The Damietta Cross Cultural Center, Asian Students Association, Diversity Action Committee, Multicultural Studies minor, Creative Arts Department and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies minor all sponsored the heartwarming off-Broadway story of “They Call Me Q” on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. The story was performed by Quarrat Ann Kadwani, who played 13 characters throughout the show. Kadwani and her play have won many awards including Best Play at the Maui Fringe Festival in 2013.
In “They Call Me Q,” Kadwani emphasized her need for self-discovery throughout the story. Alone on the stage, Kadwani used a number of props, as well as dramatically changed her facial expressions and voice, to represent different characters in her life. Some of the characters included her mother, her childhood friend, and her brother.
From birth, Kadwani never truly felt like she belonged. She was conflicted between her Indian family and her social and academic life in the Bronx. Kadwani’s classmates often teased her because of her heritage. When she began junior high school, she wanted to fit in with her peers. Kadwani began to conform herself and appearance. She confessed, “I wanted to be loud and unapologetic. I wanted to be someone else.” Kadwani then cut, dyed, and curled her hair, completely transforming herself. Unsurprisingly, Kadwani’s strict mother did not take kindly to this. She reacted by asking Kadwani who will marry her now. She also told her daughter that she must “be a good Indian girl.” The threat to marry her off as a child bride frightened Kadwani and led her to behave as her mother would like.
Kadwani’s strict mother had high expectations for her daughter. She told her many times that she was expected to get married and she must learn to cook. Her mother also expected that her grades be perfect. After coming home with a 98, Kadwani’s mother asked about the two other points, yet her mother’s high standards led Kadwani to advanced classes in high school and later led her to college.
After years of being threatened by her parents that they will send her to India, Kadwani decided to see the country for herself. She viewed India as “a place to love and to hate…just like the feelings I had for myself.” When the plane landed in India, Kadwani was overwhelmed with the sense of familiarity. She noted that the people looked like her and she could understand the language around her. Kadwani felt at home, a feeling she had never felt before.
While in India, Kadwani visited a family friend, Rya. When they were young, Rya and Kadwani would write letters to each other. Since Rya was only three years older and shared interests, they grew close. Rya recalled how they used to dream about what their wedding would look like as well as the men they would marry. As Rya grew older, she realized that it would not be her choice. Rya confided, “I don’t dream about doing anything now because I know I won’t be able to.” When Kadwani was leaving her house, Rya asked her to start writing to her again so she could dream through her.
Kadwani arrived back in America with bright red henna embracing her arm. Although she received weird stares, she was proud. Both of her worlds collided and she finally felt at peace with the very different cultures within her. She stated, “I’m proud to be Indian, American, a New Yorker and from the Bronx.”
If you would like more information about Kadwani and her play, you can visit her website at www.theycallmeqshow.com.