Archive | April, 2010

Shantaram: Book ReviewShantaram: Book Review

Posted on 28 April 2010 by .

Experience teaches through tests and it does not take a sage to warn you of a possible test in your own life. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is one such book that reflects on the examining tendencies of experience and if you are living the life you claim to be, then this book is one which you must pick up right away.

Having picked up the book on the advice of a much respected friend, I initially had no clue of what to expect. The title suggested a book derived from sub-continent sources, yet nothing prepared me for the actual material worded in this 900 page–worth every blink of the eye–novel.

Based on a real event in a person’s life, Shantaram is a novel which deserves the respect of all those people who value experience. Gregory David Roberts, a convicted drug addict, escaped a prison cell in Australia whilst serving his sentence, ultimately transporting himself illegally to India. In a bid to stay alive and keep up with life he finds himself involved in a variety of activities and it is this journey to his current position as a writer which gives this book its unique flavor.

Through the novel we are made to relive his experiences and in the process we realize the lessons he learned in the toughest ways possible. Life in India, particular for a foreigner, can be conceived of in a variety of ways–yet when the author finds himself living in a dilapidated slum in the suburbs of Mumbai, you soon come to realize that this is one foreigner who was thrust into an extremely alien system. The novel generates excitement from the very onset and the adventures of a foreigner in a land many of us know quite well, simply teases imagination and gets you reading for more.

The entire novel sees the author sharing his experience with us; his experience is such that it opens the mind and heart to reality. The power of the book lies fundamentally in this experience and the charm comes from the fact that the author borrows from nothing imaginary. Instead, the novel can be seen as one fellow human being simply narrating his experiences on earth. Yet the experience is so unique and turbulent that it necessarily warrants attention: the exciting experience the novel refers to gives this book a vibe of its own.

The novel runs through culture and society ultimately making it easier to relate to. To me the book feels close to home and the lessons to be derived from the author’s experience can productively facilitate dialogue and contemplation. For the reader there lies a perfect combination of adventure, travel, mystery and horror, coupled with lessons in philosophy which cleverly disguise the morale of the story. The author shows a clever writing ethic and more than anything the author exemplifies the power of experience on the human mind.

The novel shall soon be converted into a film and I advise any active mind to arrange for a one-to-one meet with Shantaram.

Author: Ali Abbas

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Posted on 28 April 2010 by .

The Hijab. Many of us know someone who wears a hijab, and perhaps some of you are wearing one right now. Personally I wear mine every Tuesday at the “Muslim singles meet and greet” which is when “Billal, becomes “Billaliya”. I know its wrong, but if you can find a better way of getting a free brunch I would like to hear it. The last time I was there this Pakistani guy nearly got to third base with me under the table. But don’t worry; Islamic third base is just holding hands… while averting your gaze! I’m not going to lie, it was worse than watching a feminist Muslim comedian at open-mic night, “so, like it’s called the HE- jab, but shouldn’t it be the SHE-jab instead, what’s up with that?” Anyway! Weird, cross-dressing, SINGLE! South Asian guys aside, let’s examine the issue.

Hijab= Head Scarf
Niqab= Head Scarf + Veil “The Ninja”
Burqa= Full covering sheet “The Ghost Buster”

Muslim women and girls dress conservatively and wear the hijab in order to be judged by their intelligence and character, and not strictly by their overt beauty. Now I’m not a big time fancy lawyer or nothin’ (yet), but from this we can safely infer that the more a halal-honey gots’ her cloth game goin on, the hotter she is. It’s sort of like the opposite of “If you’ve got it, flaunt it”. So, for example, that girl in the hijab probably looks like a filthy mess compared to the girl in the niqab, and don’t even get me started on the burqa babes. You can just picture the scene now, the new girl walks into class with her burqa while all the jealous girls wearing the hijab taunt her, “OH, look who thinks she all that, girl I bet you aint got nothing to be modest about”, “OH MY GOD, is that a white burqa after Labor Day, someone call the fashion homeland security, we have a breach”. That may sound a bit offensive, but in no way am I making fun of the women who wear the Burqa. In fact, just last week my Mom started wearing a plain white burqa. I didn’t come out of my room for 3 days because I thought the place was haunted; who ya gonna call!? Incidentally she also scared the crap out of our new black neighbors. Apparently, her new look was a bit KKK-ish what with it being a plain white sheet; that…and she was also holding a flaming cross; she’s quirky. God, I miss the days when she used to wear her red burqa, but she got tired of that one guy at the mosque yelling “KOOL AID” every time she walked in. Well hey, you can’t argue with the Imam.

In the world of athletics, Ruqaya Al Ghasara, became the first woman ever to take  part in the Olympics while wearing the hijab. I would post a link to the original article, but I rather you read my summary than that of a biased western news papers. Ruqaya had an EXPLOSIVE start, as she SHOT out of the gate. She started slow, but then came up quick GUNNING her opponents down one by one. Tonight was her night, and she would not BOMB. She ANNIHALTED her targets, and found her way to PARADISE. It was a real SUICIDE MISSION and took ALLAH-t of work. Her old school teacher MISS. OJENY was very proud. YEAH! And that’s still more subtle than Fox News. Additionally, on the day of the race her fellow athletes commented that it was very unfair they had to run against a real life ninja.

In actual news, not only has France banned the hijab in the classroom, they’ve also banned the burqini at the beach. You read right, the burqini is like the hijab of the sea; the “Aqua hijab” as I call it. It’s for that special Muslim woman who wants to maintain her modesty, even when she’s not on land. Personally I think New Era should start making sports related hijabs. True story; my friend Farah actually wears a Jays cap over her hijab at baseball games. However, she refuses to wear a winter hat over her hijab when it’s cold outside because, “that would look stupid”. But anyway, back to the story; Muslim activists protested the move to ban the burqini, but the French government did not surrender; which is a first. Usually Pierre raises the white flag faster than you can say “Bonjour”. The reason the French government cited for the ban was that the burqini is “unhygienic”.  Now I could make the obvious jokes about France and hygiene here, but I won’t.

The French aside, I hope you got something out of reading this article. If that is what you can call it. Over the last few years the hijab has become a politicized issue, and many people who wear the hijab (including a lot of South Asians) take the brunt of the criticism. People who wear hijabs are just like me and you, albeit with a superior moral compass. My point is that it’s ok to be curious, and it’s ok to ask them questions about the hijab, there’s really no better way of learning. And for all of you who wear the hijab and were offended by my words, I advise you to loosen up….the hijab that is, you probably have it on too tight.

Author: Billal M. Sarwar

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APRIL IS ORAL HEALTH MONTH Learn more about healthy mouth and body

Posted on 28 April 2010 by .

Keeping your mouth healthy involves more than brushing and flossing your teeth.

Although these are vital for your oral health, a balanced diet low in sugar and acid, healthy snacking, regular professional dental hygiene cleanings and treatments, and daily home care play an important part in preventing tooth decay and gum disease.

Poor oral health can seriously affect a person’s overall health. Most people don’t connect their mouths to the rest of their bodies.

Gum or periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases in humans.  The bacteria from oral infections — triggered by simply brushing the teeth or chewing — can enter the blood stream or airways and travel to other parts of the body.  These bacteria have the potential to worsen or increase the risk for other types of health problems such as heart disease, stroke and respiratory disorders.  Gum infections can also make it difficult to control diabetes.

Over time, a buildup of plaque bacteria collects at the gum line, eventually hardening on the teeth into calcium deposits called calculus or tartar.  Brushing and flossing cannot remove hardened plaque.  If the tartar isn’t removed with professional scaling by a dental hygienist, the bacteria can cause inflammation of the gums, resulting in abscesses or the complete destruction of the tooth’s supporting tissues and, ultimately, tooth loss.

Dental hygienists help control the bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay.

They have a distinctive clinical and educational role to play in preventing oral infections. Dental hygienists not only scale (clean) your teeth, they provide oral cancer screenings, plan and implement treatments, evaluate individual oral care needs as well as offer education and advice to help you keep your mouth and smile healthy for a lifetime.

Access to dental hygiene services

Dental hygienists work in a variety of public and private health-care settings. Independent dental hygiene clinics and mobile practices improve public access to affordable, preventive oral care services. They are also employed in public health, education, research, hospitals and industry as well as in traditional dental offices. Dental hygiene is a regulated health-care profession, one of the largest in Ontario.

Some tips for a healthy mouth

• Remove plaque and food debris by brushing twice a day with a soft toothbrush for two minutes using fluoridated toothpaste.

• Floss or clean between your teeth and scrape or brush your tongue once a day.

• Replace your toothbrush every couple of months, when bristles no longer stand straight or after you’ve had a cold or flu.

• Avoid acidic beverages, such as pop, energy and sports drinks.  Over time acids can weaken tooth enamel, causing sensitivity, unsightly appearance and possibly tooth loss. Rinse with water or chew sugarless gum after eating to help stimulate saliva and reduce acids that cause enamel erosion and tooth decay.

• Choose raw fruit and vegetables or hard cheese for between-meal snacks.  Chewing increases saliva flow, which has a natural cleansing action to help protect the teeth from decay.

• Don’t smoke or use other tobacco products.

• Check your gums and mouth regularly.  Report any changes or signs of gum disease to a dental hygienist.

• Always wear a mouthguard when engaging in rugged sports.  To care for it, rinse well after each use, air dry and keep it in a storage case at a moderate temperature.

• Visit a dental hygienist for regular professional cleanings, oral assessment, customized home care and dietary counselling.

For more information on these and other oral health matters, talk to your dental hygienist, or visit

Author: Kim Ivan, RDH Author is a registered dental hygienist for 24 years; lectures and contributes articles on oral health issues; president elect, Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association and recipient of the Distinguished Service Award and Community Service Award.

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Posted on 28 April 2010 by .

What types of agencies are out there?

Executive search firms and employment agencies search for candidates in response to employer requests or the demands of the job market. They also serve very different client groups, so it is important to understand the difference before selecting a service.

Employment Agencies

The best option for recent graduates or those with limited experience is an employment agency, (also known as a staffing agency, personnel agency, placement firm, or employment firm). They are used by employers looking to fill short-term (temporary) vacancies and entry-to-mid level permanent jobs. Registering with them can be a useful way to access opportunities in companies that recruit through agencies instead of advertising their positions.

Executive search firms

Also called “headhunters”, these firms recruit candidates who are already employed or have significant work experience. They also negotiate the contract between the employee and employer. Sample positions include high-level positions from senior management to chief executive officers. Generally these services are not that helpful for new graduates (especially those with limited work experience).

What kind of work can I get through an agency?

Temporary Positions

Temporary work is not for everyone. You must be open-minded enough to try all sorts of different jobs, and flexible enough to take or lose work with little notice. However, because of its unique nature, temp work can help you:

  • build skills and gain varied experience
  • gain exposure to many different work environments
  • make many new contacts for your network
  • get considered for unadvertised permanent positions
  • earn cash (you will be paid by the agency, who will invoice the employer)

Permanent positions

Permanent positions found through agencies are often in the financial and business industries. They typically include administrative, marketing, financial, IT, or engineering roles but there are also a wide variety of specializations. Some agencies focus on specific areas and you can use the resources listed below to find the best agencies for you.

The contract between you and the employer is negotiated by the agency and is the same as a real job offer. The employer pays the agency an additional fee for interviewing you, checking your references, and making the match.

Selecting the right agency

There are over 700 employment agencies and search firms in Toronto alone. To find listings, use the resources and websites recommended on the right hand side of this page.

To protect yourself, and make sure you find the right agency for you:

  • check the type of positions they fill and ensure that their clients are from fields you are interested in
  • determine which type of work appeals to you — temporary or permanent — and find an agency that specialize in it
  • gather information about an agency’s reputation, number of years in business, and job seekers’ satisfaction
  • ensure that you are not providing any personal information such as your social insurance number before you have been placed in a job
  • find out how they are going to circulate your information to employers
  • verify that the service is free for job seekers — reputable agencies and firms make their profits from employers, not job-seekers

Registering with an agency

Apply to more than one agency. Each firm has only a certain number of clients, so the more firms you register with, the broader range of opportunities available to you. Here are the steps to take when registering:

  1. Visit the agency’s website to learn more about them.
  2. Send in your resume – most prefer you do this by e-mail. Indicate the types of roles and industries you are interested in. A cover letter is not necessary unless applying to a specific posted position.
  3. Follow up with a phone call to ensure they have received your documents. Inquire if they have a specific recruiter for your industry of interest.
  4. If the recruiter thinks you may be a good match for the agency’s clients, you will be invited for an interview. Dress professionally, bring a copy of your resume, and prepare appropriately. The interview will typically be followed by a testing session which may take a few hours.
  5. Be prepared to discuss which positions would be suitable for you. The recruiter may not have a job for you right away, so be patient and keep in touch.


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News & Technology: The World is One Click Away

Posted on 28 April 2010 by .

I can imagine how years ago my uncle would sit on his chair and read the day’s paper of The New York Times. But as I grew up, technology certainly matured as well. Internet, in particular, became more accessible; I no longer had to sit through the nagging speed of dial-up because of a certain little invention called “wireless internet.”  And now, my uncle no longer holds and tosses the flimsy sheets of newspaper, but reads from a bright laptop screen that sits in his lap. The world of news has entered the age of the internet.

News on print often has very little room for on-the-spot occurrences because the production of printed news can be lengthy. First, the reporter must gather information in order to create an article. Once that article is created and edited, it is sent under the press, or reproduced on paper, and then sent out to the residents. A person will most likely pick up a newspaper in the morning a few days after the event s already happened.

As a matter of fact, the events, unanswered questions or said statements of an event maybe undergoing change at that very moment when one is reading about that event in the paper. So how exactly can one catch the very essence of a newspaper story? News featured online is a much better choice because news online offers so many features that print news can never offer. For instance, online news can make continuous updates almost every minute on the latest news.  A single article on the front page of your favorite news sight could have been posted not minutes, but seconds before. The instant breaking of the latest stories is tremendous, for it enables the reader to be updated almost every moment on current issues.

On print news, flipping and fumbling through the large lengthy pages is the only way one can arrive at the desired article. Newspapers are also notorious for their thick-sheeted piles composed of different sections that are loosely bonded by folded creases and tucked in within each other. A newspaper is like a Matryoshka doll: when you open up a newspaper, the arts section is within the sports section, which is within the local & state section, which is within the business section, which is within the news section…it seems that the fun keeps going on and on….

Luckily, the easy access, navigation and organization of online news alleviate this Matryoshka doll-like game. Unlike turning pages, there are many wonderful tools on online news databases that can bring you to your desired article within a click of time. The sections of the newspaper are separated by different links. You can simply click on the section you wish to look at, navigate through its page and easily find the article you were searching for.  Search bars are also beneficial. One keyword leads to a thousand articles. For academics, online databases are especially beneficial for student research papers and essays. Online archives contain articles from previous years and stores information that is usually scattered in many different places.  Online archives assuages students’ search for primary source news articles by providing different links to certain years instead of different locations. That way, students would not have to even leave home to obtain the information they seek.

Though online news is a phenomenon for today’s news, there are still quite a few who prefer to stick with the old-fashioned way of reading news on print. Some feel uncomfortable from the effects of technology. “I know that it’s the age of technology but I really hope that printed magazines and newspapers don’t disappear,” says Haley Coopersmith. “I get horrible migraines from reading off of a computer screen for too long.” Technology can be smart but foolish, beneficial but harmful, and precise but flawed and the same time. The technological breakthroughs may be bring up more questions about the credibility of news sources, yet nevertheless can lead to a more productive and updated society.

Author:Sophia Chawala

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BoobQuake! Shake it Baby!

Posted on 28 April 2010 by .

Cause and Effect is a complex theory; from mind boggling metaphysical claims to developments in the Butterfly Theory, we have heard it all. But that is the story in the scientific realm and religious fundamentalists don’t necessarily agree to the scientific claims.  Religion and science have always been at the daggers end and as expected they don’t agree upon the blueprint of the theory of cause and effect as well.

Our kids learn about the cause of earthquakes in elementary school but somehow an Iranian cleric differs with the objective science as well, according to him it is not the geography that has the answers but the clothing of women.

As history has revealed again and again, women are blamed for almost every fault in the world and I can only imagine how hard it is to take blame for every single evil. As many would say that it’s in the nature of the women to make men go astray, and if you have doubts, reread the story of Adam and Eve. So this Iranian cleric made a similar claim. He said that women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader.

The story doesn’t end here. A student at Purdue University, Jennifer McCreight, 22, wrote a blog post about some “supernatural thinking” put forward by Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, an Iranian prayer leader and asked all the women to wear ‘immodest’ clothing on April 26th to test his claim.

On her facebook group “BoobQuake” she called upon all the women to participate.

anight on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that’s your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. If not, I’m sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn’t rumble. And if we really get through to him, maybe it’ll be one involving plate tectonics.

So, who’s with me? I may be a D cup, but that will probably only produce a slight tremor on its own. If you’ll be joining me on twitter, use the tag #boobquake!”

So what happened, when all women were out on the streets flaunting themselves to make a point?

According to the United States Geological Survey website there were 45 earthquakes worldwide as of Monday evening, including a 6.5-magnitude earthquake southeast of Taiwan and a 5.4 near the South Sandwich Islands region. In fact, over the last six days the number of earthquakes has ranged from 41 to 48.

But the truth is on any given day there is seismic activity. Did Boobquake have any effect on the earth? Apparently not.

Well, the scandalous clothes didn’t cause the earth to shake, but surely gave an incentive to all us men to come out and ‘support’ the enthusiasts who claimed that science wasn’t as boring as it is reputed to be. Surely that was one interesting experiment that negated the thesis that women don’t have the power to make the earth rumble. I am sure the feminists will remember this contribution to the theory of cause and effect in golden words in coming times!

Author: Rahul Mehta

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A Cancer Story: How Cancer Has Been a Good Thing

Posted on 28 April 2010 by .

You must understand that on my mother’s side, we stick together. Everybody knows everybody’s business and we make it our business to know everybody’s business. We could never let someone go through a difficult time alone.

As expected, Aunt Vivian lost her hair, which is much worse for a woman than for a man. We joked that she should just start wearing a hijab; she wouldn’t have to worry about her hair! We went wig shopping instead. Wigs seemed like something actors had to wear. They are supposed to be for a disguise, but many wigs go to cancer patients who are trying to disguise themselves as healthy people.

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Let me tell you, we opened a lemonade stand. Since Aunt Vivian got sick, it seems our goal (and hers) was to do more things together. We have organized family outings, had more parties and dinners, hung out leisurely on Sundays to watch movies, and in general become so much closer as a result.

I suppose we’ve been doing these things to keep Aunt Vivian’s mind off of chemo, but I believe that inside we have other reasons. When cancer happens to someone so close to you and you can see his or her pain, you realize that your time on earth cannot be wasted. And the time you do have should be spent with the people you love.

All of the barbeques, bowling nights, baking and cooking competitions, game nights, all of these things have brought us closer together. It’s funny to say that cancer did that.

Aunt Vivian also realized how precious her life is. She spent most of it in New York in her home in the Bronx, raising my cousin and baking her delicious better-than-the-bakery cookies, but she developed a new side to her that we welcomed with open arms. She has to do it all. Aunt Vivian has been on more vacations in the past few years that she has been on in her entire life. She has vacationed to all types of places that boast warm weather and beautiful beaches, swum with dolphins, been on a helicopter ride, and danced a lot more. Through her illness came a clarity; life is just too short to stay inside!

My family and I were so glad that after her battle, the cancer went into remission, or seemed to have subsided. For about 5 years, Aunt Viv had continued living her new, happy life. Then last year, we got the news that the cancer came back and it seems worse than the last time. My cousins and I, still extremely close, are now going to take a stand against cancer. This time, it’s to help end cancer all together.

This Saturday, May 1st, we will be participating in the Revlon Run/Walk to fight womens’ cancers (breast, ovarian, cervical, skin, etc.). We will walk from Time Square to Central Park along with thousands of others who are currently battling cancer, walking in memory of someone who succumbed to cancer, or like us, walking in honor of a fighter.

YOU can help me end cancer. By donating to my personal fund raising page, you will help fund cancer research and also get medical care for underprivileged women with cancer. With all of our support, we can hope for fewer cancer stories.


1)     Go to

2)     Click “donate” on the right side of the screen

3)     Click “sponsor a participant online”

4)     Type in my name to find my profile

5)     Make a donation!


–          What is womens’ cancer? Certain cancers that most affect women: breast, lung, colon, endometrial, ovarian, cervical, and skin.

–          1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer (the most common womens’ cancer.)

–          Early detection is the best defense. Young women should have their breasts examined at least every 3 years. Women over 40 should have an annual mammogram.

Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

Due to the increased use of mammography, most women are diagnosed at very early stages of breast cancer, before symptoms appear. However, not all breast cancer is found through mammography. The most common symptoms of breast cancer are a change in the look or feel of the breast, a change in the look or feel of the nipple and nipple discharge. These are listed below:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

Adapted from National Cancer Institute [25,26], American Cancer Society [27], and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [28].

Questions? Comments? E-mail

Author: Farah Mohsin

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Sania-Shoaib:Media-Made “Menders” Of Indo-Pak Rivalry?

Posted on 28 April 2010 by .

A week ago when I asked Tarlochan Singh, an Indian Member of Parliament, on what he thought about Shoaib Malik, the Pakistani cricketer, and his wedding with Sania Mirza, an Indian tennis player, he said “you guys [the media] have made a big deal out of it; who cares whether Sania marries Shoaib or an American or anyone else for that matters.”

Really, who cares, who these sport celebrities marry? Well, probably desi electronic media does. A few days ago, a soap opera was created on a news channel where the first 16 out of 25-minute news bulletin time was devoted to showing the plane that had Sania and Shoaib on board, their suite in PC, and the bathroom they would be sharing as a couple. The same scene was broadcasted repeatedly as if it was a footage released by Pentagon. The reporter described the bed at the suite as “this is where Shoaib and Sania will lie down,” and as for the bathroom he said “this is their bathroom that has wonderful white tiles and golden taps.” Disgusting, I know.

Shoaib and Sania’s wedding has been dogged by a number of different controversies, one being Shoaib’s current marital status. Indian and Pakistani media showed Shoaib calling his first wife, Ayesha Siddiqui, his “appa” [the big sister]. On the same day, however, Shoaib miraculously recalled that he at one time had a telephonic nikah with Ayesha. So within a day Ayesha’s relationship to Shoaib changed from being an elder sister to an ex-wife. How ironic!

According to Media, India and Pakistan getting married.

News reports and articles in the media cite Shoaib Malik, the 28-year-old cricket player to be “an outstanding player” whose sportsmanship is compared with Rahul Dravid and Inzamam-ul-Haq. However, as of now, he is banned for a year from cricket by Pakistan Cricket Board and has about $20,000 fine to pay for his misadventures. He is also a failed captain. Similarly, the “top” Indian tennis player, Sania, is currently at No. 92 in the tennis rankings. Is it possible that excessive romance drama breeds mediocrity? Well, we now know where they were both putting all their efforts but of course, to be fair, both players at one time were the stars of their respective games.

Attention deserving, 22-year-old Naseem Hamid, first Pakistani female athlete to win the 100-metre gold medal in 11.81 seconds at South Asian Federation Games held in Bangladesh.

To top things off, Sania’s mom wanted to sell the exclusive rights of covering Sania-Shoaib wedding to a TV station at the cost of several hundred thousand dollars. If they are not making money in their fields, then why not through advertising, right?

The Heaven for the couple made in heaven.

See, where we are getting with this? The media (and the couple’s families’) have transformed this marriage into a circus. They have managed to hype up a simple affair into the glamorous portrait that they probably don’t deserve. As safety measures go, the highest level of security was provided to Shoaib and Sania. However, the bride and the groom left the walima before time.  And, yes, Sania was shooed away crying because of paparazzi-like role desi media had played in Lahore. No wonder Shoaib told one reporter, “Pakistan is known to respect its women” implying he and his wife deserve some privacy. Again, ironic, because their invitation cards were sold for up to $150 each, which did nothing to alleviate the out-of-control situation.

There are thousands of weddings that take place every year between Muslim families living in Hyderabad (India) and Pakistanis. These families were torn apart at the time of partition in 1947, however the family bonds have not broken and familial lineages continue through marriages. You would think that after sixty-two years of independence, the media of the two countries in question (India and Pakistan) would contribute to bettering relationships on both sides of the Indo-Pak border. But the Sania-Shoaib wedding might have done just the opposite of promoting Indo-Pak friendship. Pakistan Traders Action Committee’s chairman, Siddiq Memon, has threatened to launch a country-wide protest over the issue. He said, “The Indian Government should provide security to Shoaib and remove the hurdles being created ahead of his wedding. Otherwise, Indian goods available at trade centers would be set on fire.” Kind of drastic, don’t you think, Mr. Memon?

One newspaper columnist wrote: In India, the rightwing Hindu nationalist political party, the BJP, has asked Mirza to “reconsider” her decision to marry a Pakistani, while more centrist parties have remained silent. In Pakistan, the Islamic rightwing political parties – who would usually have a lot to say about women who wear tennis skirts – have remained silent, while more centrist parties have voiced their congratulations. The contrasting attitudes on both sides of the border actually reveal the same assumption: a wife belongs to her husband’s “household”, so an Indian woman marrying a Pakistani man is unpatriotic, whereas a Pakistani man marrying an Indian woman is carrying home the spoils of victory.

Haven’t we learnt anything from the partition of 1947?

Ayesha Siddiqui, the only “Appa” who became an ex-wife.

Shoaib-Sania wedding hasn’t taken place between a Muslim girl from Pakistan and a Hindu Air Force guy as pictured in Veer Zara. The love affair wasn’t even between, say, Wasim Akram and Sushmita Sen, or between Shoaib Malik and Sayali Bhagat, to get the attention of the media to influence the masses to look more openly toward Indo-Pakistan relations. In fact, before we get all ruffled, let us remind ourselves, that this is a consensual love marriage between two muslims. Shouldn’t the patriarchal societies in the countries be happy that a traditional intra-community marriage is taking place, instead of giving it the importance that it probably doesn’t deserve?

But as we all know, human nature is fallible, and, well, to be frank, in a male-dominated patriarchal South Asian society, a woman with brazen arms and miniskirts, running up and down the tennis court does attract attention. A LOT of it. Or, at least, that’s what two male psychologists said to us when asked what’s so special about Sania-Shoaib. Believe it or not, it is nothing really! Shoaib isn’t the kind of guy who most women would be attracted to. He doesn’t have those big biceps like Hrithik Roshan or the body that Shah Rukh Khan built for Om Shanti Om. But it’s a different story with Sania. She is attractive and quite dazzling; at least, that’s what the TV footages indicate. And, as far as personal opinion goes, she wore an awful wedding dress. With all the money being spent, she could have afforded a fashion consultant, no?

For all the flak the media is giving the couple (for falling in love and getting married, because obviously it’s a crime, right?!), it is the media who should be under attack. For one, the electronic media of South Asia is in its infant stages. It needs regulation and time to mature. It has played quite a role in raising the issues of common people, but at the same time, it has also glorified not-so-meaningful event like Shoaib-Sania marriage.

It brought attention to 22-year-old Naseem Hamid who was the first Pakistani female athlete to win the 100-metre gold medal in 11.81 seconds at South Asian Federation Games held in Bangladesh. This talented young woman was brought into the limelight by the media. After winning, she was promised a home and other benefits by the government, however after a brief period of her being a role model for young athletes, she was no longer the centre of the attention. And last we heard, she wasn’t given a house as promised by the senior officials of the government. These are the issues that the media should badger the people with, instead of focusing on juicy gossip. Apparently, whatever sells is whatever works.

And the media needs to check its “morality” as well. Glamorizing a guy who switched from calling a woman appa to ex-wife within a day doesn’t really deserve to be on the news at prime time. Maybe at shows like Entertainment Tonight, but not on the news. Plus the media, I was told by my mentor, is a mirror that reflects our society. It needs to be accountable and regulated like all other areas of the society. It cannot be an ultimate god that can make a man hero or a zero in a heart-beat. It has to be responsible on who it portrays and how truthfully. And, in a world with media without morals, shouldn’t we check ourselves before we play a role in accelerating the situation?

And, yes, I don’t care who marries who, when and where, but I have written this whole piece nonetheless. My reasons for doing so are different though.

Author: Asma Amanat

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Change Through Words: What Generation Next Wants?

Posted on 28 April 2010 by .

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”- Barack Obama

And, it was the change that was taking place in the office of the South Asian Generation Next on the afternoon of Saturday, the 24th of April. Eight South Asian writers, came together to discuss issues that are pertinent to being a desi in Canada. The topics of discussion ranged from several issues such as body image, sex education at grade three level, inter-racial dating, generation gap, ignorance about Canadian legal system, school syllabus, current literature and problem teens. A clear pattern that emerged was the constant reference to the “disconnect” between the older and the younger generations.

Through her work with community organization, Poonam feels that the   differences between what constitutes a crime for a South Asian parent as opposed to their children is different in Canadian context. According to her, parents do not consider vandalism as offensive as outright violence. When asked about the possible rationale for disregarding vandalism as illegal, Meureen answered that perhaps the reason lies in what is evident in South Asia where physical violence tops off almost everything. He felt that since violence is visible in South Asia, it appears to be a huge “deal” to the parents here in Canada.

Furthermore, the concept of honour is huge in South Asia, and this concept is what parents here want to preserve. At this point, Asma asked Poonam, “What is ‘back home’? Do you think India is ‘back home’?” She pointed to the arbitrariness of the phrase, where “home” may be a constructed image in the imagination as opposed to an actual home in the place of origin. However, Poonam smiled wryly and didn’t hesitate to answer “yes”. For her, going back to India does not feel like going on a vacation, but is akin to returning to a place where she feels a sense of belonging. At the same time, Poonam did not express any disconnect between her life in Canada and her holidays in India.

Media was also the center of the discussion, where I felt that it contributes to the disconnect that many South Asians of our generation feel in comparison to our parents who may want to hold onto traditions back from their place of origin. We want to somehow emulate the media’s constructed image of the Canadian youth. The Canadian education system compels us to question every angle, and in doing so, we end up questioning previous “truths”. Sometimes, our questions are received by our elders as sacrilegious and they are unable to answer us clearly. With this conflict in belief systems (our community versus our interactions with people from outside our community), we are forced to choose between what is true and what isn’t. Sometimes, we are unable to make a clear choice between different value systems. This results in a confused sense of self.

The group also discussed how there is a difference in the syllabi in Canada, in comparison to the syllabi in South Asia. Everyone in the group agreed how “easy” they found the level of education when they first arrived in Canada. In comparison to the education systems in South Asia, the system here emphasizes on an extended childhood where the difficulty in levels of education is low compared to our experience in studying under the Indian or Pakistani school boards.

Generation Next aims to act as a forum for desi youth in Canada where the political, social, cultural and ethical issues, and their complexities, are taken apart through opinion pieces. Canada is the big umbrella, while South Asian issues within Canada is the small umbrella. As writers, our aim would be to address the issues that would take the issues of the smaller umbrella and explore them in the context of the larger umbrella.

The editors also hope to bring in more youth voices as a part of this ongoing forum – the youth that has been either born and raised or raised in Canadian setting; the youth that is contributing to the Canadian society at all different levels be it the public or private sector. The aim is to discuss issues that burn at the heart of every South Asian Canadian and is relevant to our daily lives.

Author: Sanchari Sur

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‘Honda-Toyota India’ | Dilip joins sis Deepa Mehta in writing the film, “Cooking With Stella”

Posted on 28 April 2010 by .

Always follow your dreams.” That’s what 55-year-old Dilip Mehta always  says, and that is what he did when he put away his cameras and moved away from photography two  years ago. 
Sitting in an armchair on the fifth floor of the Sutton Place Hotel downtown, he laughs and shakes his head, when someone asks him if he would like some coffee. He opts for warm milk sweetened with Splenda, instead. Instantly, I see the East-meets-West in him, and I smile while he continues, 
“I made a shift when most people were checking out their RRSPs and buying their home in Florida. I said ‘no, we’ve got so many things to do in life.’”

The man who co-wrote his first feature film, Cooking with Stella, with his sister Deepa Mehta (who wrote the Oscar-nominated Bollywood film Water) is already working on another project.
 But, Mehta wasn’t always into films. For years, he traveled and worked behind the lens of a camera, capturing images for world-renowned  publications such as Time magazine and National Geographic.
 He decided to create Cooking with Stella when he noticed that the servant-master relationship in India had not changed much since he was a kid.

Growing up, he often talked about this with his sister. 
“It rankles me [ . . . ] to have someone  clean up after you and to serve you at your beck and call,” said Mehta.
 “I don’t think it’s that cool. We have a tendency to dehumanize someone who works for us. We deny them their identity, especially when they’re live-in servants,” he said.
 It’s true. The average Canadian is never exposed to a servant class in North America, so it’s new and different to watch it on TV as though it’s a normal part of life.

Mehta said it all started with a photo essay, but there was obviously an absence of sound, so he turned it into a documentary. He didn’t want people to get caught up in the painful details, however, and forget the issue at hand. Mehta was worried that the viewers would attack the film, instead of trying to understand it, which is why he finally settled on creating a comedy.
 Though the idea had been brewing  in the Mehtas’ minds for quite a while, real people from Dilip’s life – family friends in Toronto, a chef and a Department of Foreign Affairs diplomat – cemented their decision.

However, it wasn’t about the Canadian High Commissions or cooking for Mehta, although he is a fan of both. It was about “observing cross-cultural challenges” and witnessing the culture shock his friends experienced when they had to relocate to India.

When describing his film, Mehta says he kept the focus away from the typical portrayals of India.
 “It’s not Kama Sutra India, it’s not poverty India, it’s not exotic  India, it’s not Maharaja’s India, it’s not cows-elephants-tigers India, it’s the 300 million middle-class kind of India, what I like to call Honda-Toyota India, which is not always the greatest kind of cinema because  poverty makes great cinema,”  he explains.

The film opened on Friday, March 19, but it had already been screened at many theatres and festivals around Canada, including the Toronto International  Film Festival. The content seems to have been generally well received and the recipes and food visuals are both mouth-watering and memorable.
 At first, the film seems to be warning us of something, that servants  can never be trusted. But, as the story progresses, we see what Mehta intended. Even wily cooks and ambitious nannies must be viewed in the context of their surroundings and their histories.

I was one of the few audience members in the theatre who could often be heard laughing aloud at the film’s between-the-lines dialogue. Stella’s jokes, while hilarious to a member of the South Asian diaspora, won’t always make sense to a more diversified audience.
 Part of the reason can be attributed  to the fact that Cooking with Stella is Mehta’s first attempt at filmmaking.
 The film is also unique in that it is neither Bollywood nor Hollywood, but something in the middle, and many people have never seen something  like it.
 Even for avid Indian filmgoers, there is something new to be learned in this movie of cultures and relationships,  and that is also why the film is so interesting – if you can put aside a few far-fetched scenes and the usual sappy Bollywood love story.
 Mehta could not be prouder.
“I love it. Whenever there’s a screening and I’m there, I sit and watch it. I don’t beat myself black and blue. I think positively and I see where I could have done things a little differently. But, I like the film and I hope everyone enjoys it,” he says.

With a small budget of $3 to 4  million, the film has been very lucky in attracting a great mix of people, including actors Lisa Ray, Don McKellar,  Seema Biswas and producer David Hamilton.
 After doing a test screening of Cooking with Stella, Mehta struggled with deciding which scenes to keep and which to delete, because he “loved them all,” he says. He is hoping  to include many of them in the DVD version.

Following this, Mehta has a new fictional film coming out, called The Second Best, which is about the counterfeit drug industry in India. 
“This is going to get active support  from the government of India because the governments are desperately  trying to resolve this major dilemma because it’s life-threatening,”  says Mehta. “20 percent of the medication that is available in India is fake,” he adds.
 The documentary-style film will be shot digitally in December and should be released some time in 2011.
The guru who has seen it all, and is now 57, has a message for aspiring student  filmmakers and screenwriters. 
”Create horizons and then go meet them,” he says. “But, have dreams to begin with.”

Author:Iqra Azhar

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