Archive | January, 2010

Importing Husbands….

Posted on 27 January 2010 by .

‘Culture’ is a relative term. It is always in flux, and it changes with places and time. We adopt new values; we shed the old ones and try to preserve our own identity. . It is already a hard task to define ‘accurately’ what culture means, or what we refer to when we use the term culture loosely. Here is a glimpse at a few definitions available across the web:

  • particular society at a particular time and place;
  • the tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group
  • acculturation: all the knowledge and values shared by a society
  • the attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization

Culture becomes a yardstick while choosing the significant other. We toy with this word to define our own priorities and biases. I am not alone in this dilemma, while looking at the future marriage prospects.

Post modern marriage has its own culture, arrange marriage is frowned and mocked. It only exists in Elizabethan novels, desi auntie’s circles or old desi dramas. No one romanticizes the old school any more. We as a new generation want a life filled with options and choices. If I can choose the brand of my shoes then why not my husband?

Same words can convey different meanings. Their undertones, use and situation define their mere meaning. Can we define a love match arranged by parents as arranged? Or a matched profile found on as love marriage? It seems like a seemingly absurd concept, in an ever evolving culture.

Growing up with the notions of “Feminism” (now whatever that term referred to) and the talks about male chauvinism, women were always discussed as the ‘victims’ when it came to the topic of marriage. Simone De Beauvoir was not the only one to have a feministic stance. In feministic literature women are depicted as the disadvantage party when it comes to love and marriage. Simone’s statement was not something new. Simone did assert that women are as capable of choice as men, and thus can choose to elevate themselves, and these days’ women have taken the step to turn that message into a practice.

Mail wives are not only a Russian phenomenon. Online websites, marriage bureaus and frequent trips to country of origin have made this a common phenomenon in western world. Immigrant population frequents their country of origin looking for suitable culturally equivalent matches. This practice has resulted not only in sociological problems but has led to forced legislation. In England this practice was dubbed as forced marriage. Now governments intervene if they find that their citizens are forced into tie by parents.

How to find a husband? It is like a holy grail every other girl is after. . We want choices and options.  But what happens to those who were raised with the concept that ‘parents find you the best match’ and found themselves amidst this new found independence when they came to this land ‘to choose themselves and to choose freely.”

These new concepts topple their life and they just could not grasp the criteria of ‘how to come across an eligible bachelor…”

Some blame post modern women of being ‘too picky’ or having ‘too high standards.’ Well whatever the reason might be, some just give up. The guy with the traditions and cultural morals is well bred ‘back home’ and if men can bring in wives from there then what’s wrong with bringing husbands from there too?

My answer: It is changing our sociology. When you bring in the husband, you pretty much are the one that is wearing the pants in the family. While that changes, then so does the entire ‘cultural’ structure of a household.

What are those men who want to come here looking for? The answers vary and seldom fulfill our desire and notion of romanticism. But as one girl simply put it, “I want kids and I need a father for them. If he’s ready to be that man, I am ready to adjust and compromise to any limit.”

I was shocked and disappointed. Are these women sacrificing themselves for even a worse reason? Being single, alone and old is a taboo among South Asians. So, due to social pressure South Asian women hear their biological clock ticking even louder and are ready to escape the taunts from ‘aunties’ and would do anything to wear the social costume of a ‘perfect’ girl, with a husband and a family. They are ready to oversee the troubles that would come their way, and are even ready to give up that newly acquired lesson of individualism they had recently learnt.

So yes, they import husbands and they present them as a result of a ‘love marriage,’ how else can they justify their action? Whatever social costume would make them acceptable; they are ready to change clothes.

Author: Madhu Sharma

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In Defense of the Fashion Industry…

Posted on 27 January 2010 by .

Scene one: Overture

Young girl opens magazine. Does she react to the airbrushed cheeks or the accentuated cleavage? Does the model’s wardrobe or her tiny wrists make her feel inadequate? You would certainly think about it If you’ve been bombarded with Feminist theories in opposition to the media’s portrayal of a woman. But I think the bigger question is WHY do women see themselves inferior, why is it that people see a model and perfection synonymously?

Is the model to blame for this? Shall we gather our torch and pitchforks and burn her at the stake? Are the photographers and the makeup artists the ones who at blame? The true witches and warlocks of the fashion industry must be tried and subject to cruel and unusual treatment for the objectification of women everywhere.

Before we do anything drastic, let’s be civil and employ some logic to this situation. But don’t take my word for it. I asked these very questions to people new to and experienced in the industry, and as you read forward, you shall read their side of the story.


Scene two: ESA Model Search:

Toronto Casting Call November 22, 2009

Red Rose Convention Centre

Approximately 3 pm

Hot off the press release, their statement reads:
“What sets us apart is our professional ethics, fresh approach and our commitment to the success of our models. While striving to become one of North America’s finest and leading modelling agencies, our mission is to have South Asian talent prevail and be brought to the mainstream across North America.”

Such high expectations for an up-and-coming model agency, after attending the event myself as spectator and guest, I hope they stay true to this. It is a fresh sight to see South Asia (or that which represents South Asia) rising up to potentially lead the mainstream.


Scene 3: Kabir

I looked at the man who had sat next to me. He was probably five-nine (or taller) with broad shoulders, a trimmed beard and side burns and a well-defined jawbone. A male model? Perfect–But inaccurate.

Kabir is a twenty five-year old Real Estate agent who has been sponsoring this event in collaboration with all the artists who have pulled together to make this day happen. Kabir has a love for the industry of modelling and fashion. It was he that I was in corespondence with proir to the event and although admitting that his role was tedious, maintains that love for what he does on the side.

A busy man, he needed to pick up a call on his Black Berry Bold and I moved on.


Scene 4: Serena

Serena walked in with her parents and headed straight for the runway coach before I could get her. In six-inch stillettos and a fitting black dress held together with a black leather belt.  As she walked I could hear the Cutty Ranks music playing in my head (Murder she wrote…  ) According to her glowing mother, Serena had been free lancing since she was 13 years of age. She had performed in events like Dilwale Mela (Fiesta) 2008. and Dreams Wedding Show. She clearly had a shot for the casting call with ESA.  Serena eventually came to speak to me herself. Serena is a young one. Only in her last year of high school, she has already been accepted into Psycholinguistics at the University of Toronto. A Dancer as well, Serena loves the rush of the performance and being on stage. But throughout our conversation that star potential gleams in her eyes and manifests itself in a love for what she does as expressive art.


Scene 5: Aanchal

Aanchal spoke proudly as an artist. Makeup is not fakeness, it is art. And for her, being a makeup artist, an expensive hobby and profession, has it’s rewards in the sharing of others’ joy. Makeup artists need to know the chemistry of colour combinations, which are not so much rules as they are possibilities. And Aanchal believes that Makeup, like art, has no guidelines. What distinguishes South Asian artistry from others?  That is a matter of influence. Aanchal herself is quite abstract with her art, avoiding basic colours and playing with neons for the South Asian face.


Scene 6: Sharjeel and Hussain

A considerable amount of onus is on the photographer to get the picture right and they are usually the ones blamed for airbrushing. But Photographers like Sharjeel and Hussain, as photographers and artists synonymously, are offended by feminist theorists who accuse them of objectifying women. They do not deny that there are those photographers that would place female and male models in compromising positions, and those that are exclusive to one kind of model. These kind of photographers may be conniving villains bent out on keeping women in the bedroom and kitchen, but they may also just be trying to make a living. Hussian, a photographer who was considering applying as a model, says that a good model needs to have the right attitude. This may vary depending on the angle of the shot and the concept that needs to be conveyed.



It’s a big performance not just for the model, who is a part of the art, not as object, but as subject. Those of you who are familiar with the concept of performance art, will recognize the parallel. It  is a big performance for the Makeup Artist and the Photographers who need to capture the moment. The whole teamwork process is tedious,  but the saisfaction comes more from the result of the shot rather than the payment. Again, the theme of love and passion, surfaces. From the mouths of people in the industry themselves, the many facets of Fashion has much to do with Art and Love: Colour, Performance, and the art of encapsulating that single moment you may never see again.

Sharjeel emphasizes the element of perception. Why is it that when we see a model on the front cover we say “fake” and think “inadequacy”? Because the our first impulse on viewing an image is to put ourselves in there and if we don’t “Fit” that image, the assumption is that there is something wrong with ourselves.

But THIS is the problem. We only see ourselves and nothing else. We are entirely blind to all the hard work and dedication that goes into this “Industry”, founded so deeply in passion and unbridled love. We don’t see the Model who is more than we are willing to see nor do we see the liberation in performance. We don’t see the liberal make up artist who plays with colours and lines the way great artists like Monet and Warhol always have. We don’t see the Photographers who have spent tireless nights working on a concept, setting up the studio, working with the model only to have a 50% chance of selling it to the “big guy”.

We know this is not how it is across the board in the Fashion Industry. But the only reason why certain images of “female oppression” haven’t died is because they still sell. There ARE people that still believe that “thinner is better” no matter how attainable absolute thinness is. We need to change how we see ourselves and how we see others, before the fashion industry (and the subsequent advertising industry) as a whole even considers changing how they portray women.

The fashion industry has made several attempts to change how they sell things. Perceptions have been changing in the fashion industry. The Dove Campaign on “Real Beauty” is one avenue (but if you go too far down it you might as well burn your bra) another symptom of change are stores like Laura plus and Voluptuous that are gaining popularity. ESA Models is another example of that change happening. There’s no height requirement, you can be up to a size 10 and still make it. The only requirement is personality.

If only personality was our requirement for acceptance.

Author: Jacquel


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Uhhhhhh… What’s My Major?

Posted on 27 January 2010 by .

It’s simple for some and a pain in the butt for others. One look through a list of college programs may give students over 60 possible majors at 9 different schools. WHOA!!!

One of my students many years ago once told me that though she was interested in majoring in religion, that wouldn’t allow her to put food on the table. On the other hand, a friend reminded me recently that though he majored in philosophy he ended up becoming a computer programmer. If this is confusing, read on.

There are at least two pathways, probably several more.

A lawyer who assists hedge funds, on the other hand, told me that young people should follow their interests and something will work out for them. What the heck does that mean? Basically, if there is something that a person really likes to do and can find a way to apply it in the real world and make something out of it, then go for it. It is very fulfilling to have a job that you love. I have been in that position.

The other pathway is to follow a steady career. One might say this is a fulfillment of a different kind. This pathway may be less risky. Zenab Qureshi, a graduate of Forest Hills High School in Queens, New York and a student at City College, says that “I knew I didn’t want to spend more than eight years building my future, although I did want to become someone who could help patients who are in pain. Basically, second on the medical pyramid are physicians assistants.” The most well paying jobs are in medicine, pharmacy, and in banking. As a result, many young people (and their families) want to major in something to pursue such careers.

A few tips to navigating these two pathways.

  1. Parents aren’t always wrong. Though many North American young people will constantly shake their heads       and say: “parents just don’t understand.” Moms and dads may have some valid suggestions, and nobody knows a child better than a parent. Zenab explained that “they didn’t care what I did as long as it was what I wanted to do.”
  2. Internships help young people find out what they love doing. One may not get paid very much but interning or volunteering give students hands-on experience. Spending some time in an environment helps to really figure out what a person wants to do. For example, those students who volunteer at hospitals learn what it’s really like in that atmosphere. I will write more in another article about finding internships.
  3. Do not Leave Declaring your major until the last minute. Technically, students do not need to declare a major until the end of the sophomore year of college. That may not leave enough time to complete all the requirements for the major and for the degree. It helps start working on the college’s basic requirements and taking a few classes during the course of the first and second years to find out what it is one wants to do.
  4. Finally, it may not matter what your major is. As I mentioned earlier, a philosophy major became a very successful computer programmer and there are many whose majors do not really matter. There are a number of individuals who pick their majors based on the classes they like and the professors they have good relationships with. If you’re happy with your professors and classes, maybe that’s all that matters.What does happiness mean anyway?

Author: Muntasir Sattar

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    Staying Fit In Winter

    Posted on 27 January 2010 by .

    Health and fitness are two of the more important aspects of life in North America and many people from a variety of different backgrounds find it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle with work, school, children and other obligations.  South Asians are no different.  To make things worse coming from such a warm climate many new South Asians have difficulty being active in the winter months.

    It is important for people to understand that the winter months are not for hibernating, but to take advantage of the variety of options nature has given us to be active.  If you are like me and love the snow, here are a few ways to stay fit in the winter months:

    1    Skating is one of the best cardio workouts out there.  It not only allows you to burn a lot of calories it also does wonders for the muscles in your lower body.

    2    If that’s too difficult for you try walking in the snow.  A simple walk in the park or your neighborhood for a half an hour is a great way to keep fit.

    3   Cross country skiing is also a great way to stay in shape.

    4   If these activities seem to risky, then try shoveling the snow from your driveway or sidewalk.  Shoveling can burn many calories and is a great way to keep active.

    Make sure you that you have medical clearance before taking part in any physical activity. If you are taking part in any outdoor winter activities, always dress warmly, with layers, a hat and gloves. Get out there and enjoy the cold.

    Author: Ahsan Bokhari Ahsan is a PhysEd Teacher at Martin Grove Collegiate, Toronto.

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    Fathers And Daughters

    Posted on 27 January 2010 by .

    When I was a little girl, my father used to take me to the sea. This was not just any ordinary visit, we had to make sure it was the fourteenth night of the moon, so I counted all I could on my little fingers that the moon would come faster, but the moon only came when it will. Years later, he gave me a ring which could have been stolen from one of the moon’s fingers.

    I used to run after the moon, but in the car that my father drove, the moon was always running after him. I could watch it come so near to us, the wind sending it our way. The car used to be driving fast on Mai Kolachi, that new road they build only so that he and I could travel faster to the sea, and also that there was a reference point now, ‘lets take Mai Kolachi that one that runs to the sea.’

    In time, words and phrases erode, just like the color on your hair does, and we started saying “oh just to Mai Kolachi? each time someone had asked us where it was we were going. My mother and sister never came along, though my father had wanted us three to go together.

    I sometimes liked to visit alone, and hear the cars passing by on the street. These were the days when my father and I pretended the two of us didn’t exist for each other. The wind would embrace my calm then, and while he drove the car, I spoke several things in its ears. I once told the wind, “I’m about to sink into solitude.”

    When Abu liked to talk of the moon, sitting by the sea, he was quite the man. He would tell me complicated things about life, and how to live it as a running clock with no hands. To feel it’s essential present. The waves would crash on their shores. Each word of the sea, brought calm to the mind of water. Everything came back to its own roots and shores.

    At around fourteen, when I declared to my father that perhaps God didn’t exist after all. He mentioned his own period of burnt atheism in his life, and said: “one comes back to one’s roots.” I despised his response. It was allowing me freedom, but only at the cost of a certainty I couldn’t really care for. I was just embarking towards my life and the subtlety of his questioning glance burnt me deeper still. In any case, he said “yes, you can.” And I did.

    A couple of years later I told him: “one is not born into a relation, you have to create it every day, like making sun out of yellow paint – the paint isn’t everything.” This had startled him, and he has not understood clearly up to this day, how I could say that. When my father speaks English I’m sometimes reminded of Spaniards or Native Americans, who speak from their heart.

    He works on theories that he calls ‘theories of the wave.’ All the time he is talking about currency markets and foreign exchange, and yet the constant in his language came to be, what was constant to me as well: the moon. He had a theory that the moon affected the waves, and so a similar pattern could emerge in the currency markets that also moved like waves. Or this was what I understood about his sketches. He is with his paper and pencil all day, sketching graphs that rise and fall, and keep the rhythm of waves: each thing falls, he once said to me, and the history class teacher had said: “nations as well as people, have their infancy, adolescence and old age.”

    At an early age I learnt that the Fibonacci series of numbers had a special significance, because it was also the number of your fingers, and your hands, your arms, and Michelangelo believed in it too. Father always had crazed eyes, as if he had seen something, known someone years before, and all this was certainly very important – more important than dying, giving up, not laughing, or laughing. Abu had a terrible friend who left him, the way no man can ever leave another. He never told me this. I found out only two months ago that Bali even existed.

    My Bali was a musical man, he could sing or compose a tune within a second of his fingers running on water. He played the drums, the harmonica and the guitar. He was the friend of my father’s life. They used to play squash together, run together and go to office-meetings together. They used to laugh as well. Bali was someone you could rely on to come up with a solution to every anguish, be it of why she wasn’t talking to you, or why there wasn’t enough cash coming in. He had a solution. He had laughter. He had music. When Bali Chacha died, I was three years old. Abu has never been the same. And my mother, time, his contacts, all forgot to mention this death to me. So I have pretended like it didn’t exist.

    It must hurt a man. His daughter too thinking his pain doesn’t exist.

    As if, Bali’s leaving and missing and singing and talking and not talking anymore, wasn’t enough. My father is one of the best men I have ever known. Except for one answer, he’s been able to give me all of the rest, and except for one person, he told me about all of the rest.

    I sometimes wonder at what happens to father-daughter relations in

    Pakistan these days, or from always, I don’t know. There was a time when the moon hadn’t shone so brightly on my street, at that time I used to know the difference between right and wrong. Now the distinctions are all not quite that clear. Perhaps fathers are our brothers, when we become older, instead of just well-wishing friends out from the distance in our married lives, or work lives, or party lives, or whatsoever lives.

    I sometimes feel, that on coming of age, the relationship dynamic between a father and daughter ought to change. If he never realizes that the girl has become a mature young woman, she has a heart that is incurable or a mind that is furious, then he’ll miss out on the beauty of the moonlight. This would be a terrible thing to happen to a father, who has loved his little girl – when she was a little girl – oh so very well. So very well.

    He brought her all the right gifts, on all the right birthdays, took her as a princess on those sun-died days. I know that my father bought me the white horse I couldn’t get my eyes off of, the one that had a magical carriage behind it, so it could trail behind the horse like the magic that is dust-shine behind Cinderella’s pumpkin-carriage.

    He got it for me, not caring it was expensive, or inappropriate. [I mean, it was a horse, with a golden mane, and a fierce blue red light on its forehead, it struck me then, it was an ordinary horse that could become a unicorn at will, upon a lighted touch.] It was important for me, his little girl, and he made sure I had it. Just like he made sure I had silver earrings, matching shoes, and an exquisite bracelet.

    When one grows older, these things shouldn’t slip off our minds, like old shoes. It is so important an hour for a father. He is going to miss this for the rest of his life. I think between fathers and daughters, is a sacred trust – but I also think, if this trust doesn’t reach its own avenues of beauty, and change shape over the years, then the life that is lived, will be lost to the life that could have been lived. In my case, it was my poetry that did it. When I had my book of poems ready, I called my father after several months of agitated absence and said: “Abu now I am like you, I’m an entrepreneur too. I wrote my book, it’s a risk I took on life, just like you.”

    Little girls want to be like their fathers too, it’s not just the boys that harbor this desire. I was a poet to the moon, he was a sketcher of graphs that made sense to no one but himself. We did have a meeting point, it’s just that it took us several years to realize this. A woman in love, is altogether a mystery to a father, he approaches it like someone coming near mysterious white birds on the Karachi sea, that will disappear the moment he says “Can I sit here with you?” The sea is lost, it’s uncertain, it’s always present. This is what I am to you, father, is it not. It’s what you are to me, as well. It’s what you are to the white bird, the sky on the Karachi retreat, to Bali’s haunting voice that keeps singing, over all of my life and yours. He is with us as well.

    Abu didn’t realize I was going to be Bali for him, when I grew up. He didn’t see it coming, but friends like metamorphosis on Greek nymphs, can take place anywhere. We are to be friends, I just know it.

    Author: Fatima Ijaz Mirza

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    A Tale of Lost Identities

    Posted on 27 January 2010 by .

    Can a piece of paper define who you are? Can an official stamp change how you feel? Can a new passport truly change your identity? At first I thought, yes. Although to be honest, I never thought of it in that way. To me, I was an Indian – born in India, raised in India, and eventually someone who would return to India. I had come to Canada for my education, because studies were a lot better here, and cheaper too because of my permanent residency. That’s all it was ever about.

    Then I got that call from my dad.

    I think it’s time you applied for your Canadian citizenship. Citizenship? That sounded so…permanent. The word seemed to carry a life-altering power, or at least an identity-altering power. All I could keep thinking was – but I’m Indian.

    Next thing my dad knew, he was being bombarded with my questions. Why do I need to become a citizen? Does that mean I’ll have to give up my Indian passport? Can I get a dual citizenship? Do I have to?

    He tried answering all my questions patiently. Unfortunately for him, my head was swirling with so many thoughts that I didn’t take in a word he said. All I heard was something about PIO advantages, visa citizenship and dual cards – which made no sense to me.

    I think there’s a limit to everyone’s patience, and I actually respect my dad for bearing my nonsensical blabbering for as long as he did, and don’t blame him at all for finally, as I’ve often heard people say, blowing his top off.

    He calmed down both of us enough to ask me what the actual problem was. Luckily, this time I was actually coherent enough to mumble – I don’t want to give up my nationality. I heard silence on the other end. Then more silence. Then finally he asked me a simple question that brought me crashing back down to reality.

    Can one piece of paper change who you are?

    Hmmm. I suppose not. Not really. No. Definitely not. Not any more it can’t. I’m Indian, and that’s not going to change. I miss my country for the life I used to have. But I also love Canada for the life it’s given me right now. Why do I have to give up who I am to experience something new?

    So give me that dual citizenship, the PIO card and the visa advantages. I’ll go back someday, not having lost my nationality, but having gained a fuller identity. As cliché as it sounds, Shakespeare just might have been right. What’s in a name?

    Author: Ruchitta Mittal

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    What is Nationalism?

    Posted on 27 January 2010 by .

    Fast-Food Nation

    To some, the word nationalism may trigger a sense of revolution, of leaders and politics, but to me, being American is like being a food lover.

    We are taught to be American just like we are taught about what tastes good: through subconscious brainwashing. In classes and other processions, we rise to face the cloth that hangs above us all whether or not we feel anything in the ceremony. Over time, it becomes familiar, a custom of habit. Like microwavable frozen dinners. In high school, you have the choice to stand or sit through the pledge depending on which teacher you have, but most stand because its more efficient that way—the less you resist, the faster you’re able to get on with the rest of your day. I learned my allegiance to America before I even knew what it meant or how to spell the word: a-l-l-e-g-i-a-n-c-e. I explored the taste of gummy bears, fruit roll ups, chocolate chip granola bars, pudding, cinnabons, cookies, chips, breaded chicken nuggets and fish sticks, lots of ketchup, pb and j, pan pizzas, and kids meals from Mcdonalds before I knew what “healthy” was. In America, you learn the culture before you find yourself. When you have been repeating this gesture year after year since Kindergarten—it becomes embedded in your person. In fact, it becomes disrespectful to sit down during a pledge after a certain age, especially if you’re an adult fully taking advantage of American opportunities.  It’s the same if you’ve never tried junk food.

    Even after a person has figured out who he is and what he wants to do with his life, the taste of America lingers. Every expert says that the taste of junk food is fleeting and momentary, but our brains are pretty good at remembering. The morsels of food may have long been digested, but the taste buds on our tongue do not forget, and the scents remain. So we keep eating and promoting patriotism, wherever we are.

    Because we still feel American. We still go to the Independence Day celebrations with the same gusto. I still wake up my siblings early in the morning and convince them to wear red-white-and-blue gear with me (might as well get some wear out of them) and ask my Dad to take us to the parade like old times. Afterwards we bbq in our backyards and pack our picnic blankets for the evening fireworks. And even after all these years, I haven’t forgotten the words to the childhood Yankee Doodle song and the so-called date that Columbus discovered America, even though I now know who really did and when. Much to my husband’s dislike, I love Paula Dean’s cooking and accent and old, western movies because that’s all I ever read about or was taught in class, and its what I know best. I followed American politics like my favorite soap opera on television, and we took elections seriously. I could go on with examples, but its pretty easy to follow: we do what feels good more often than what is right or healthy. And supporting your country feels yummy, most of the time.

    On the other hand, I have found that we Americans have a love-hate relationship with our country. We hate our government, but love the land. We hate what they have done to clear the land, but we love building humungous houses and skyscrapers on it regardless. We complain about traffic jams, but don’t stop driving cars. We hate the destroyers of cultures and imposers of imperialism, but we love our history. We groan when we are taught to memorize the 50 states, but later we brag about all the places we have been. We hate on one President, but idolize another. We are proud of being American, but not proud of what America represents.

    We eat chocolate cake, and then we run to the treadmill. Or go on a diet. We contradict ourselves, but we are human.

    In the same way, that my relatives have come to love Canada and speak with a native accent and watch hockey every other night, my parents still love their homeland, the colors green and white, the food they grew up with, and the land, war-torn or not, was beautiful to them.

    In the end, there’s nothing wrong with some Kentucky fried chicken or flag waving, as long as you don’t get carried away.

    Author: Iqra Azhar

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    One University Degree Please: UPSIZE IT!

    Posted on 27 January 2010 by .

    Whether your ideas of knowledge are embedded in an essentialist mesh or not, you
    must all agree that to some degree our knowledge comes into being as a result of
    the environments we are located in. Regardless of the degree of truth, there is
    some truth in the assumption I have made and as such it warrants me to question
    and relate the recent shifts I have had in location and environment – shifts
    that have located me where I have perhaps never seen myself. So join me as I
    trace the travels I have had through location and pick at an important issue –
    grandeur and size – which often determines one’s preference in University.

    In the summer of 2005 I was your regular (still am) Dubai born teenager ready to
    embrace the norm and dig deep into my parent’s pocket for a University
    education. My mind was set on pursuing psychology as well as media and when I heard
    that Middlesex University’s nouveau Dubai campus was offering the exact same
    course, I filled out my paperwork and presented myself for admission. Admission
    was granted and I found myself with hundreds of new faces excitedly ( nervously
    too ) entering into a space heard of but relatively unknown – the space known
    as University!
    Like an immigrant to a new country, a student’s first day at University is about
    realizing the new space. University has a culture to it : orientation day was
    meant to initiate me into this culture and with time the routine settled in.
    However, an idea of a University space which I had always had was one of size –
    when I entered Middlesex the following thought echoed through my brains, “ Jeez.
    This place is small.”  The smallness had its advantages – I knew where I was. Or
    did I?

    As time progressed the size of our Dubai Campus became a hot topic of
    discussion and I began to realize that I truly did not know where I was. The
    overwhelming sense was that the demands of academe were far too many to be
    squeezed into a campus of three or four floors. There was much appreciation for
    the variety on offer at Middlesex – however, questions were being asked as to
    whether such a small campus could cater to the overwhelming sea of students
    eager to avail of the opportunity. These questions began to plague my mind and
    as conversations continued the lack of resources began to manifest itself
    further and I began to feel that the education in general was beginning to
    suffer as a result of the minimal space. The constrained space was damaging to
    the avenues Middlesex aimed at opening for students : my worry was that
    Middlesex Dubai was not matching up to par with what exists elsewhere and in
    terms of its space and resources it was clearly not set to compete. My issue
    more precisely put was with the “grandeur” of the campus and since it lacked
    the size and architecture of those across the globe, I began to feel the urge
    to head elsewhere. And head elsewhere I did – to Canada’s York University!

    Truth be told, I was only going to spend one year at Middlesex Dubai, regardless
    of my issues with the space. I was waiting on my paperwork to get into York
    University and figured it best to transfer credits and spend one more year
    where my heart will always be. However, as I spend more time at
    Middlesex Dubai, I began to feel the need to break away : a need to get the
    “real” thing. I made plenty of friends and grew close to members of the
    faculty, yet my ideas of the “real” and the grandeur of a University pushed me
    to leave.

    However, I have spent three years at York and a year at Middlesex Dubai and I now have to ask myself an important question. Was my shift in location based on anything that was even remotely real? Was I right in comparing Middlesex Dubai to my “real”? My answer surfaces on an unsettling negation.

    The grandeur and size of a university speak to a university’s privilege and all that is socially constructed. Universities are dressed in robes of privilege which classify them into a hierarchy – yet these very robes need not determine the intellectual prospects a student stands in line of embracing. I speak from example and experience – I read Ronald Barthes and Ferdinand De Saussure at both Middlesex Dubai and York University and I dare not say that the text read any differently on paper. Indeed the shift in spaces determined the context within which the texts were presented, yet the essence of intellectual stimulation remained the same within both spaces. The difference though came in me: the difference was in how I came towards the text and the stimulation with which I aimed to unpack the package of information.

    The difference was within me. I realized within a short span of time that the mission to convert an education into something meaningful rested solely on my shoulders – if I wanted it to be, it would be. It was all a question of the head: what could I make of my education?

    Studying in a three floor or a three acre sized university was not the determinant factor in a productive education ( unless your measures of productivity lie solely in the dirham ). I agree, that the history of the university brings to its system a tradition of thought and practice yet this should not curtail a student from galloping forward with his/her education. Of course environment does influence our behaviour – but what about the environment within our selves? The instant the self is motivated to succeed, all other barriers become challenges ushering the person to succeed.

    Regardless of a three floored Middlesex Dubai, if a student is keen on empowering education, he/she can surely attain it and match to par with the highest of all intellectuals. The centre of a successful education is the student!

    So, before most of you dismiss an education at Middlesex Dubai as incomparable to those at more “grander” universities, take a step back to analyze your stance. My illusions of the “real” were unveiled and I realized that by simply going with the masses I was heading for the path of a blind follower.

    Am I saying that exploring the world and heading abroad for an education is wrong? Am I saying that you should stay put in Dubai? Far from. But if your mind is set at pursuing the image of the “real” as I was, then you ought to scrutinize this image. What you and I take for the real is often glossed in vested interests – hence, beware.

    “To be fully an object then was to lack the capacity to see or recognize reality,” says Bell Hooks and I strongly agree. If all of us students hail our culture and ability, then we must recognize reality.

    Be real, keep it real: make of your education what it is that makes you. Locate you, be you and live in reality.

    Author: Ali Abbas

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    Cultural Organizations are divided

    Posted on 27 January 2010 by .

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    TiEQuest 2010, Business Venture COmpetition

    Posted on 27 January 2010 by .

    TiEQuest is an annual business venture competition held in Toronto to encourage entrepreneurship, engage emerging entrepreneurial talent and to foster the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Founded in 2005, the mission of TiEQuest is to connect entrepreneurs with angel investors, venture capitalists and fund managers.

    TiEQuest attracts over 200 entrepreneurs every year. The contestants include existing and emerging entrepreneurs, patent holders and/or applicants, university students and alumni across North America. TiEQuest offers over $150,000 in prizes to the winners. To encourage participation of youth, TiEQuest offers the New Entrepreneur Prize to the best student team. In addition the top teams also have an opportunity to win up to $1,000,000 investment from sponsors.

    TiEQuest has over 25 success stories, where the contestants were able to take their business idea to successful enterprises, which have obtained financing, signed partnerships, acquired customers and generated revenues. The contestants see value in participating in the competition as it offers networking opportunities with leading entrepreneurs and investors, recognition with investment, legal and accounting firms, opportunity to practice the process of pitching their venture to investors, and opportunity to turn an innovative idea into a real businesses.

    TiEQuest is different from other business plan competitions as it offers mentoring to the contestants. We connect contestants with industry experts, successful entrepreneurs and professional advisors. As mentors, TiE charter members introduce contacts and insights on where to go. TiEQuest enhances the opportunity for obtaining financing. We have 30+ venture capitalists, angel investors, fund managers and other business leaders acts as judges. The participants get an opportunity to present to the investors. In addition, the sponsoring funds offer expression of interest to the top teams. The competition is designed to go through multiple stages to help polish business idea and promote networking opportunities. The judging criteria include value proposition, marketability, viability, management strengths and investibility.

    TiEQuest is organized by TiE Toronto, a chapter of global, not-for-profit network of entrepreneurs and professionals dedicated to the advancement of entrepreneurship. TiE provides a platform for mentoring, networking and education. TiE’s mission is to foster and advance entrepreneurship across the globe. Its principle objective is to provide a platform on which people with entrepreneurial spirit and those interested in economic value creation can come together to share ideas. TiE endeavors to cultivate and nurture the ecosystems of entrepreneurship as it sees this to be the single most powerful instrument of prosperity.

    TiE regular members are aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals. Dedicated to the virtuous cycle of wealth creation and giving back to the community, TiE’s focus is on generating and nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs.

    TiEQuest 2010 is now accepting applications. Visit for details.

    Author: Suresh Madan

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