was done in English, and by Diana also in Russian. While leaving the gym, I noticed a flyer for the event in Urdu [اردو]! Believe it or not, I actually caught at least one error in it. Diana had actually seemed disappointed that not one Desi person was in the audience. However, it seems the only outreach to the local South Asian community was the one Urdu flyer. It was wise in the sense that the local community is almost exclusively Muslim, but doomed to failure because the event was so decidedly Hindu. Perhaps if the flyers had been in Hindi, Gujurati [ગુજરાતી] or Bengali, some few Hindus might have found out about the event and possibly attended. But since the entire outreach for such a Hindu event had been done exclusively to Muslimun [‎مسلمون], I’m not surprised.

I missed the bus just as I approached the stop, so I had to sit while it was snowing on me waiting for the next bus. I think any other events at Bronx House, particularly during the daytime, would probably have far, far too many children present.