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Norwalkers Taste Indian Food, Culture

NORWALK, Conn. – Gopi Nair shared his native culture Tuesday night in a room made dark with Manila paper. The owner of Coromandel , a SoNo restaurant that offers the cuisine of India, had succulent dishes to share with the 40 people who lucked into an evening in a closed SoNo storefront, sitting on patio chairs amid walls decorated with modern American artwork.

Well, not luck. It's just that Norwalk 2.0's "Film + Food: A Taste of India" was sold out, without much advertising.

The event was the idea of Susan Wallerstein and Wendy Bodden, who have discussed the idea of a film festival and were inspired three weeks ago to give it a go. The pair was at a meeting of Norwalk 2.0, a new nonprofit, nongovernmental agency that aspires to reimagine Norwalk's future; someone asked for ideas and they went with it. TR SoNo Partners donated the use of the former Sweet Rexies location at 136 Washington St. Chris Bradley, executive director of the Norwalk Public Library, brought chairs and a DVD of "Monsoon Wedding." There was a suggested donation of $10 for guests.

As patrons sat and enjoyed a sampling of Indian cuisine, Nair explained that some was from North India and some came from the south. "Monsoon Wedding" is a great film, he said, but not everyone in India has a wedding that lasts four days. His own wedding was a half-hour.

Wallerstein and Bodden envision a film festival spread out time-wise. They may not hold another event until October. They plan to continue with the food and film theme, highlighting other cultures in an effort to engage immigrant communities.

"We both love film, and I love food, so we came up with the concept of food and film," Wallerstein said. Bodden said they would like to show the "incredible diversity in Norwalk."

Jackie Lightfield of Norwalk 2.0 put out fliers to advertise the event (part of the organization's Summer of Art) and sent an email blast. Organizers planned to send more emails Tuesday but instead were turning people away.

Norwalk 2.0 is having an art show opening at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the same location. "Eye Candy" features artwork inspired by the candy store that once occupied the space.

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