BY MAHADEV DESAI
The second annual Gujarati Samaj Senior Citizens Program, (GSSCP) aptly titled, “Savoring Sixties” was staged on Saturday, April 22 at Sardar Patel Bhavan Hall. The spectacular, packed
show, with participants ranging from 59 to 78 years in age, and with over 500 attendees, was emceed by composed and experienced Rekha Mehta and Varsha Shah, who also actively collaborated with Ashwin Shah in staging the
In his welcome address, Ashwin Shah, the Chief Organizer of the past and this year’s Shows gave a brief history of the Senior Citizens Programs and its gaining popularity since its inception two years ago.” Those who are young now should think of the years ahead and regard senior citizens programs as a worthy investment,” he said. He also urged the attendees to help provide rides, to enable more seniors to attend and participate in the programs. He lauded the inspiring leadership, dedication and commitment of Gujarati Samaj Vice President Pankaj Sampat and all the supporting volunteers.
Having established an immediate rapport with the audience, Rekha Mehta and Varsha Shah presented a light hearted skit where two lonely and bored widows living with their sons in America decide to attend Seniors Programs where they forge new friendships and get an opportunity to participate in life-enriching activities.
After Mohanbhai Fatania sang two uplifting bhajans, Shardaben Patel, Arunaben Patel and Champaben Patel sang a rousing patriotic song, jago juwania re Bharat deshna exhorting the young generation to wake up, be bold and play a proactive role in making India a great country.
Girishbhai Desai with a few well rib-tickling jokes created a jovial mood in the audience.
Kokilaben Mehta, Jyotikaben Patel, Leelaben Desai and Aparnaben Joshi(who also directed the dance), in pink, green and blue costumes performed a riveting koli dance , a popular folk dance of Maharashtra State, which elicited wild applause.
Prafulbhai Shekhda, a dentist, who also has a flair for poetry recited a well crafted poem on his wife, he had written many years ago. The poem, jeevan sangeet ni vani resonated well with the audience.
The next item, Fancy Dress Competition, directed by Varsha Shah and Rekha Mehta proved to be a piece-de-resistance of the evening. . Judging by the performance of the 14 entrants, the five Judges; Amita Patel, Chirag Patel, Navin Shah, Sunny Thakker and Kumud Patel must have had quite a challenging task in picking the top three winners. Bhanuben Bodiwala, with a stooped back, walked on stage with a walking stick, a rosary in hand and acted convincingly like an old grouchy NRI lady! One of the familiar sights on streets, beaches and on trains in India is that of the chanawala, selling irresistible roasted chanas and peanuts! Girishbhai Desai definitely impressed as chanawala. Vinaykantbhai Doshi wowed the audience in his role of Indian nationalist and Freedom Fighter Lokmanya Tilak, as he stood handcuffed in front of the British Judge and uttered the fiery words,’ I am an Indian Citizen. Swarajya is my birth right and I shall have it’ and slowly walked towards the prison. Kokilaben Mehta, dressed as Mirabai, with her ek tara, sang and danced around her idol Krishna and Bhanuben Shekhda raved the audience in her role as doodhwali making early rounds of delivering milk to homes of her customers. Everyone cheered and clapped as Nanubhai Parikh attired as a South Indian Brahmin walked on stage and intoned a few sentences in South Indian dialect.Sharadbhai Shah, an Arab, in dark glasses and a long sleeved black thoub dress with a head cover and a band, had everyone laughing when he said that while Indian hair oil made hair grow his oil made people bald and to prove it he removed his head cover which revealed a shiny pate! Arunaben Patel came on stage, blindfolded as Gandhari, and tugged many a heart, lamenting and wailing after hearing of the death of all her one hundred sons. Ushaben Modi thrilled the audience, fulfilling her long cherished dream of performing a classical dance on stage. Not to be outdone, Kamalaben Nair performed a scintillating Kerala dance. Aparnaben Joshi as a maid, created ripples of laughter as she went around humming a Bollywood song, while sweeping the stage with a broom. Kusumben Sinha also impressed the audience in her role as a Bangladeshi woman. Shakunaben Trivedi showed how a restless person with a remote in his hands keeps on flipping TV channels while Meenaben Parekh said that as a cardiac doctor she was advised by her mentor to use eyes, ears and speech to listen to a patient’s worries, to soothe him with cheerful words and to inspire him with positive thoughts.
One of the Judges, Navin Shah commented that the Judges were highly impressed with the performance of all the participants which had clearly exceeded everyone’s expectations. Loud applause greeted announcement of the Fancy Dress Competition Winners, viz.; Bhanuben Shekhda (1st Prize); Kokilaben Mehta (Second Prize) and Nanubhai Parikh (3rd Prize).
While Poetess Kusumben Sinha regaled the audience with an amusing poem in Hindi, in which she had funny digs at Pankaj Sampat and other volunteers, Kokilaben Mehta sang a bhajan
In his brief address, GSSCP Director Pankaj Sampat exulted with the rapid progress of the Senior Citizens Programs and increasing attendance. He thanked all the volunteers, participants, sponsors and donors of Prizes, and went on to make announcements of the upcoming events. He exhorted the seniors to avail of the new Library, sports and entertainment facilities and computer classes.
Gujarati Samaj Board Chairman, Dr.Mukesh Patel advised the seniors to remember three things; (i) Remain physically active, (ii) Eat moderately and (iii) Stay connected with family, relatives and friends by participating in social activities.
Gujarati Samaj President Amit Shah, who has been a pillar of support for the Seniors Programs, congratulated Pankaj Sampat and supporting volunteers for a fine show.
A mini-play, Sandhya na rang written/directed by Ashwin Shah was laced with humor and advice about coping with old age.Hasmukhbhai(Rajnibhai Parikh), a lively 60 year old senior is married to Ramaben(Pravinaben Shah) . They enjoy throwing verbal punches at each other. In contrast Kusumben (Champaben Patel) who is married to Jaman (Manubhai Patel) is feeling lost and in low spirits because her grown up sons have left the family nest. And then there is Officer Patel (Subodhbhai Shah) who announces that after retiring, he decided to change his career and is now a Police Officer. At first Hasmukhbhai refuses to believe him, “A Patel and a Police Officer!” he quips (laughter). The moral of the mini-play being that one has to learn to adjust to new realities in old age.
The Diva-Garbo, kumkum na pagla padya directed by Rekha Mehta and Divya Parikh was a delight to watch. The lights were dimmed as the performers, Savitaben Bhut, Champaben Patel Jr. Champaben Patel, Sr., Sandhyaben Patel, Shardaben Patel, Sushilaben Patel, Vimlaben Patel and Narmadaben Sureja, in white and blue saris, with diyas in their palms gracefully moved in circles in well synchronized moves
The next item, a ‘Raas’, ‘O dholida’ ,directed by Rekha Mehta and Divya Parikh, was zippy and full of bounce despite the age of the performers. The dancers, Bhanuben Bodiwala,Vinaykantbhai Doshi,Ushaben Modi,Nanubhai Parikh,Rajnibhai Parikh, Sushilaben Parikh,Arunaben Patel,Manubhai Patel,Subodhbhai Shah, Bhanuben Shekhda,Prafulchandra Shekhda,and Shauknaben Trivedi, in black and orange beaded dresses performed an energetic dance weaving in and out of circles to the pulsating music and soon the audience began tapping feet and clapping in unison with the beats of the drums and dandiyas.
After the Raas, all the artists and Organizers came on stage to take a bow, as thunderous ovation reverberated in the hall.Rajnibhai Parikh expressed a Vote of Thanks and invited Pankaj Sampat, Rekha Mehta, Varsha Shah, Ashwin Shah and Divya Parikh on stage where they were presented flower bouquets on behalf of the Senior Citizens.
Light refreshments were served before the Show. Later, after the Show, Gujarati Samaj Youth Director Mahesh Patel and volunteers helped serve dinner catered by Palace Restaurant. Also, Prizes were awarded to the winners in the Raffle Draw.
The Show had an imaginative amalgam of items with cultural, spiritual and patriotic flavor which was appreciated and enjoyed by young and old alike. The performance and talent of the seniors belied their age and they all deserve encouragement and applause.
This year’s Show exceeded everyone’s expectations and definitely raised the bar.