Categorized | Interviews

Abishek Mathur, Disclosing the Secret Recipe of Mehndi Masala Masti’s Success

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

We first saw Abhishek Mathur, the Co-founder of Masala Mehndi Masti (MMM) at the grounds of CNE near food vendors’, talking on his little walkie talkie, staring at a piece of paper that later turned out to be MMM’s schedule.

With mellowed passion and drive, Abhishek along with MMM’s co-founder Jyoti Rana and about 120 volunteers, celebrated the 10th anniversary of MMM this year.

At the time of MMM’s inception, the co-founders thought that “there’s lack of events where South Asians can take their non-South Asian friends to, where a South Asian can tell his colleague at work that “check out this event [MMM].” The idea was not so much to raise awareness of South Asian culture “but to share it” with all Canadians. MMM’s team wanted to hold an event in Downtown Toronto and not Mississauga, Brampton or Scarborough because it “ghettoizes” the event, Abhishek says over the sound of music on which Indian Cultural Association (ICA) from York University was performing.

MMM is a free festival so that Canadians have access to the event and everyone regardless of their income can come and enjoy themselves. “Our culture must be accessible and available to everybody,” Abhishek says while the sun shone over his sun shades. The event is attended by all ages from toddlers to grandparents.

Culture, however, is a very broad term. The festival like MMM can only attempt to represent diversity within South Asian culture and in mainstream Canadian society. “We’re South Asians from Trindiad, Fiji, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, UK. We’ve a history of thousands of years, and a culture that has enhanced” unlike Egyptian and Greek or Roman culture that has died.

MMM, says Abhishek, is not a South Asian festival. “It is inspired by South Asian culture though.”

It is a “unique” event in the sense that it encourages other communities within the fabric of Canadian society to be part of the festival. “We fly Canadian flag only,” says Abhishek who coordinates the event during his time off from a full time job in Dubai.

“We wanted to shake things up…we didn’t want an event that was run in traditional, classical , old-school style where things don’t run on time. We didn’t want an event where 50 years of Indian independence or 25 years of some Pakistani event is celebrated.”

When we asked Abhishek the vision of MMM for next ten years, he told us that when he and his partner started the event, “we thought there should be a time when this festival will not be required. Our culture has become so much the part of the mainstream culture, [that] you’ll hear tabla sounds [if you tune in a radio], [there’re] so many brown faces on TVs.”

But is there enough South Asian representation?

Abhishek’s frank response is “there’ll never be enough..we’ll never be satisfied.”

Author: Asma Amanat

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