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    The city had a rather curious visitor recently. Her name was Sandy Gandhi. No relation to any of the famous Gandhi families, Sandy is a stand-up comedian from Australia. She was in the city to visit her cousin and grabbed the opportunity to perform a few shows. She calls herself “Australia’s Most Easterly Indian” and adds: “There was one more, but I shot him.” Sandy’s real name is Sandy Aranha. She moved to Australia as a child when her parents emigrated there. She says she chose the surname Gandhi for her act because someone once accidentally called her Sandy Gandhi and it sounded good. Dressed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, it’s hard to believe her when she says she is about to be 49. It doesn’t take much time to realise hers is a persona that can never fit in a rigid system and she confirms it. “I dropped out of college. I wanted to see the world, did not want to be stuck in an institution. My parents were angry but soon they were resigned to the fact that I am who I am.” She then joined a travel agent in Melbourne and worked for 12 months without pay to gain experience.

    At 18 she was appointed the manager of a new branch of the agency. She went on to work in London in 1980 and travelled to Kenya, Egypt, Zanzibar, Papua New Guinea, Los Angeles and Amsterdam. She returned to Australia and in 2001 took up stand-up comedy after doing a Adult Community Education (ACE) course in stand-up comedy. “It was easy to take up comedy as an Indian because of Bollywood; I’m the flavour of the year,” she declares. She lives in Byron Bay, 200 kilometres south of Brisbane. “Lived in Kerala as a child, the place is quite similar. It is also the hippie quarter of Australia,” she says.

    Initially she wanted to be a travel operator there too but realised “the place was getting overcrowded and the profession becoming impersonal”. She decided to take up caring for the elderly with age-related mental disorders. But she soon found her calling with comedy when a friend introduced her to it. She was initially told to just narrate experiences from her travels and realised that people found them funny. “It was instant love with comedy. I did my first gig as Sandy Aranha called ‘India In Five Minutes’. The way I was dressed, in my mum’s old clothes, they thought I was a university professor. I soon also did a course in acting and did a movie called ‘Mixed Nuts’.” Stand-up comedy is a big industry and fiercely competitive. And it is even tougher for a woman to break into it. “They do try to take advantage of you and tend to not take you seriously,” she says. Most of Sandy’s lines are a play on words. But she says it is her recreating of the Indian accent that does the trick. “As a child I was a Peter Sellers movie fan. I was used to lines such as ‘I love you from the heart of the bottom’. Actually I can get away with absolute bull in the Indian accent and people will laugh.” She does admit that it was difficult to bust the racial stereotypes that she had to face, but says she always took it on her cheek.

    “I have been asked, did you go to school on an elephant? But I have been giving it back to them if they stereotype me. It is like white people running around today with Indian spiritual names.” It is noteworthy that even though Sandy was never paid for her performances in the city, she did raise funds for an NGO called the Diya Foundation when she was at Opus. Leaving for home, Sandy signed off with one of her signature lines. “Fear of being fat is in western culture. I had a fear of the dark and was afraid. But I grew up and realised I was.”

    ANAND SANKAR – click here for original article

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