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Senior Citizens Shine with Spectacular Annual Show

June 2007
Senior Citizens Shine with Spectacular Annual Show

The standing ovation—from an audience of about 600—that followed the recent annual variety show performed by the senior citizens of Gujarati Samaj was a testament to the enthusiasm of these senior performers, all of whom were over the age of 65. From a stylish qawwali and animated dramatics to a high energy bhangra performance, the show could as well have been an annual event at a college campus. The buzz and the kudos for the seniors who performed continued well into the post-event dinner.

The annual show reaffirmed the success of the Gujarati Samaj's Senior Citizen Program, which is almost three years old. This year's event, "Shaam Banee Suhaanee," ("Let the evening be enchanting") was a mix of good music, colorful costumes and popular entertainment. Event director Ashwin Shah, along with amateur artists/directors Aparna Joshi, Rekha Mehta, Asha Shah and Divya Parikh, has strived to improve the quality of presentations during the short duration of the program's existence. They have managed to do so through innovative programming and better training of seniors through rigorous practice drills.

The evening started with a welcome address by Ashwin Shah, who acknowledged and praised contribution of younger volunteers in the program, the Gujarati Samaj's willingness to open up its facilities to the program and the community's support. He also announced the launch of a Sunday tea club for seniors, which will be held from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. every Sunday at the Gujarati Samaj.

The entertainment began with the chanting of slokas and "Omkara" by Ajit Dave, a retired administrator and practicing priest. This was followed by recitation of Gujarati poetry by Praful Shekhda, a retired dentist who set a romantic mood with poetry of unspoken love. A Rajasthani dance by five artists, under leadership of director Aparna Joshi, warmed up the audience with their energetic movement and equally energetic music. Gunvant Naik, 72, sung two semi-classical love songs, originally performed by Yesudas, including the popular Jab Deep Jale Aana.

The event also included a reenactment of traditional Gujarati marriage ceremonies, with an emphasis on folks songs popular in weddings. Directed by Rekha Mehta, it was, as she said, a reliving of a bygone era to highlight the difference between marriage ceremonies then and now. The large number of participants, beautiful dresses, traditional folk singing and a fast pace made this an enjoyable item.

Girish Desai, 74, was the one who provided the most laughs of the evening with his incisive sense of humor and stories. The evening's first half culminated with a qawwali by 10 seniors. It created an electrifying atmosphere as the participants came together on the stage.

Some of the senior participants had to push themselves to overcome the physical constraints of their age, but this, judging from the respond and cheering, was made up for by their sunny disposition. Many in the audience were so enthused by the performance that they pledged donations for the program.

Pankaj Sampat, the program director, urged the younger generation to participate as volunteers. He gave an example of Vandana and Ketan Patel, a young couple with two small children and two jobs who have served as volunteers, as evidence that with enough determination other young couple could emulate them. Sampat and Ashwin Shah also honored item directors Rekha Mehta, Divya Parikh and Aparna Joshi, as well as volunteers Asha Shah, Varsha Shah, Jayshree Sampat and Daksha Bhatt for their help in the program. Senior participants expressed their gratitude by presenting flower bouquets to these directors and volunteers.

The second half of the event started with the garba, the traditional Gujarati dance, which again provided an occasion for the senior participants to don graceful and beautiful dresses. This was followed by Hindi poetry, recited by popular local poet, Kusum Sinha, who is a regular at the program. Her ability to make people laugh with poetry once again won her kudos.

The seniors also showed their acting skills in a one-act play about a lonely widower. The only hindrance during the evening, and particularly at the play, was a nagging problem with the microphone. Indravadan Bhavsar, 68, however turned the mood around by singing a well-loved song from the past, Oopar Gagan Vishal, and the Gujarati classic, Ankh no Afini.

The evening ended with an up-tempo Bhangra number, which took most of the audience by surprise, considering the pulsating performance by the senior members.

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