Bengali Harlem

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This article was written on 21 Jan 2013, and is filled under New York, Projects.

Aladdin Ullah’s “Dishwasher Dreams”

In his one-man show “Dishwasher Dreams,” actor and writer Aladdin Ullah draws on the story of his father, Habib (pictured in the suit and fedora in the upper corner of this page), a steamship worker from the region of Noahkali, East Bengal, who jumped ship and made his way to New York’s Lower East Side in the 1920s, settled in Harlem in the 1930s, worked for years as a dishwasher and line-cook in downtown restaurants, and for a time in the late 1940s ran one of the city’s earliest Indian restaurants just off Broadway in Manhattan’s theater district.

In his performance, Aladdin explores his father’s life and experiences in Spanish Harlem in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, as well as his own childhood in the 1970s and 80s, growing up with his family in East Harlem’s Washington Carver projects as his father’s generation of uptown Bengali immigrants died away and vanished from memory.

LISTEN: Aladdin talks about his father’s life and his own journey on NPR’s The Story

WATCH: Aladdin describes his one-man show, with clips from a recent performance

DONATE to the “Dishwasher Dreams” production fund at Fractured Atlas

The following clip, from a staged reading of the one-man show in 2010, recreates Aladdin’s experience, at age twelve, of his father’s funeral, which he sat through while listening to a radio broadcast of a historic Yankees game:

Donate/Book a performance: “Dishwasher Dreams” was developed under the name “Indio” through the Joseph Papp Public Theaters’ Emerging Writers’ Program in 2010-11. Ullah is currently raising funds to produce the one-man show Off Broadway in New York City. Please help bring this important work to the public by making a tax-deductible donation to the performance’s production fund at Fractured Atlas.

If you are interested in hosting a performance of “Dishwasher Dreams” in your city or on your campus, contact: funnyaladdin[at]gmail[dot]com.

You can read Aarti Virani’s article about Aladdin and his one-man show on the Wall Steet Journal‘s India Realtime blog.

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3 Comments

  1. [...] →explore the Bengali Harlem website, including an excerpt from Aladdin Ullah’s one-man show here. [...]

  2. [...] told India-West that his research into this subculture came about nearly 15 years ago, when he met Aladdin Ullah, a Bangladeshi man who grew up in Spanish Harlem. Ullah had been interested in making a documentary [...]

  3. [...] will be performing his one-man show, “Dishwasher Dreams” Feb 15-17. He is also raising funds for a longer run in New York [...]

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