|By Afdhel Aziz|
One of the pleasures of living in London is of course the never ending stream of plays and musicals that one has access to. While I miss the Wendt and its denizens (and I say that with absolutely no irony) , I can always turn to the delights of Shaftsbury Avenue to satiate my desire for thespian pleasures. (I said thespian......pay attention ).
Aside from the usual crop of Webberian extravaganzas (including a much hyped new production of that perennial favourite 'Jesus Christ Superstar') there are a plethora of new delights to titillate the theatrical tastebuds. (An audacious arrangemet of alliteration there methinks).
For the kid in you there's 'Bugsy' , a new musical based on the Alan Parker film of the same name , which originally starred Jodie Foster. Set in the 1920's Prohibiton era of Chicago, it features a talented cast of child actors singing and dancing their way through the era of Bugsy Malone. The wisecracking Bugsy falls for a dame with a killer voice , who wants to get a job working as a singer in Fat Sam's Grand Slam nightclub. Sam is in the middle of a pitched battle with an evil warlord who has invented the deadly Squoosh guns, which squirt whipped cream and custard pies over everyone, rendering them immobile - no casual violence here, just good old fashioned fun.
\A prodigious bunch of young warblers and hoofers make for an entertaining evening, with snazzy, jazzy tunes , dance routines and inventive set changes. Perfect for the kid in you who wants to spend an afternoon giggling at custard pies........
On a slightly more cerebral scale is acclaimed playwright Yasmina Reza's comedy of post-modernist manners, 'Art'. It centres on one character who has just bought a blank, white canvas for two hundred thousand francs. His best friend thinks he's crazy. His other best friend doesn't know what to think. The three of them spend their time calling each other insane , insensitive and childish , in the process bringing up a range of themes from the fundamental pretentiousness of neo-conceptual art to the emotional vortex that is masculine friendships. Sharp and perceptive, Reza dissects the vicissitudes of modern art in an era of stuffed sharks and stuffed shirts...............
As if the British obsession with strange foodstuffs wasn't already advanced enough (this is of course the country that came up with a dish called 'spotted dick') , an ice cream company last week announced that they were to start trials on their new fish and chips flavoured ice cream. In the careful phrasing of the company's advertising manager, 'the product was designed to cater to an admittedly 'unique' market - his italics, my emetics. Whatever next will they think of next? Steak and kidney pie flavoured soft drinks ? Bangers and mash flavoured sorbet? The mind boggles, darlings, the mind boggles..................
And now to cuisine that's considerably more sophisticated. I went to dinner last week at Mandeer, one of the oldest Indian restaurants in London and the only, to my knowledge, that specialises in Ayurvedic cuisine. To Sri Lankans like myself, ayurveda has always had connotations of veda mahattayas and the use of indigenous herbs to cure aches and pains.
But as Mr.Patel points out, there is also an entire range of other subjects that ayurveda addresses. 'In the West , there is so much stress. Even if you go to a doctor, you have to drive through traffic , wait in a waiting room, be subjected to so many tests - and after all that what does the doctor do ? He asks you what the problem is ! That's his job !' he laughs.
The food, when it arrives, is delicious - wholewheat nans, lentil soup , chutneys, paneer. Mr.Patel has a standing bet that anyone who finds two items on the menu that tastes the same will win a hundred pounds off him . He's also produced a cookbook on Ayurvedic cuisine, as well as a book of poems in nine languages, ranging from Urdu to German to Japanese, each one adorned by a single peacock feather on the cover.
When Mandeer opened its Ravi Shankar Hall, no less a personage than the maestro himself played - accompanied by celebrities such as Beatle George Harrison, violinist Yehudi Menuhin and Hari Prasad Chaurasia. I'm going to keep hanging around there just in case they decide to pop back in ........speaking of things Beatlesque, the Bootleg Beatles who you might have seen in Colombo are playing this week at the Royal Albert Hall. But they're not the only faux popsters hanging around. I came across an article in the Independent about the many tribute bands which one could hire these days, if the thought of shelling out half a million quid to get the Spice Girls to perform at your birthday party was a bit much to handle.
Amongst the many pretenders to pop thrones were No Way Sis (Oasis) , the Counterfeit Stones, (Rolling Stones) the Cosmic Charlies (Greatful Dead), and no less than five imitation Spice Girl groups - including the Wannabe Spice Girls who promise that they can 'actually sing'. The popularity of tribute bands stretch back to Bjorn Again, a fantastic ABBA tribute band of whom sadly little is heard nowadays. Possibly the most famous are the Bootleg Beatles who I believe played in Sri Lanka some time ago, and who are currently filling up the Albert Hall later this month, such is their attraction . Perhaps some of our local lobby bands would be suited to coming over here - everyone knows that note perfect imitation is their forte . A packet to be made ladies and gentlemen, a veritable packet........
My dearest Daughter,
You must be knowing by now that Mr. Dias's son Nihal has returned from abroad with a great number of academic qualifications. He is said to be very clever and is now working as consultant in some office. I thought he was a very well mannered boy but I was amazed at the opinion his acquaintances had of him. One of them said: "He is so arrogant, thinks he knows everything and ridicules us, as if we were morons." Another grumbled, "He doesn't think this is a poor country. He wants his office equipped with the latest gadgetry air-conditioned and all that, makes no end of a fuss- as if he is some rare being.
What does it matter if an office is small and has only the basic equipment? What is important is the work. "You know aunty,'' said your rather philosophical friend Ajit, who happens to be in the same office, "He thinks that 'cause he got all those qualifications he is way above the rest of us and our opinions are not of any consequence - that our work is absolutely trivial. But I would say that if the sweeper does not clean the room, none of us can work and, so he is as important in a way. Don't you agree Aunty?" I was sad to think that Nihal had changed so much and I did not answer Ajit.
A man educated as Nihal as academically brilliant should not be so insensitive to the feelings of others. In a way Ajit was right - each of us no matter what task we do, is important in an organisation. Those doing menial jobs such as cleaning of the office and the toilets, tedious job of answering the telephone call are as important as the highly paid executives in an office. Academic qualifications do not give a halo of greatness and really to my mind a truly educated man is a simple man aware of his limitations. Education - real education makes a man humble - for what little does a man know really in the vast area of knowledge that is there?
I hope daughter that when you qualify if ever you feel that your education makes you superior to others, you should remember this little verse I read somewhere. "Keep us from the wisdom that does not weep, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the pride that does not bow his head before a child". I would say, daughter, that education is not academic qualification but the ability to understand people and share with them the gifts of learning that the Gods have given you.
Continue to Mirror Magazine page 2 * H o w z z a t . . . !!!
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