Archive | July, 2010

I, You or ‘Us’

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

I hung up the phone, embarrassed, shocked, puzzled and without answers. My husband looked up at me, putting down his book on the dining table. I sat down quietly on the couch, still wiping my dry hands on the apron. He got up, sat at my feet and held my hands to stop me from rubbing them against the thick cloth. I looked him in the eyes, “Do you think we made a mistake?”

He had been hearing my conversation with my daughter’s high school teacher. He looked at me clueless, “I thought you would have the answers, you grew up here.”

“Grew up here?” I thought to myself. I was still split up between the so-called east and the modern west. High school from South Asia and then University and job here in Toronto. I was happy. Satisfied, sometimes. Busy in the daylight, confused, puzzled and uncertain in the darks of the night.  I would ask myself, “What more do you want?” I have my liberties, no more excuses to advocate my so-called feminism, a loving, understanding husband, a daughter, a son and a free mind to think. Why after twenty years of dwelling in those ideas was I questioning them again? Hadn’t I made the choice to settle in Canada? To call it Home? To build my nest here? Why was I questioning all my decisions today? Just after one phone call? Hadn’t I been a great mother, better than mine? Hadn’t I helped my kids settle down here better, to integrate, to feel it’s their own? Hadn’t I taught them the right lessons about racism and multiculturalism? Or had I gone too far in teaching them the art of questioning?

I sighed aloud, rested my head at the back of the couch and closed my eyes. I wanted some time to think.

My husband got up and started laying down the food on the table while I sat there torturing myself with my own confused thoughts. After fifteen minutes, we were sitting at our dining table, eating together like one happy North American family.

“Your teacher called today.” I addressed my 17-years old daughter.

She looked confused. “I haven’t done anything that would require my parents and teacher to meet and discuss it like a problem that needs a solution”

“Well, sweetheart, sometimes we do things that we are not aware of. Paid any attention to your body language lately?” I asked her calmly.

“Mom, you know I am a good kid. I wouldn’t offend anyone, even with my body language.” She replied with agitation.

“No dear, you haven’t offended anyone. But why aren’t you hanging out with Rebecca and Daniel? Have you had a fight with your friends?” I asked gently.

“No, why would I have a fight with them. They are nice girls. Asian and White.” She rolled her eyes while passing this as a sarcastic remark.

“Watch yourself young lady. I can sense a bit of racism there.” My husband rebuked her gently.

“What racism Dad? Do you really think this so-called multiculturalism you guys advocate works in real life?” She sounded angry and frustrated.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. One of my nightmares was coming to life. My 17-year-old was speaking of ideas I was still uncertain about. I couldn’t distinguish whether it was she, or was it me who had fed her all those abstract ideas she shouldn’t have worried about. Still, I knew I had to have a rational conversation with her.

“What’s so wrong with multiculturalism? Should someone’s skin color decide their friends?” I knew I would lose this battle with her. I had always lost this with myself as well. How could I make my daughter believe in multiculturalism when I didn’t know myself? It was going to be hard to have this conversation.

“Well, for starters, you are mixing racism with multiculturalism. I am not racist. I don’t think anyone should be. But, it’s not the color of the skin that I am talking about. It’s the conflict of cultures, conflict of languages, morals, ethics, lifestyles. And hence, the choice of friends.” She gave her premises and conclusion, all in one sentence.

“What is at conflict in your life? You girls share the same school talk, same conversations about movies, T.V and what not. Same giggly remarks about boys. What’s at conflict?” I provoked her. I wanted to know more.

“Mom, this is putting me in a bad position. I am brown. Look at me if you need reassurance but brown kids at my school don’t consider me brown. I don’t laugh at their racist jokes, I can’t. But I can’t hang out with my Asian friends either, they speak Mandarin more than English and the only casual conversation we have is about anime. Too impersonal. My Arab friends are too religious for my taste, or even yours. And girls at my age are more into finding boyfriends than friends, so I am not even going to argue for other races. I don’t know, I am confused. I don’t see how people see multiculturalism working so well. I think it’s a crippled society, walking on the support of idealist ideas that we feed everyone everyday, on radio, in classrooms, in political talks. But none of it works.” She took a gulp of water.

“So what’s your point? Or rather your decision?” I didn’t want to give her more material to think, to be confused. I wanted a pragmatic daughter, not an idealist like myself.

“I think I am going to hang out with Ravi and Maha. We get along well. We can speak the same language, can talk about same things at home, can share problems and be understood automatically rather than me explaining why a certain thing can be a problem. You know, it’s easy.” She confidently gave her verdict.

“What about Rebecca and Daniel?” I asked her gently.

“We are good friends. I will hang out with them too but I don’t think we can be very close any more. We differ in more ways than I thought we would back in Middle school. Being kids we shared more than we do as teenagers. Maybe our morals conflict. I don’t know who is right and who is wrong, we are just different.”

“Does being different mean you guys can’t be close friends.”

“Maybe.” She replied sheepishly.

“How so?” My husband inquired.

“I think it’s very natural. We divide into groups according to race, culture, religion, what not. We want an identity. We want to know who we are. Where we come from. What our ideas and ideals are. And when we don’t agree, we no longer have a same goal, or same reasons to stick around and support each other. I don’t know how Mom’s we-are-all-human argument works for her. It doesn’t for me. I like identities, and I like saying it with actions that ‘Yes! This is me.” As Canadians, we all say we are one. But think about it, we just share a passport, and a somewhat similar lifestyle, a government and taxation system. But that is how the system works; its unity on the surface only. We differ and we are different in more ways than I can point out. And I think we are going to be this way unless we have universal morals, universal beliefs and universal ways to live lives.”

“ Well, yes we are different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t connect with each other. If Rebecca breaks up with her boy friend, you would understand her the same way Daniel would. Human emotions and ways to live life aren’t that different if you look deeply. Humans are same in more ways than we give each other credit for.” I still knew that somewhere somehow I believed that multiculturalism could work.

“As I said, I don’t know how your we-are-all-human-argument works for you. Mom multiculturalism works the same way the idea of ‘no wars’ work. It’s just an idea, doesn’t happen in real life. If Rebecca told me she broke up with her boy friend, I wouldn’t understand her concept of dating at this age to begin with. I won’t understand why they aren’t married after 8 years of dating, if it goes that long, or even her uncertainty when she would ask me ‘would he propose?’ You see we use same words but we mean different things. Dating for browns is different than dating in other cultures. It’s a cultural thing that has decided how we live our life. And don’t tell me your culture is wrong, if it were, you wouldn’t have taught me that just like you taught me racism is wrong.” She started sliding her chair back, an indication that she was done. I didn’t stop her either.

***

“Hurry up kids, we are getting late for the picnic!” I shouted to get my family in the car.

We arrived at the park a few minutes late to enjoy the summer sun and grilled chicken.

Our children ran for the grounds with their badminton gear while I grabbed my husband’s hand and went for a walk. It was a beautiful summer day. Everything was perfect except the wild thought running through my head. I looked around to escape the conversation I had had with my daughter but all in vain.

The park was full of people, of every race and culture, but sadly enough they gave me every reason to think that they came from different races and cultures. Small groups of similar looking people, hanging around each other, laughing, playing, enjoying their own world, oblivious to the existence of others; different races, different cultures, same place yet unspoken, unidentified boundaries, erecting walls among us, dividing us all. Our multiculturalism ended there.

Maybe it’s just another idea.

Author: Saniya Zahid

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99-Year old South Asian Athlete

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

At 99 years of age, Fauja Singh is one of the oldest Marathon runners in the world. He has run in over 10 marathons, and has broken 12 UK, European, Commonwealth, and World Records. He had set the British senior records for the 400 meters, 800m, 1 mile, and 3000m. You’re probably thinking, “Hey Billal, I could do that”, well you got a lot of nerve punk! Not only did he break these records, he did it all in one afternoon over the span of 94 minutes.

A bright eyed baby faced Fauja Singh began his running career at the tender age of 81. He soon redeveloped a flare for running and became well noticed when in 2003, he set the marathon world record for the 90-year-old+ category, completing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 5 hours and 40 minutes. Eventually Fauja was asked to appear with David Beckham in the Adidias “Impossible is Nothing” campaign to which Fauja commented, “Who is this David Beckham?” Personally it would have been even funnier if when Fauja met David Beckham he handed him the keys to a Toyota Camry and said, “When you’re parking it, try not to get it scratched, and no joy rides!” Adidas eventually named a shoe-range in Fauja’s honour, while Beckham went onto model underwear. OH! I get it, suddenly a 99 year old Punjabi man from Jalandhar isn’t good enough to model CK underwear; YOU RACISTS!

When asked how he manages to stay in such great shape, Fauja answered, “a daily eight-mile walk and run, no smoking or drinking, plenty of smiling, and lashings of ginger curry.” Fauja also muttered something about the lungs of a Cheetah and radioactivity, but no one was really listening. As you probably already guessed, Fauja gives every penny that he raises from running to charity. Essentially, he gives more away than Lindsay Lohan after 2 Bacardi Breezers. Against popular belief, the number “10999” on Fauja Singh’s shirt is not the year he was born; this is an obvious fallacy as it does not end with letters “BC”. In reality the “10999” is the number of people Fauja Singh has Punjabi-kicked out cold for making fun of his age. So the next time you see Fauja he’s probably going to be wearing the number 11000, while I’ll be wearing a full body. Please don’t hurt me sir. I have a young sister who is very sick…you can go after her instead.

Fauja has also run as one of the torch-bearers for the Athens Olympics in 2004, and has personally been invited by former Pakistani President Parvez Musharraf to run in the Lahore Marathon. Ironically, the last thing Musharraf can ever do is “run” in Pakistan. When asked how he felt about all the attention he was getting, Fauja replied, “It makes me happy. Elderly people are like little children, they like attention.” Now if that didn’t bring a smile to your face, than its fair to say you’re probably a bastard. Finally, when asked when he would stop running, Fauja Singh replied, “When I die”.

Now I’m pretty sure Fauja Singh is never going to read this article. But, if he does, I would just like to say that on behalf of the entire South Asian community, thank you for showing us that it’s never too late to find and do something that you love, and thank you for inspiring us to carry on even in the face of adversity.

Author: Billal Sarwar



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Honouring Ganesh during annual Festival

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

Perched atop an ornate custom-built chariot, the elephant-headed Hindu God Ganesh slowly circled his way around the Sri Varasiththi Vinaayagar Temple in Scarborough Saturday morning at 3025 Kennedy Rd.

This year, as many as 20,000 people were estimated to have participated in the elaborate ceremony, which hosted a number of community leaders, prominent and distinguished citizens, and cultural groups in the Toronto area.

As the diety was pulled by two ropes at the annual Hindu Chariot Festival, thousand of devotees watched outside the temple.

The Chariot festival entering its 11th year is the most important of all annual festivities at Sri Varasiththi Vinaayagar and is a significant event for members of the Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu community within Canada.

The chariot ceremony offers a chance for Ganesh to venture outside of the temple to bless the community.

Devotees make offerings to the god and perform several rituals to show their respect. Some of these include rolling behind the chariot and piercing their skin with hooks to suspend themselves.

While Sri Varasiththi Vinaayagar Temple serves predominantly Sri Lankan and Indian Hindus living in the Scarborough area, all are welcome to attend the celebrations.

Source: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/839865–toronto-area-hindus-honour-ganesh-during-annual-festival

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Meet Professor of Anatomy and Physiology Dr. Rubina Tahir And See How Love For Healthcare Led to Chiropractic

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

Chiropractor Dr. Rubina Tahir graduated from University of Western Ontario where she developed her passion for health, science and the body. She continued her studies at New York Chiropractor College and practiced as a chiropractor for three years at New Jersey. She currently works as a chiropractor in Toronto where she also teaches anatomy and physiology.  Dr. Tahir emphasizes that “pursuing your passion through education is one of the best things that you can do for yourself.”

Though she graduated from a school in the United States, she came back to Canada where she feels at home and wants to serve the community here. Her drive and passion to heath is unprecedented. She volunteers with Canadian Diabetes Association, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and other health related organizations. As if this wasn’t enough to occupy her, she is also the professor of Anatomy and Physiology-Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy.

Working in the health industry, Rubina is proud of Canada’s health care system in comparison to the one in the United States. While some whine about Canada’s lack of healthcare system, she is pleased with how health care in Canada is accessible to all people and that wait times are relatively normal.

Born in Canada and from Pakistani descent, Rubina finds that religion more than culture has played an important role in her life. She says that religion has helped focus and clear her mind. She is thankful to her parents for having such an open and welcoming attitude to all people. It is because of this attitude that Rubina was able to be confident in her beliefs and not fall prey to social and cultural pressures around her. She feels that it was the tolerance of her parents that taught her to have respect for all people.

Rubina’s expertise in health has helped her look to several political parties for their take on different issues pertaining to her field. She laughingly states that the best of each political party should be taken to make a new political party of its own. Nonetheless her political views are shaped by her brother who is a lawyer.

Dr. Rubina Tahir with her dad

On her previous trip to Pakistan, Rubina’s eyes were opened to the level of poverty that she came across on the streets. She also understood many of the things that were taken for granted such as clean drinking water. And of course, wedding festivities were also an exciting experience in Pakistan, something which lacks comparison in Canada.

Concerning when she will get married herself, Rubina feels that it is something that is out of your control and when the right person comes it will happen.

Rubina’s future goal is to have a chiropractor practice of her own and continue her joy of teaching people about health and the body.

Author: Asma Amanat


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Abishek Mathur, Disclosing the Secret Recipe of Mehndi Masala Masti’s Success

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

We first saw Abhishek Mathur, the Co-founder of Masala Mehndi Masti (MMM) at the grounds of CNE near food vendors’, talking on his little walkie talkie, staring at a piece of paper that later turned out to be MMM’s schedule.

With mellowed passion and drive, Abhishek along with MMM’s co-founder Jyoti Rana and about 120 volunteers, celebrated the 10th anniversary of MMM this year.

At the time of MMM’s inception, the co-founders thought that “there’s lack of events where South Asians can take their non-South Asian friends to, where a South Asian can tell his colleague at work that “check out this event [MMM].” The idea was not so much to raise awareness of South Asian culture “but to share it” with all Canadians. MMM’s team wanted to hold an event in Downtown Toronto and not Mississauga, Brampton or Scarborough because it “ghettoizes” the event, Abhishek says over the sound of music on which Indian Cultural Association (ICA) from York University was performing.

MMM is a free festival so that Canadians have access to the event and everyone regardless of their income can come and enjoy themselves. “Our culture must be accessible and available to everybody,” Abhishek says while the sun shone over his sun shades. The event is attended by all ages from toddlers to grandparents.

Culture, however, is a very broad term. The festival like MMM can only attempt to represent diversity within South Asian culture and in mainstream Canadian society. “We’re South Asians from Trindiad, Fiji, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, UK. We’ve a history of thousands of years, and a culture that has enhanced” unlike Egyptian and Greek or Roman culture that has died.

MMM, says Abhishek, is not a South Asian festival. “It is inspired by South Asian culture though.”

It is a “unique” event in the sense that it encourages other communities within the fabric of Canadian society to be part of the festival. “We fly Canadian flag only,” says Abhishek who coordinates the event during his time off from a full time job in Dubai.

“We wanted to shake things up…we didn’t want an event that was run in traditional, classical , old-school style where things don’t run on time. We didn’t want an event where 50 years of Indian independence or 25 years of some Pakistani event is celebrated.”

When we asked Abhishek the vision of MMM for next ten years, he told us that when he and his partner started the event, “we thought there should be a time when this festival will not be required. Our culture has become so much the part of the mainstream culture, [that] you’ll hear tabla sounds [if you tune in a radio], [there’re] so many brown faces on TVs.”

But is there enough South Asian representation?

Abhishek’s frank response is “there’ll never be enough..we’ll never be satisfied.”


Author: Asma Amanat

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Masala Filled Masti at Exhibition Place

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

This weekend, Exhibition Place in Toronto was colored with decorations of Mehndi Masla Masti festival. From food vendors to concerts, singing competitions to artist performances, senior idols to Bacha party, every moment was fun filled. The aromas of South Asian spicy food and performances by few recognizable faces were worth the drive.

MMM Opening reception_Performers

Crowd at the Event

Bacha Party Performing Tabla

MMM Opening Reception_Boman Irani presented with Canadian government citation for his contribution to the arts by Senate Salma Ataullahjan

The concept behind this festival is to share the South Asian culture with non-south Asian friends. Pleasantly, we encountered many non-south Asian faces enjoying the music and shopping for South Asian crafts. Artists like Amaan and Ayan Ali Khan, Toronto tabla Ensemble, Salman Ahmed from Junoon, Suzzane D’Mello and Jorge Miguel pleased the crowd. Boman Irani, the famous mamoo from the film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S was also available to chitchat and interact with his fans.  Although, the rain on Saturday made it hard for the 120+ volunteers to remain steadfast on their posts but nonetheless the event marked its 10th anniversary with great success.

MMM Opening Reception_ Senate Salma Ataullahjan

MMM Opening Reception_Salman Ahmed


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Electronic résumés

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

MANY EMPLOYERS REQUIRE APPLICATIONS TO BE SUBMITTED BY E-MAIL or directly to their company website. To ensure your application is received in an easy-to-read document, there are steps you can take to ensure it is properly formatted. Typically, this involves preparing a plain text version of your application materials.

When applying by e-mail

Employers provide a variety of responses in terms of how they like to receive their applications:

• 87% preferred to receive résumés as attachments instead of in the text of an e-mail;

• 33% preferred the cover letter in the body of e-mail;

• almost 50% liked the cover letter attached (some said as a separate file from the résumé while others wanted it combined in one file with the résumé).

So how should you apply? You need to try to find out what format the employer wants by reading the posting carefully, checking the organization’s website or calling and asking. If you are going to attach your résumé it is recommended that you save it in a Rich Text Format (RTF) or as a PDF to ensure it can be opened by a variety of word processing programs. If you don’t know what format is preferred, experts say the safest action is still to send a plain text résumé in the body of the e-mail (see Creating a Plain Text Résumé below). This type of résumé is readable by all computers, no matter which program is being used.

Using online applications

Online forms automatically submit your application to the employer’s database. Often they include specific questions of interest to the employer. Have your plain text résumé  available when applying so you can copy and paste the information into the appropriate fields on the form. Employers may ask you to paste a cover letter into the form—so have that ready too. Enter all information carefully—you won’t get a second chance!

Helpful hints

• Ensure all your personal information is correct.

• Double-check your e-mail address. It will likely be the primary method of communication.

• Select a password that is polite and inoffensive, and record it in a place you will remember.

• Print a backup copy of each page of the questionnaire.

• Provide a narrative answer if requested—do not write See résumé. Employers use these answers as an indication of your communication skills and your ability to follow instructions. Try to prepare in advance; applications can sometimes be time limited.

Using résumé databases

Another online application alternative is posting your résumé on a résumé database, often found on job boards. Note that there are drawbacks such as privacy concerns. Consider using a service which offers some level of confidentiality such as Monster.ca or JobShark.com.

However, don’t expect your dream employer to start pounding on your door—the success rate using these sitback-and-wait methods to find work is quite low.

Creating a plain text (or text only) résumé

First open your résumé file in a word processor, then save your résumé as a text only document. Open your text résumé using a text editor such as Notepad and make any necessary changes.

Helpful hints

• Bold, italics, bullets, and various sizes of fonts will not appear in ASCII (the language of plain-text files). Instead, use capitals for headings.

• Most e-mail programs wrap text at about 65 or 72 characters. Therefore it is a good idea to put no more than 65 characters with a hard return at the end of each line (ie. press the enter key). If you don’t, any characters after this point may be dropped down to the next line and your résumé will appear disorganized.

• If your résumé contains page numbering, remove this information from the plain text version.

• Put key information at the top of your résumé. Don’t make the employer scroll to find it.

• Proofread carefully! An e-mail with a mistake will often end up being deleted.

• Do a test. Practice by sending an e-résumé to a friend (preferably one who uses a different e-mail

• Make your subject line informative, perhaps the title of the position for which you are applying.

Scannable résumés

If you are applying for a position and you know the employer will be scanning your application electronically into their database, there are certain steps you will want to take to ensure that your résumé will be scannable:

• Always apply online if given the option, then you won’t have to worry about whether or not your paper copy will be scanned clearly into the database.

• Use a standard 12 point font such as Helvetica, Arial, or Times New Roman, and substitute capital letters for fancy formatting.

• Avoid italics, underlining, graphics, bullets, columns, and shading.

• Print on the best quality printer possible using plain but good quality white paper and don’t fold or staple your résumé.

• You will also want to include keywords to increase the likelihood that your résumé will be found when the company does a keyword search. If you do, either put a separate section on the first page just after your name and address, or make sure you use keywords throughout your résumé. Keywords can include position titles, skills, education, industry terms—look at

the job description for ideas.

HTML or web résumés

A web résumé is one which contains hyperlinked, clickable text and images created in HTML. Create this type of résumé if you want to promote yourself on the Internet. A web résumé allows for greater creativity, but be careful—keep your résumé professional at all times, otherwise it is more likely to be a disadvantage rather than an advantage!

Suggested resources

Online recruiting methods keep changing, so it is a good idea to stay current with the trends in electronic résumés and cover letters.

Websites

• The Riley Guide ► www.rileyguide.com/eresume.html

• E-Resumes ► www.eresumes.com

Source:

http://www.careers.utoronto.ca/libResource/tipsheet.aspx?tr=dfd8ca7e087f4d66834607812b8c27a6

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Go With what You Believe in…. Amit Tandon – - Senior Advisor of East Meets West at Wilfred Laurier

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

Fourth year Wilfred Laurier business and communications student Amit Tandon stresses that in order for your dream to become a reality, you need to first visualize it. Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, he says “you must be the change you wish to see in the world”. He is a senior advisor of “East Meets West” dance group at Wilfred Laurier University. He passionately talks about the evolvement of his dance crew from when it was first established in 2003.

Having a smaller talent pool from which to pick dancers from in contrast to larger universities such as U of T or Waterloo, “East Meets West” had its fair deal of challenges. Often faced with no facility or funding through which to practice their dance routines, the students would often find themselves searching for empty spaces in the outdoors, using torch lights when it became too dark.  Despite all of these challenges “East Meets West” recently won awards for the best dance crew, best classical dance, best artistic director at the annual South Asian Alliance Culture Show- one of the biggest of its kind in North America. Pulling dance talent from all over Ontario, this culture show draws a pool of students who often travel five hours just for a chance to dance alongside their peers.


From being last place when they first begun, to becoming first place just recently- Amit asserts that “we found a way to turn our failures into successes…we won because of hard work and passion.”

“East Meets West” was primarily conceived to create a fusion of western and eastern culture on campus.  The group has received numerous awards on campus, such as one for being the most ‘active group’ and one for being the ‘most improved’. The group also takes part in many events around campus whether it is Holi, Diwali or  attending bazaars.

When asked what business and communications has to do with dance, Amit replies that it is important to do something that you enjoy. “It’s not always the pay, but what you believe in”. He explains how as a child he dreamt of being a Bollywood star, but his parents steered him to a more ‘realistic’ path, partly due to the fact that he could not speak Hindi too well. However, his experiences on campus brought back his passion for performance, and helped him succeed in completing his degree.

When asked about the ways in which “East Meets West” is involved in political or social issues on campus, Amit urges to not underestimate the significance of dance. Not only do dancing competitions raise money for causes such as the Canadian Cancer Society, but they provide experiences to learn about the diversity of South Asian culture- ranging from learning about the different costumes, productions, lifestyles within India but also all around Asia.

The biggest issue of our generation Amit asserts, is the dilemma of identity crisis- to both know and represent who you are.

One of the greatest gifts of being part of such a cultural dance show is to see how the different genres of music come together under one roof. A lot of people like to break up the genres and find differences within the music. The significance of dancing, Amit asserts, is that we visualize all of this music as one.

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“Being Different”

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

For many, life can appear meaningless unless it is imbibed with a purpose. Finding your identity can often go hand in hand with discovering this purpose. Identity is the core from which we pursue our passions and goals, but can also rope us in to a confining belief of who we are.

For a great deal of South Asian citizens in Canada, this identity is derived from culture, religion and traditions. While this elevates us into a sphere of exoticism and purpose, it can also restrict us from a level of personal discovery. What I have always wondered though, is if this pursuit of identity is a one-track process that we pursue throughout life? Another possibility is that we rediscover this identity through each stage of life, from childhood to elderhood. Rather than identity becoming more solidified as we move forwards, it may just redefine itself during each stage. My interest is in discovering how this identity varies from the point we are in our life.

In North America, South Asian identity for a child will be rather different from that of an elder. A common belief is that once you reach the stage of elderhood, you will understand and accept what it means to be a South Asian in North America. However this may not be the case, and there may be new complexities that are added into the equation. Can we ever truly be comfortable in a transplanted culture?

Children have a wonderfully perceptive ability. Their young minds are not as littered with politics and other complications, and they are often known to speak of some uncomfortable truths. So what does a South Asian child in North America feel about his or her identity in relation to their peers?

This can vary based on a number of factors. For example, we may consider what area of Canada they live in, because surely someone growing up in Mississauga or Brampton will have a very different experience. For example, I grew up in a place called Port Elgin which had a population of 6000 people and a negative percentage of South Asian individuals.  My experience growing up was very focused on trying to integrate as much as possible, since I embodied the term “different.” As a kid, being different doesn’t seem to have much intrinsic value, nor does it provide us excitement for “going against the stream.” A child is simple, and wishes for their life to be as such. This simplicity is, truthfully, harder to find when you are trying to explain why your mom packed you a roti in your lunch and why you cannot go out because you have to pray instead.

For children who grow up in a populated South Asian region, their experience will reflect a child who is surrounded by similar environments from home to school. They don’t have to learn to adapt as much, and they may not even consciously think about the fact that they are “different.”

Who figures out their identity better in this scenario? It depends on your notion of identity. In some cases, South Asian kids residing in predominantly Caucasian communities may have a greater drive to discover who they are and how they fit into the world around them. South Asian children that live in areas more “brown oriented” may feel too comfortable in their environment, and never think to question or analyze their identity.  Similarly, however, these same kids may find the high population of South Asians as a motivation to push past their cultural label, and to discover something beyond it.

While Childhood as a stage does not offer the peak of self-discovery in one’s life, it does allow for a South Asian child to begin thinking more generally about how they fit into the world around them.

Author: Myuri S. Komaragiri

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Hate overtakes tolerance

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

THE escalating violence in India frightens me. Still more frightening is the shape it is taking. It has turned communal, regional and ideological in various places. Whatever its direction, it indicates a trend where the rule of law is lessening and force is gaining recognition.

I had imagined that political parties would not stoke fires and would, in fact, find a way to douse them. Instead, I find some of them organising their cadres and arming them to jump into the fray. For the first time, Hindu terrorists are also active.

The Maoists, however misdirected, are at least saying that they do not believe in the ballot box. Their trail is marked by blood in at least half the 200 districts they dominate. There is no stopping the Maoists who have targeted civilians, apart from the security forces. How do they serve their cause, which is supposed to be the welfare and emancipation of the people?

The stone-pelting incidents, believed to be instigated by the Hurriyat, against security forces in Indian Kashmir are taking place every now and then. This has been the scene for the last one year.

The excesses committed by the security forces there are reprehensible and there should be an inquiry by a judicial commission to find out why they indulge in violence. The promise of zero tolerance doesn’t mean anything when children are killed in action taken against agitators. I do not expect anything from the extremist elements because they are out to destroy the polity and disfigure democracy. It is for New Delhi to ensure that no force runs amok and there is proper punishment for those found guilty.

The latest addition to the list of brutality is ‘honour killing’. In recent months, one has heard about scores of such killings taking place in northern India, particularly in Haryana, where the khap panchayats have openly backed these killings. Several young boys and girls getting married have been the victims. In some cases, the couples were driven to the edge and committed suicide.

The neighbouring state of Punjab too has joined the law violators. A strange example is that of a non-resident Indian killing his stepdaughter because he did not approve of her marriage to a low-caste Sikh in Brussels. Television networks have rightly brought such brutalities to light.

But one unfortunate fallout is that people are beginning to equate violence and ‘honour killings’ with a tainted system. Their confidence in it is turning into cynicism. They are finding the law and order machinery an instrument of tyranny in the hands of rulers and their cohorts who stage-manage false encounters to eliminate the opponents and trump up cases to harass the critics.

Whether it is a single-party government or a coalition, the methods employed are no different. The worst culprits are civil servants. The ethical considerations which once guided their action have dimmed. The desire for self-preservation has become the sole motivation for their behaviour.

In the process, the people have been disillusioned. They have come to believe that justice is only a relative term. They have lost the awareness of what is right and do not realise what is wrong. They find the dividing line between right and wrong, and moral and immoral, sinking in the sands of opportunism and oppression. They are at a loss as to how to act. No wonder they fall prey to what is promised by a demagogue or the person with the gun.

Political parties should realise that any appeal to violence in India is particularly dangerous because of its inherent disruptive character. We have too many fissiparous tendencies in the country to take such risks. Violence, even otherwise, leads to conflict and disruption. It is absurd to imagine that the result of a conflict would be the victory of socially progressive forces. I find the Left sometimes thinking along these lines.

In India, diversity, which to date had been the nation’s forte, is turning into separate entities. Consensus, which is the cornerstone of democracy, has become so difficult that even the basics cannot get the approval of parliament. Yet there is inherent unity at which foreigners marvel.

I recall that when I was India’s high commissioner to the UK, the Soviet Union was tottering. Mrs Margaret Thatcher, the then British prime minister, told me about the advice she had tendered to Moscow: learn from the example of India which has stayed together for hundreds of years despite people professing different religions, following different castes and speaking different languages.

Mrs Thatcher asked me what I attributed it to. It took me some time to explain to her that we in India did not divide things into black and white. We believed there was a grey area which we had been expanding for decades to strength our pluralism. Twenty years later, I feel what I told Mrs Thatcher is changing to the detriment of India.

Unfortunately, the spirit of tolerance or the sense of accommodation, which provided the glue for India’s integration is fading. Parties which are attempting to deny or defeat the ethos of secularism are harming the country’s unity and its catholicity. They have their own agenda and want to pursue it even at the expense of the nation’s unity. Methods do not matter to them.

I believe in the basic dictum that the wrong means will not lead to the right results. This is no longer an ethical doctrine, but a practical proposition. India can disintegrate like the Soviet Union if the nation does not awaken to the dangers of conflict. The Maoists and all political parties should eschew not only violence but also the language of violence which instills division and hatred. The situation is too uncertain for the country to remain complacent.

Author: Kuldip Nayar

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