India and Bangladesh 2019

(Apologies for the photo alignment–there is a problem with WordPress)

Mime and magic shows and workshops in Mumbai, Bangalore and Assam. Representing Magicians Without Borders & co-sponsored by Project Troubador, and Indian partners: Silver Innings Senior Center, Our Children, Caring Friends, Action Northeast Trust, & Bangladeshi Children’s Magazine and foundation: Toitomboor. I had many marvelous adventures over 3 months, meeting and collaborating with many wonderful people. I wish I had the space to illustrate everything and everyone.

In November 2018 I joined Magicians Without Borders (MWB) to participate in ‘Learning Beyond,’ a young people’s art education camp organized by Our Children a wonderful Indian organization that supports underprivileged youth in institutions. That’s Dhananjay, one of the directors, and a man of many hats…like me, I guess. After the camp OC set me up with some shows, which continued into 2019.

Magicians Without Borders has been working with Our Children for many years, and has offered magic and mime instruction in one home for girls. One of the older students, ‘P’ graduated from there and now teaches and performs magic. She and I co-led a mime and magic workshop for the students.

We had brought some fun props from a magic store the previous day.

‘P’ and I were joined by Ami, a young professional juggler, and one of the few solo female acts of its kind in India. Together we performed quite a few shows: for hospitals (pictured); at an HIV/AIDS unit; at a school for the hearing impaired; at the Manav Foundation center for adults with disabilities; for the residents of a leper colony; and for the staff of our favorite South Indian restaurant. Our shows at the CanKids and Canshala children’s cancer centers were wonderfully received. Sadly for a good many of the children present, this may have been the last show they were to see. Please donate here to bring fun programs to kids with cancer. Thank you!

P and Ami performing in a hospital show

Our Children arranged for me to perform for some seniors. Tanuja was the OC volunteer assigned to me. She enjoyed my show and watching the seniors respond and so was inspired to create some other opportunities for me, to entertain at more centers. We traveled to 3 sites overseen by her friend Sailesh director of Silver Innings. Sailesh is a published expert on dementia and Alzheimer’s. The elderly folks loved to see the tricks and balloons and to laugh…and even dance…with the mime.

I happened to be at the Silver Innings Center when other artists were sharing their talents, namely amazing singer Priya Darshini and her husband Max ZT, who is from New York City and is the world’s foremost hammered dulcimer player. Small world!

Max ZT & Priya Darshini

I was not expecting to be in a small village in rural India and run into some of the best musicians in the world. (But then again, I do meet lots of people who are surprised to meet a westerner’ who volunteers to magic and mime shows in remote villages. (See a villager’s quote in my blog post, ‘Laughter for Drought Affected Communities’.)

And it also turns out Priya Darshini’s family were with her and Max that day. The family runs a non-profit called Janarakshita, that oversees the improvement of the lives of impoverished children. Sailesh asked me to do a little performing for everyone and afterwards I was invited by the to perform a show in a school Janarakshita supports.

Remember Tanuja and Sailesh? They kindly organized some wonderful cultural visits for me, including to visit a huge Buddhist pagoda, a boat ride to a small island fishing village with a lovely Hindu temple, a medieval fort, and a Catholic church. We also were invited to join some school children doing a beach clean-up. A friend, Renu also came along.

Tanuja took me on a visit to Sanjay Ghandi Park, the huge nature reserve in the middle of Mumbai. Walking along we met a trash collector (who has a steady job with a state pension to look forward to) and passed tribal people who live in the park and sell fruit to tourists. Balloon animals always bring smiles. We also saw some birds in the trees, including the fabulous Köel, with its amazing call. There is an expensive safari train ride that is very short and takes you past some rather pitiful pens with animals in, and you also see young couples sitting on benches, away from the eyes of their families.

Bhajan chanting in the train

Riding the train in Mumbai is a memorable experience. Sardines! Most of the time the carriages are full and you need to position yourself strategically to get on. Sometimes to get off when the platform is crowded with people waiting to get on, I pretend I’m going to body surf, and then the crowd parts. On some carriages ther are bhajan clubs of commuters who sing devotional chants, accompanied by drums and cymbals (much to the chagrin of non-hindu passengers). One day I joined in with my tabla.

In the second week of January, Caring Friends held its annual conference. and I was invited to attend. It began with a concert of music and song, followed by 2 days of workshops. There were some children with their parents and I put on a show one evening. The event culminated in and awards ceremony and entertainment program, for which I was invited to perform some mime and magic. People liked it very much.

Caring Friends Meet music program

Jenny and her husband and ANT co-director, Sunil, attended the Caring Friends conference too. ANT stands for Action Northeast Trust, a center for social work and social change. It was wonderful to see them again and since I was headed to ANT to present some mime workshops I would be joining them on the flight. We all stayed with some Caring Friends members, for the night in Mumbai prior to the flight, which included going out for street food and delicious home-cooked gujarati meals.

I was first introduced to ANT director, Jenny, when Tom Verner and I performed a Magicians Without Borders show at a previous Caring Friends conference.

Tom and I later led programs at ANT and now this was my second solo visit. I presented mime workshops for social workers and animators who were looking for non-verbal presentation skills for conducting programs amongst the diverse cultural and ethnic communities in that area of Assam. All backgrounds were represented among the participants of the classes which were conducted in English, and translated into the Assamese and Bodo languages.

I participated in the ANT community festival day, performing my mime comedy show between local dance and music programs.

Bodo music and dance
A youth Bodo dance group invited me to sit in on their rehearsal.
I asked the dance teacher where I could buy a flute like his. He said he’d give me his–his father made it. I said I couldn’t possibly take it. He insisted saying he had another. Then he played my favorite song, “Masa glang nai.” It means “Dancing freely” in Bodo.
I’ve known Julie and Nobanita for a few years (they took the mime/magic workshops at ANT). In 2018 they contacted me on Facebook to see if I could help support the cafe they were in the process of starting. During my 2019 ANT stay I was able to visit and see their progress (and give them a donation).

In the ANT neighborhood there were so many birds to see. The most spectacular is the Roller–when it flies its wings are electric blue! I also saw a Black Eagle. It’s a very large bird and it flew quite close to me.

After Assam I flew to Kolkata to see friends: Uni (a former police chief of the city, and friend of the late Mother Teresa) and his wife Chandrika. Uni took me on a tour of Kolkata to see some sights.

We also visited a home for adults with developmental disabilities. They loved my show which is very interactive. So much fun!


Kolkata is the main Indian hub to connect to Bangladesh. My friend Hasnain bhai of Toitomboor, invited me to pay a social visit; because of the country’s elections—always a time of turmoil–we had to cancel a previously proposed performance program. Toitomboor is the publisher of the leading children’s magazine by the same name, and has been a Project Troubador partner for 3 previous show tours. I was delighted that I could at least present one program in my 3 day visit: a super fun show for the Downs Syndrome Society of Bangladesh.

Rafan and his friends were the stars of the show at Downs Syndrome Society of Bangladesh

Some cultural visits in Dhaka

I was also treated to a fabulous classical music concert featuring former ship captain turned eminent flute player, Ustad Azizul Islam.

Outside the theater there was a ‘pitha’ festival. Pitha is the name given to the many delicious types of pastries and sweet dumplings in Bangladesh. Yum.


A huge THANK YOU to my friends and sponsors

Our Children

Caring Friends

Silver Innings

ANT ~ Action Northeast Trust


Magicians Without Borders

Project Troubador