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VocalEye Virtual Presentations - Highlights from the 2020 Indian Summer Festival

Cover of the novel The Patient Assassin

I often forget how lucky I am for having grown up on a small island where multicultural immersion was a given. Not only were my parents brought up under the values and discipline of different religions but my pre-adolescent schooling and social life ensured an appreciation for interfaith celebrations, customs and cuisine.

A classic Indian movie was a Sunday afternoon staple in my home when I was growing up.

So it isn't surprising that I thoroughly enjoyed the sampling of content from the 2020 Indian Summer Festival (ISF) on July 26, 2020.

Ruby Singh and two Inuit sisters set the tone with a lively fusion of Bollywood, hip hop and First Nations vibes.

Hosted by VocalEye Descriptive Arts and ISF's Laura Joon Albert, the three-hour Sunday matinee treated a small virtual audience of people with vision loss to a multi-sensory array of music, literature, art and food.

"I once wore a similar outfit to a Hindu wedding ceremony," I explained to my boyfriend, Shawn, as we listened to Laura Joon describe the buttercup-yellow, beaded sari worn by an Indian actress onscreen.

It occurred to me that, cultural exposure aside, most of my fellow viewers with vision loss would have never had the opportunity to see or feel such fabric and embellishments.

Thus the importance of live description.

When we listened to Anita Anand read an excerpt from her novel The Patient Assassin, my mind went back to the temple floors on which I'd sat during Hindu prayer services. None as grand as The Golden Temple, mind you, but I understood the atmosphere of familial unity that would have prevaded, that odd mix of jovial and sacred that would be shattered seconds later by bullets.

I knew my parents and grandparents would have experienced such vitriole and violence.

Anita Annand's book is definitely on my reading list.

As is creating a mandala a day.

Photo of a mandala made from flowers

I must admit the intricacy and detail of the mandalas Laura Joon described are intimidating. Who am I to think I can create such artwork? Then again, four months ago, I couldn't shape hearts out of coloured paper. Anyone who has seen the explosion of colour on the three panels of my patio sliding door would call me a liar.

So…Music, check. Literature, check. Art, check.

Then came the sprouted lentil salad. Yum.

Photo of a sprouted lentil salad

Coincidentally, I'd learned to sprout chickpeas and mung beans a month ago during an online cooking class. The spices Vikram Vij used in his recipe made my mouth water. I have every one of those spices.

So…food, check.

I can see myself now, listening to The Patient Assassin and eating my sprouted lentil salad as I sit on the artificial grass of my patio and create a mandala from rocks, flower petals and herb leaves I can pluck straight from my garden.

How dull life would be if we were to confine ourselves to a single culture.

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