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|May 11, 2000|
Rahul Khanna saves Bapsi's book-reading session
It's a hero's part to save a situation that seems lost. But the spotlight was not on Rahul Khanna, nor were the cameras rolling when he stepped in the other day to prevent a book reading by celebrated writer Bapsi Sidhwa from being ruined by bad weather.
The snag was serious - Sidhwa was not going to make it to the venue in time. Rainstorms had forced Sidhwa's plane from Houston to be diverted to Pittsburgh. She was going to be almost an hour late.
That's when Rahul Khanna, a long-time friend of Sidhwa, offered to stand in for her. After several phone calls between the organizers and Sidhwa, they all agreed that was the best alternative.
Fellow author Tahira Naqvi quickly located the passages in the book for Khanna, one of which he suggested could coincide with the clips to be shown after his reading.
The day was saved. The organisers heaved a collective sigh of relief. The hero had done his deed.
The event was organized by the South Asian Women's Creative Collective (SAWCC) in New York and Khanna was the guest of honour.
Though the 300 odd people in the audience missed Sidhwa, they were enthralled by Khanna's reading and many took pictures of him.
"By doing this (offering to read for Sidhwa), Rahul has created an incredibly positive image of himself in our progressive South Asian circles," said Tamina Davar, event coordinator for SAWCC.
"People were very impressed by Rahul's reading and really touched by his respect for Bapsi - especially in an industry that values youth and ego," Davar added.
The focus, however, stayed on Sidhwa's book -- Cracking India -- and how the legacy of the 1947 partition has influenced South Asian lives and literature.
Naqvi spoke first about Sidhwa and the impact of partition before she read from her short story called - Atonement - which deals with a cricket match between India and Pakistan.
Khanna introduced several passages from the book with a brief synopsis of each, after he spoke about his deep admiration for Sidhwa.
Voted best new actor in Deepa Mehta's film Earth by fans and critics, both in India and Canada, Khanna, in his debut performance, plays the role of Hasan the masseur. The film, based on Sidhwa's book -Ice Candy Man - opened in London recently to rave reviews.
Khanna conveyed to the audience how very important the book and the film were to him because they dealt with such crucial human issues. A crowd of admirers surrounded Khanna and Sidhwa after the event for autographs.
The evening was co-sponsored by Asian American Writers Workshop, and NYU's Asian Pacific American Studies Institute. And it was a part of SAWCC's spring public event series celebrating its 3rd anniversary.
The other events in the series included visual art shows at Paisley Gallery and the Public Theater.
"People have been telling SAWCC they were really touched by Rahul's words about Bapsi Sidhwa," said Swati Khurana, another SAWCC member.
"Since Earth was released, many South Asian Americans have felt an urgency to re-examine how Partition's legacies of ethnic/religious violence live on for us. We felt that SAWCC had a responsibility, as an arts organization based around South Asian unified identity, to offer our community an opportunity to come together in creativity to reflect on these issues," Khurana said.
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