WHAT IS CHAI LATTE?
CHAI LATTE IS ABOUT STEREOTYPES
CHAI LATTE IS ABOUT LAUGHING WITH US AND AT US
CHAI LATTE IS ABOUT GORA AND DESI
CHAI LATTE IS ABOUT YOU AND ME
CHAI LATTE IS ABOUT US AND THEM
CHAI LATTE IS ABOUT YOUNG AND OLD
CHAI LATTE IS ENTERTAINING, TOUCHING AND PERSONAL
The theme of CHAILATTE is integration and assimilation of immigrants into the Canadian Diaspora. We want to have an opportunity to laugh at ourselves – something we don’t do well. It’s a gentle reminder that we need to leave behind our excess baggage and look upon ourselves as one community, distinctly diverse - but in sync with the human and social values that make Canada such a great country to live in. All this is done with the idea that art and culture know no boundaries.
This particular performance was created for South Asian heritage month so it has a strong South Asian component. However it can be adjusted to fit any ethnic community.
CHAI LATTE: INTRODUCING "DESIS" AND "GORAS"
(Canscene) -- Raheel Raza, who writes and speaks seriously about the importance of building intercultural relations, has revealed a humorous side to her creativity with a very funny stage piece: Chai Latte -- The Second Cup!
It's no surprise that a growing number of humorous writers and performers ignore "political correctness" to make us laugh about human characteristics and foibles while at the same time understanding the objects of our laughter -- laughing with them rather than at them and discovering how much we have in common.
Recently, films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Bollywood Hollywood and Mambo Italiano, depicting humorous facets of ethnicity, have scored hits with the ethnic communities they portray as well as with the larger Canadian public. All three films were written by Canadians and the first, although produced by a Hollywood company was filmed in Toronto with a largely Canadian cast; the other two were Canadian productions.
Now, Raheel Raza has come up with a production that I found a sheer delight to watch. Chai Latte,named after a South Asian and a European beverage was first produced at the Royal Ontario Museum theatre in 2002 and performed again last month at the Mississauga Centre for Performing Arts as part of May's South Asian Heritage Month.
Sketches mirror reality
The production features a number of sketches on such subjects as: a know-it-all giving advice to a South Asian woman preparing to migrate to Canada; a romantic attachment between a desi (as South Asian-Canadians call themselves) and a gora (a non South-Asian); immigrants at the arrival desk; arranged marriages and an Indian-Canadian family visiting a Pakistani-Canadian family.
Raheel, whose writings appear frequently in these pages, tells me the idea came to her while on a plane to her native Pakistan. "I began thinking of some of the incidents of my life in Canada, working in a white environment where a colleague would refer to Indian-Canadians as 'your people.' My husband Sohail works for Air Canada and he used to relate airport incidents to me and we would laugh. Without any idea of where I was going, I began to jot these down and somehow they became sketches in Chai Latte."
The cast of the production is made up of desis and goras, none of whom are yet professionals but some with acting training. Some, like Sohail Raza, are totally new to the stage. Raheel herself and the show's director Murli Nedungadi have a stage presence that suggest a transition from amateur to pro status wouldn't be difficult if they chose.
Plans for the future of Chai Latte? "We'd like to use the production as an educational tool: schools, the police and bureaucracies are natural audiences. Anywhere our mixed cast can combat stereotyping and racism with a smile -- we'd be happy to consider," says Raheel.
My own lasting impression, after a single viewing is of the spontaneous response Chai Latte draws from an audience in which side by side desis and goras are conjoined by laughter raising tolerance to a climate of understanding and acceptance.
Ben Viccari, Commentator OMNI TV and founder of Canadian Ethnic Journalists and Writer’s Club