Archive | July, 2009

A Rising Star – Sarah Irshad

Posted on 30 July 2009 by admin

S.Irshad Pic1The epic saga of a student who moves away from family and familiarity to an unknown country for the sake of school. This is a story not unknown to many. But when the student, not only successfully completes schooling, but starts her journey towards brighter and better things, only then she becomes the subject of a tribute to achievements article at Generation Next.

Sarah Irshad is one such achiever. Maybe an over-achiever to many who have not achieved as much as she has at her age. School, Job, CA exams are some of the quantifiable achievements of the 22-year old Sarah. Courage, Strength, Conviction, Love for her family, Ambition and Determination are just a few of the unquantifiable achievements that make her unique and strong.

I walk faster as I am running late as usual. The meeting place for the interview was my designated leisure spot, that is, the sheesha café close to the Yonge and Finch intersection. I chose the particular spot, mainly because of the sheesha or hookah (of course), but also because of the informal setting that followed the theme of informality that I wanted to encourage. People tend to be more open and let out more secrets in an informal setting, I think and laugh my evil laugh.

She is already sitting on one of the table in the outside patio waiting for me. I dump my notebook and pen (my old school method of taking notes for an interview) and my gigantic gold purse onto the table as I apologize profusely. My inability to be on time has been the bane of my existence since the beginning of time. She laughs at my ramblings and tells me it’s okay. I ask her about her family to put her at ease, not that she needs it. She seems completely at ease as she answers my questions. I am the one who might be showing a case of nerves when executing my second interview ever. “My mother and younger brother are still in Saudi Arabia. My mother is a doctor there. My older brother is a consultant in Philadelphia.” Wow, a family of over-achievers. I can relate being a part of one myself. She has been away from her family for seven years now. I ask her if it has been difficult for her to stay away from her family for so long. She confesses that she gets homesick from time to time, but now cannot contemplate living anywhere else but in Toronto. She hopes her family can move here with her soon. Toronto has that kind of magic. You live here once, and suddenly, moving gets a lot tougher.

The pride in her voice is evident when she talks about her family. She gushes about her younger brother who might be moving to Toronto next year for studies. Then she moves on to her older brother who from the sound of things is a genius. “Family is a haven in a heartless world” so the saying goes. It is personified in Sarah’s case as her family truly is her haven. In dark times and in good times, they have been there for her and vice versa. Her dedication to her family is unmistakable.

“So tell me about your school and your school experience? You came here at first year of undergrad, so did you face the same culture shock that many experience here”, I ask, after ordering double apple sheesha. She shakes her head. “No, not really. The lifestyle in Saudi Arabia is similar to Canada. I went to an English speaking school as well. So it wasn’t as much of a shock for me as for others I know. I also learned to adapt to the different Canadian culture. When in Rome…”, she laughs. I cannot agree more. As a new immigrant, an ability to adapt to the Canadian culture is an asset. Keeping your original traditions intact is definitely important. But changing your fashion, accent, and at times, outlook can help to assimilate into the Canadian culture easily with the least amount of hardship especially for students. High School can be a tough experience for those that don’t “fit in”.

She attended Schulich School of Business, one of the top business schools in Canada and graduated at the top of her class with honors. After undergraduate, she was one of the few students who got a position six months before graduation at one of the top mid-size accounting firm, BDO Dunwoody. Two years working full-time, she was able to complete all CA exams and is working towards completing her work hours to get her CA designation. Take a deep breath. This list of achievements can leave anyone breathless. But wait. You haven’t heard the best part. She is only 22 years old! Quite a prodigy.

Away from work, she likes to travel. Istanbul, New York and Florida on her list of places to go this summer. Ah, to be young and free. But all jokes aside, working 5 days a week as well as overtime, she deserves a well-earned break.

To finish up the interview, I end with a classic interview questions, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” She dreams of starting a non-profit organization. A philanthropist to the core. Good luck in her endeavors. She will do well, there is no doubt in my mind.

Author: Sona Dhawan
North York

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A Sneak Peek into Dr.Desi Idol

Posted on 30 July 2009 by admin

On a Saturday afternoon, I walk into Swar Sadhana Music School. More than the school, it had a homey feeling of a community centre where Neha Bhavsar, the admin of the school, welcomed everyone warmly. The arrivals and departures of parents and kids gave a feeling of a weekend that South Asians enjoy in their ancestor’s homeland. The air at Swar Sadhana Music School rung with humming of Indian songs from people going in and out, and up and down the house.

Swar is a basic note of music and Sadhana means meditation and thus we had Swar Sadhna Music School. The school was founded four years ago, and gives lessons in vocal, instrument and dancing. Jay Bhavsar, the Director of Swar Sadhana, says that there was the need for a music school “for the promotion of Indian culture.” Neha adds that “their job is to keep kids in touch with culture.”

The school teaches classical music that most South Asians do not want to learn, however Mr. Bhavsar says “that’s why they remain incomplete.” This year the school decided to hold a Desi Idol, much along the lines of American Idol, Canadian Idol or Indian Idol. The difference, however, was that the judges Dhanesh Bhavsar, Sonal Vala and Bhavik Salat did not make any snippy comments like Simon Powell at American Idol.

The School came up with the idea of holding a singing competition called Desi Idol. There were 21 potential candidates out of which 10 were selected. The event was held at Brampton’s Rose Theatre, Mayor of Brampton, Susan Funnell, being the premier sponsor of the event. Priti Saran, Indian Consul- General, addressed the crowd at the event. Among other delegates were M.P. Singh, Head of Chancery, and Vicky Dhillon, Brampton City Councillor.

Bharat Shah won the Desi Idol title. He was given the trophy by renowned Hindustani classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj. Nishith Pandya was the first runners up and Shalom Patrick was the second runners up.

The whole journey was not about showcasing the talent, but a personal journey of making people happy, says Bharat Sharma, the Desi Idol. By profession, Bharat is a doctor who works at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto. So of course it was a hobby that led him to go for an audition of Desi Idol without any of his family and friends’ knowledge.

“There were no losses at all, it was all gains…music wins at the end,” says Nishith Pandya, a first runner up of Desi Idol. Nishith is a 12th grade student and plans to go to University of Waterloo to pursue a career in Physiotherapy.

Unhappy with the results, Shalom Patrick, the second runners up, had some reservations about Desi Idol’s results. She says “I know I deserved it [the Desi Idol title], I wasn’t over-confident…we [her family and friends] felt that there was something wrong…I am not blaming the judges, but I’m saying this so that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.” Shalom has learned to sing from a pandit and is planning on attending a professional musical high school.





Author: Asma Amanat

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Big Buck are still with Finance – Ayaz Sethi

Posted on 30 July 2009 by admin

Ayaz Sethi is a young handsome South Asian on the verge of completing his business degree at York University. Ayaz hopes to become a financial consultant in the near future since he said “that’s where the big bucks are at”. We sat together with him and asked him a few general questions as well as some tips to improve your sense of fashion.

What’s your favourite color?
Green, because it is bright and noticeable.

What does your typical everyday outfit consist of?
Jeans and a polo shirt any brands American eagle, Abercrombie and gap anything that looks nice and presentable

Who is your favourite designer?
K-swiss, Parasuco, Ralph Lauren – Polo, and La coste

Your most comfortable outfit consists of being…?
Jeans and a t-shirt and a hoodie

Your favorite clothing in your closet?
Scooby doo boxers because I always wear them

What do you own most of?
T-shirts and Polo shirts and hoodies

Clothing you would recommend youth your age to wear?
Salwar Kameez because it is traditional

Favorite accessory to wear to bring spice to your outfit?
Hat and sunglasses, the days where I feel lazy and don’t want to make my hair I just throw on my hat

Role model?
Richard Branson because he has it all, and is working on his first commercial flight to space which I find pretty impressive.

I am freaked out by?
Bats because they will suck your blood

I need?
A better car and a job

I want to be?
A financial consultant

In a perfect world?
I will be handsome and rich.

Author: Kiran Takrani
Photography: Johnny Jii

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Saving Change One Run at a Time – Guru Gobind Singh Children’s Foundation

Posted on 30 July 2009 by admin

Terry Fox crosses our mind every time we think about running across Canada. He might be the pioneer of this unique idea but another group of young individuals has adapted a similar tradition and are carrying out their mission successfully from last ten years.

Young, athletic, healthy individuals dressed in flashy yellow and blue outfits representing Guru Gobind Singh Children’s Foundation (GGSCF) changed my vision of South Asian involvement in the community when they showed up in our office after a long run with sore legs.

Showing no sign of somnolence, these robust youngsters are running across Canada with the philanthropic mission to raise funds to support several hospitals throughout Canada and a health project in Liberia in Africa.

Proudly explaining the history of this tradition and a long journey of dedication I am informed that in 1999, ten years ago, the foundation came into being in commemoration of the ‘Khalsa.’ Since the run began this year they have raised up to $110,000 across 10 provinces of Canada.

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Although, the organization was formed upon the humanitarian Sikh philosophy of ‘children helping children’ the foundation has attracted members from all ethnicities and religious backgrounds to help them in their benevolent cause. The colours of their uniforms are also derived from Sikhism, nonetheless they are practical as the glowing yellow and bright blue attract attention of drivers and people from far away.

Divided in three teams, namely East, Central and West; this year they are running across Canada from St. Jones to all the way to Vancouver. Enthralled by their involvement, I am informed that each team has 20 runners – 10 males and 10 females – along with the team of drivers and volunteers that are deeply dedicated to their mission. Their commitment reflects in each individual who runs for 7 to 10 miles a day even in harsh rain and scorching sun, ignoring sore legs.

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Each team has equal number of girls and boys showing GGSCF’s believes in gender equality. The female runners are equally strong and show no hesitation to participate. GGSCF provides a safe environment for their runners to stay overnight when away from home.

Making the public aware of their mission and involvement is the prime way to raise the funds. Different groups and individuals sponsor the runners as well as make generous pledges to encourage these individuals going through the springtime of their lives.

Jiwanjot Gill has been with GGSCF since 1999. He explains that the foundation is well known and deeply involved in several different tasks. From food drives to sponsoring children, they have reached out to individuals from all walks of life. The foundation is well organized and structured with a rotating board of directors that allows all members to bring up their brilliant new ideas, plan events and make major decisions. The board of directors also ensures that the foundation is welcoming to every one and not closely affiliated with any religious, social, cultural or political group.

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Gurleen Dhaliwal, a student at Suchlike Business School explains that “we are like brothers and sisters.” She points to another program that GGSCF is about to initiate – providing funds for college education.

The foundation encourages the youth to participate in a noble cause while giving them a great opportunity to meet new people, make friends and find a healthy activity outside the classroom and the closed walls of their rooms. They have successfully involved various age groups, from runners as young as 11 years old.

Author: Saniya Zahid

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You Need “the Right Focus” — Vikas Khanna

Posted on 29 July 2009 by admin

Int_VikasKhanna-A-i144 “There is a difference between South Asians born and raised in Canada and South Asian youth that immigrate here, however, I think I can relate to everyone,” says Vikas Khanna, a corporate sales agent with IBM as well as a musician. I asked him to pinpoint the difference between the two. His answer was “there’s a lot of grey area, so I can’t really say what it is.” However, he did mention that “there is a cultural disconnect between home and the society if the youth has been born and brought up here, if – your were raised in India, the disconnect is not so much, then you understand.”

After being born in Canada, his family took him back as a toddler. He returned to Canada after finishing high school from India. He fondly recalls his mother’s assertion that he used to hum in a tune at the age of 1. Elaborating on differences between Canadian and Indian education, he says “the focus here for every teacher is that the student understands the concept well and not score, scoring is obliviously good but the focus is on to know the concept and where the teacher is coming from and what it is teaching you and then you take the exam and then you get it. In India it is completely different; they do not focus that much on concepts, especially in high school.”

Naturally good with people, Vikas thinks South Asian community is a very diverse community and they are “fantastic.” His feeling is that diversity within South Asian cultures allows South Asian youth to be more open to both the eastern and the western cultures. Among his group of friends, the number one issue “is the choice of career. Whether it is a Canadian boy or it’s an African person or an Indian, their main focus is what are you doing in your life, where is my career going, when will I buy a house.”

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Tall, lanky guy, Vikas has a potential to attract a lot of girls, and he wants to go for love marriage. The urban cities like New Delhi in South Asia, Vikas says, are as Westernized as Canada. Therefore, it is not as hard to adjust in the Canadian society.

Like many Vikas urges parents and South Asian youth alike to have the “right focus.” He has made enough mistakes in making wrong choices. And, now, he does not want youth to err in the same manner.

Not into politics, Vikas believes “I tend to try not to get into political things, they are very touchy. All I can say is live happy ‘Kal Ho Na Ho.’” His philosophy of life is that there is much more to life than pursuing materialistic goals. Yet, Vikas is sceptic about pursuing his career as a musician because of the unstable pay checks in the field. He is a talented young man who has had an opportunity to sing for “a Canadian producer.” He has sang with another French Canadian, Piere.

In the long run, Vikas sees himself in a happy place “with 0 stress level, with a beautiful wife and a fair amount of money. As long as I can wake up in the morning and say life is good then that means I am successful.”

Author: Kiran Takrani
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Interview with Mayor Fred Eisenberger

Posted on 29 July 2009 by admin

“I support Canadian and my mom supports Dutch soccer team – Mayor Fred Eisenberger”

Mayor of Hamilton - Fred Eisenberger Born in Amsterdam, Mayor Fred Eisenberger immigrated to Canada at a time when Canada offered a lot more opportunities to new immigrants. More than half of his family is spread across Europe, which allows him to appreciate cultural diversity. Nonetheless, he believes that immigrants who come to Canada should realize that they are Canadians first.

A year after his father came to Canada, the rest of the family moved to Hamilton. Mayor Eisenberger was 8 at the time. His mother, Thea, was a full-time mom to her five children. “My mom taught me how to make a little go a long way. She taught me that families – people who are committed to the welfare of each other – working together make things happen.”

In 1991, he ran for the office and won by 19 votes. Mr. Eisenberger was re-elected in 1994 and again in 1997. After 9 years on Council, he ran for mayoral office in 2000. He placed third, behind incumbent Mayor Bob Morrow and winner Bob Wade. Fred launched a successful bid for Mayor in September 2006.

In addition to his community and volunteer work, Mayor Fred spent five years as the primary caregiver for his two young children while his wife Diane brought home the family paycheck. He fondly refers to this time as a stay-at-home dad. For him this was the “time of greatest learning.”

Following is Mayor Eisenberger’s conversation with Generation Next’s Asma Amanat:

GN: You’ve been an immigrant. How do you describe your immigrant experience?
It was typical in the sense that mothers stayed home and fathers worked. No one got rich but they made a living for themselves here in Hamilton. That’s classic immigrant experience.

GN: Most people move to the US for better opportunities. Was it the same for Canada?
Honestly, the choices were USA, Canada and Australia. Australia was dropped off of the list because it was far away. The US won’t take us so the only place left was Canada and many many years later, we feel it’s not a bad choice. From social perspective, Canada is a great model of how to bring people together to be socially acceptable and live in harmony…in almost complete harmony. We do pretty well in terms of inclusiveness and assimilation.

GN: When people come in, the first thing they think about is job. What was it back then?
It was the same. They thought about job. My father actually came a year before we did, so he had a job when we came. There wasn’t any social service or social welfare network, and a strong network of other folks who were in the process of immigrating from Denmark were an asset. That safety net is helpful and opportunities were more back then because Canada was looking for more people. Holland was not doing that well back then, so the country encouraged its people to move out, so it was a happy marriage. Circumstances are a little more challenging now because Canada is looking for people in certain sectors.

GN: What are the needs of the city of Hamilton?
The needs are in the steel, stamping and metallurgy industry. We’re putting an enormous focus on entrepreneurship, there’re gaps and that are not filled by graduates and can be filled by immigrants. There’s also the need of businessmen and entrepreneurs. It’s discouraging that many people come into the country with illusion that their skills are in high demand when that’s not necessarily the case.

GN: So doctors are compelled to drive taxis.
That’s a real problem. I know accreditation is the issue. Basically the medical association is responsible for providing it. The government should step in there. But it’s a difficult task. There’s a doctor shortage so the federal government should get involved.

GN: Generally the new immigrants are too busy to be involved in political process. How did you have enough awareness to be a Councilor first and then become a Mayor eventually?
Maybe it’s my folks that got me inspired to run for the office. I always had this inspiration to be in the office. So I ran for the office and won by 19 votes and thankfully the opponent didn’t ask for the recount. Circumstances and luck helped me.

GN: What are the predominant communities here?
English and French typically but there are Philippinos, Pakistanis, Sikhs who are very visible, Chinese.

GN: Are they involved?
They are to varying degrees. There’s a great effort to make sure that we are inclusive, so we have center for inclusion. We started a Center when the Hindu temple was fire bombed. We make an effort to celebrate the diversity, it’s challenging but we appreciate the interconnectivity. We look into how we can help them in businesses, what kind of lawyers would they need, what are the areas we need skills in…so we help people in variety of ways.

GN: These racial comments…are they delivered out of ignorance.
I think that’s ignorance. Some people don’t want to have exposure to other cultures so there is inherent tendency to break ties, so people make inappropriate comments. We need these issues to be exposed. People being quite about such issues in terms of their ethnicity or religion isn’t right. If the racial comments are intended to be funny or a slur… it should be brought into open. Once people spend time together, they find out that they are not all that different. There’re racial trends but they are not norms of the society

GN: How do we draw a line between assimilation and integration?
You can be a Dutch and a Canadian at a time. There’s no reason why people can’t bring their culture and celebrate each other’s cultures, but it does need to be Canadian first and other thing be second. There are some Dutch customs I still follow; there’s Dutch heritage that I’m really proud of. I still follow what happens in soccer team back home. But Canada comes first to me.

GN: So who do you support when Dutch soccer team plays against Canada?
It’s a real conflicting issue. I support Canadian team and my mom supports Dutch team.

GN: What are the challenges for you as a Mayor of the City?
There’re line of issues: we have revenue issue, we need growth revenue on commercial side, there’s poverty issue and they are connected; we are doing a good job in broad based economic development initiative that gets folks through schools regardless of ethnicity and we have program for graduates after they go through that program. We have infrastructure deficit we are dealing with, we’ve got community to build, increased diversity is very good for the city of Hamilton, so I welcome all the communities and would like to take them responsibility in city, we talk about minimum wage, in getting assistance from the province to deal with poverty, we are bringing together environment agencies and social service agencies because poverty is our collective program.

GN: So there’s are jobs available in steel industry in Hamilton?
There’re no new jobs. Steel industry is still a significant part of our employment base.

Author: Asma Amanat
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Hyperthyroidism symptoms

Posted on 29 July 2009 by admin

Please encourage your parents and other family members to take the time to file their income taxes and to register for the federal government’s Canada Child Tax Benefit. By taking these two easy steps, your family could have up to an extra $1,100 per child per year.

Reducing poverty is not only the right thing to do, but it’s the smart thing to do. It’s good for families, it’s good for business, and it’s good for the future success of Ontario.

That’s why the McGuinty government is helping low-income families by almost doubling the Ontario Child Benefit from a maximum of $600 last year to up to $1,100 per child this year. The increased benefit will put more money in the pockets of families who need it most.

We know that your parents work hard to provide the very best for you and to make sure you have every opportunity as you grow up. A little help can make a big difference, and the Ontario Child Benefit is one way that the government can help families provide just a little bit more.

Families that earn $20,000 or less in a year receive the full benefit for each child, and families earning more may also be eligible, depending on the number of children under 18 and their family net income. The OCB will reach 1.3 million Ontario children and 600,000 low-income families – making a meaningful difference in their lives.

In a tangible way, the Ontario Child Benefit means that for a family with two children, the benefit can provide close to $200 a month – this can mean extra healthy groceries every month or the chance for kids to take part in some after-school or summer activities that weren’t an option before.

In addition to nearly doubling the amount of money a family can receive this year, by the time the OCB is fully-implemented, it will mean that families could get up to $1,310 annually per child. For a single parent on Ontario Works with two children under the age of 13, their total income will be more than 35% higher than it was in 2003.

Getting more money into the pockets of people who need it the most is how we’re working toward providing more opportunities for all Ontarians and the Ontario Child Benefit is a cornerstone of our ambitious efforts to reduce child poverty. Our plan is to reduce the number of kids living in poverty by 25% in five years. To be specific, that will mean lifting 90,000 kids out of poverty. But we know there is more to do to get there. That’s why, this past May the Ontario government passed historic legislation that will now require future governments to continue the fight against poverty. We want everyone in Ontario to have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

If you think your family might be eligible for this benefit based on your household income, all your family needs to do is file their taxes. Please encourage your parents and other family members to take the time to file their income taxes and to register for the federal government’s Canada Child Tax Benefit. By taking these two easy steps, your family could have up to an extra $1,100 per child per year.

Unlike other government programs, families are eligible for Ontario Child Benefit regardless of their source of income. So both families receiving social assistance and those with working parents are eligible if they are still low-income. Also, receiving the Ontario Child Benefit won’t reduce the amount of social assistance your family already receives. With the introduction of the OCB, nearly every family in Ontario receiving social assistance will be at least $50 better off per child.

I am very proud of our ability to support families and kids by providing a little bit extra. But I need your help in encouraging your parents to file their taxes to ensure that everyone who is eligible for the OCB receives it.

To learn more about the Ontario Child Benefit, visit www.ontario.ca/childbenefit or call 1-866-821-7770.

The Honourable Deb Mathews - Helping Families


Author: The Honourable Deb Mathews – Minister of Children & Youth Services

To learn more about the Ontario Child Benefit, visit www.ontario.ca/childbenefit or call 1-866-821-7770.
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The Cry of a Child: A Voice from the Cradle

Posted on 29 July 2009 by admin

It has taken me a while to release the words that explain my world as I am seeing it. I do not know if this will make a difference, but for me, I know we are being watched and I hope that I am seen. This is me presenting myself. I am ready whenever you are ready.

I hear that my family once slept on this soil. I see my body has borrowed from this soil. I study South Asia so that I can salute this soil, a soil that is now soaked in blood. I saw what you did to the soil. This is how I saw what happened to Mumbai, India.

While Mumbai was being attacked, a child was watching. A voice from the cradle tore through the air, ripping through the calm and care. The voice was a cry. The cry of a child.

I was sleeping in her calm; I was resting in his care. My mother knew I needed calm, my father knew I needed care. I needed comfort. They knew me so well that they never troubled my sleep when you came to trouble their’s. They thought I would sleep the night away and wake up to another day of dreams. They thought I would never think the unthinkable that you had thought. They thought I was asleep, far away, perhaps in the land of the lords. But they were wrong….

I saw your hands dig into the skin of my mother. I saw your hands dig into the flesh of my father. I saw as you drained the milk of my mother. I saw as you drained the blood of my father. I saw as you cut the arms of my mother. I saw as you cut the shoulders of my father. I saw you slaughtered. I saw as you mutilated. I saw what the world has never seen. I am a child, barely walking. I saw and stood as you murdered my mother and my father. I saw your hands crushing the bond between two lovers, my parents. I saw your hands crush their hearts. I saw as they saw you and saw me not. I saw your smile. I saw as you murdered Mumbai. I saw as you killed India. You thought you killed me when you killed the life of those who gave me life. But you were, and forever are, wrong…

My mother will call me to the cradle. My father will rock the cradle. My parents will come back. Mumbai never forgets a lover. India never forgets a child. A child never forgets a mother. A child never forgets a father. I will never forget what I saw. I saw you and I know what I saw. And you saw me and you know not of what you saw.

I hear that you do what you do in the name of a supreme power. Let me remind you of the God who reminds me, Rab Kehnay Walo, Pehla Maa Kehna Sikiya ( Those who say God, first learnt to say Mother ). Let me remind you of my father who reminds me, Maa Di Khidmat Raj Raj Karna ( Serve your mother with all that you can and cannot do ). Let me remind you, Maa Jeday Kaul Howay, Rab Auday Kaul Hai ( Who has a mother, has a god ). Let me remind you, you have no idea of what remains. You have never heard the cry of a child. You have no heart.

When we respond to the cry of a child, we respond to a call from the cradle, the cradle from where we once celebrated the world. This cradle is the heart where the mind rests, the mind that one day will carry its own heart and become a cradle to the minds that are to come, minds that, too, will need a heart. Thus the cry of a child is not a cry that is known to the language of the mind. Instead, the cry of a child is a cry known to the feelings of the heart. Feelings have no language and for those who have no heart, language can offer no feelings. You can never feel the pain in the cry of a child, a cry that a mother screams never to see, a cry that a father prays never to see.

Do you, who feel, feel why I have no words for what happened to Mumbai?

And for those of you, who do not feel, did you think that I would stop feeling?

For me India is the cradle, the heart, of my mind. I cannot rest and I will cry, cry until you hear the cry of a child.

Author: Ali Abbas (Toronto)

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Nav Bhatia, Iconoclast and Ice-Breaker

Posted on 23 July 2009 by admin

Nav Bhatia - Proud South AsianIn our English literature classes, we used to learn that Bernard Shaw was an iconoclast; when Nancy Pelosi became the Speaker of the US House of Congress, we heard that she has broken the glass ceiling for women; Mr. Nav Bhatia has played a significant role in being both an iconoclast and ice-breaker between Canadian mainstream and South Asian community in GTA.

Very spiritual in nature, but very private in the matter of religion, Mr. Bhatia had come to Canada at the age of 33, escaping the riots in New Delhi, leaving his job as a mechanical engineer. He started off as a typical immigrant who did multiple odd jobs before landing as a salesperson at one of the Hyundai dealerships. It was hard for him to find a job in Canada as he is a practicing Sikh who wears turban.

He took over his Hyundai showroom when it was going bankrupt, but with time, hard work and effort, he has made it a number 1 dealership in Canada. As the business grew, Mr. Bhatia began to realize the potential in Canadian society and believed that he could achieve a lot.

While auto industry and mortgage companies are in severe crisis, Mr. Bhatia’s dealership has sold record number of cars. Last Thanksgiving when employees around North America were afraid of their jobs, Mr. Bhatia told all his employees that no one will be laid off; everyone will have their job, but they must all work hard and he stands by his word.

Mr. Bhatia has never fired any of his employees except three. His criterion is simple. People should not steal, work hard and be honest with their work hours.

He feels that GM and Chrysler failed because “they weren’t working hard, they were easy going, and their philosophies were outdated.” He is not sure if the governments of Canada and the US should have bailed out the car companies. “I think they shouldn’t have done it.” For himself, he feels that “there is no recession. Till this June I’ve delivered 690 cars, last June we had delivered 500 cars, so we are up by 30% sales.” 26% of his clients are South Asians, and “I’m very grateful to all my clients. They are like my family,” he believes. He says “Hyundai is on top of the charts, so South Asians go for Hyundai rather than just Toyota and Honda.”

Back in 1990s, his aim was to introduce South Asians to mainstream through Bollywood movies and by being at mainstream sport matches. His goal behind this involvement was “to tell the mainstream that we might look different, but we’re the same.”

“They can be South Asians and still be assimilated in the mainstream,” Mr. Bhatia emphasizes to South Asian youth. He narrates his efforts to bring his first Bollywood movie to Canada. At that time, he says, no one wanted to play Bollywood movie at AMC and Cineplex and other theatres, however that has changed now.

He was touched by the stereotype that South Asians are all cab drivers when he was assumed to be a cabdriver by one of Bell’s agents in late 1980s. At that time, he decided to be a bridge between mainstream and South Asian community. He firmly believes that his predecessors did not do a good job of educating the mainstream about South Asian values. So he took on the task. He has a record in NBA of watching over 500 games as a fan. He buys 3,000 tickets at almost every Raptor game, and subsidizes them within South Asian community “to show the people that South Asians like basketball just as any gora, peela. I spend time in talking to players, so that they know about each other.” Through his involvement and dedication, where once there were only 20 South Asians watching basketball in the arena, now there are 800 wearing turbans and shalwar kameez.

He says South Asian youth “needs to feel that it’s okay to be South Asians, that it’s cool to be who you are, to keep your religion and your values.”

“We could be Prime Minister, member of parliament, mayor in this country. This country is great,” Mr. Bhatia says with a tone ringing with emotion, gratitude and passion. Regretfully he says “it’s South Asians’ job to talk to mainstream Canadians about our values and not theirs.”
Mr. Bhatia runs by example. He tells his own habits and traditions. “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I take care of my 90-year-old mother, I’m back at home every day by 11 at night, so South Asian youth should know they don’t need to change, they’re cool just as they are.” He says “I’m naturally high. I don’t need liquor or drugs to be contented.”

Once Mr. Bhatia was misinterpreted to be a Muslim while walking around the Canada Centre after 9/11. Mr. Bhatia stopped him to confront him, to talk to him. He strongly feels that South Asian community “has not done enough to be engaged.” He believes that there is a perception in the mainstream that South Asian community “just use, use use. We need to give back.”

To give back he was on the Board of Ontario Trillium Hospital for a number of years before he resigned. Mr. Bhatia’s social work and recognition in the community has had compelled many people to suggest to him that he must run for a public office as a Liberal. “I don’t want to be a politician,” Mr. Bhatia says humbly. He proudly takes sick children, youth from mandir and gurdawaras to basketball games, but he is not willing to be a politician to do so.

Mr. Bhatia considers himself a blessed man. His desire is “to do something for old. Kids have to take responsibility of their elders. Kids’ are learning that from mainstream. I’m still afraid of my mother. My father used to give me third degree when I came after 11 at night.” It makes Mr. Bhatia sad when an old father comes to him to say that not one of his seven sons wants to take care of him. “ I want to do something for older people,” Mr. Bhatia says.

Mr. Bhatia speaks very fondly of her daughter. However he is a traditional father. She does not go for sleepovers because “we have to see each other every day,” he says.

Author: Asma Amanat

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Modeling is not about being besharam

Posted on 23 July 2009 by admin

Allia Akhtar - During a recent Photoshoot with Photographer Johnny Jii

Allia Akhtar describes fashion as something that is creative, couture, inspiring and exciting. A student of Communication at University of Wilfred Laurier, she feels that we have ended up going back in time to the same old fashion of wearing the little black dress or pencil skirts. For herself she tries to be unique in her outfits and colours she wears. Her advice is “always have black in your closet, you always need black just in case because it is just so classy! Lastly, you need to have accessories.”

Her favourite fashion designer is Marciano because it is couture stuff so it is just in fashion, or Hollister because it is casual but still not bummy casual.

Audrey Hepburn is her best woman as she was the first women on TV to bring back the feminine look when at the time females tended to wear clothing that was more male oriented.

To Allia beauty is being able to stand in front of the mirror and be happy with what you see not what anyone else sees or says. She believes people don’t think gothic fashion is very beautiful. While on the other hand people who do wear these clothing find it beautiful. I really think fashion is someone’s perception of beauty, and people who agree or do like the clothing will follow suit in wearing these particular articles. She is still searching for someone who she feels would be the prettiest soul on the planet.

Environmentally conscious, she feels having garbage around can change the very environment you live in to a place of filth, so we have to ensure that the place we live at helps the environment.

There is still a stigma associated with South Asian girls who aspire for careers in modelling. But Allia encourages the youth by saying “Go For It. Being a model doesn’t mean you have to compromise your morals at all. If you know wearing something is going to make you uncomfortable improvise, if a certain posture doesn’t feel right compromise. I really think that South Asian parents just stereotype modeling as something beshram or like wrong when it really doesn’t have to be. Just know when to say no and if you think its worth fighting for than you should.”

Article by: Kiran Takrani
Photographs by: Jonny Jii

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