Archive | November, 2011

Willing to Help Aspiring South Asian Journalists : Rubina Ahmed-Haq

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

“I realized that being a reporter is not always the easiest thing to do but being a business reporter reporting for a number of different publications or TV stations is a lot better for me.”

“..We need a change in our society, we need more access to better jobs, we need more people working, period..”

By her own admission, Rubina Ahmed-Haq has her fingers in “all different types of media.” This young and spirited South Asian journalist is a regular contributor on CBC Steven and Chris, writes a weekly column on RateSupermarket.ca, is a much-loved appearance on Roger’s South Asian Focus TV as a financial expert, and is the finance editor at CondoLife Magazine in Toronto. She also boasts a sterling career background in her ten years of journalism. ABC, CBC, and even BBC World Service—she’s been there and done that all. She shares the experience with Generation Next.

Following her education in sociology at York University, Rubina got a PG Diploma in journalism from Humber College to improve her job prospects in the field and joined a station that is now Omni. Her deep interest in international and particularly South Asian politics led her to work for ABC News in Pakistan.

“That experience was great because I met a lot of people working in that part of the world that I would never have access to,” she says.

Following ABC, she returned to Canada and joined back the station she was previously working with, but the longing to work outside Canada still remained. She joined BBC World Service, rubbing shoulders with some of the best journalists in the world.

Rubina curiously explains the different experiences of working in Pakistan and the UK. Whereas her stint in Pakistan had all the demands that are made of journalists associated with any Western media, it came with some issues peculiar to the particular culture.

“Because I am a Pakistani, people sometimes did not take me seriously. I found that really frustrating because working in Canada I never had that problem. When I tried to interview politicians or somebody who was important in a company, they did not take you seriously because there was more of a feeling that a woman shouldn’t be asking these questions,” says Rubina.

In England she faced the opposite scenario. People were eager to help her out as she was a guest in that country.

As exciting as her experience might have been in Pakistan and England, Rubina’s switch to financial journalism was a sweet marriage of luck and circumstances. She had been working for CBC for some years since her return from England when she switched to CP24. And in the very first year of her tenure at the channel there was a huge market crash. As it would happen, the person handling this area for the channel quit abruptly. Rubina seized the opportunity and offered to fill in the role.

“That catapulted me into business and I never turned back,” she says with joy.

She started doing business reporting exclusively and later eased into a freelance role, which she tremendously enjoys. “I realized that being a reporter is not always the easiest thing to do but being a business reporter reporting for a number of different publications or TV stations is a lot better for me,” she says.

Rubina’s love of television has as much to do with the excitement and dynamism of the medium as with her vibrant, outgoing personality. She loves being in front of the camera, connecting to viewers and sharing her personality, which might not come across in print. Moreover, print presents other problems—writer’s block or finding an interesting enough peg to present a story—that TV doesn’t.

She also feels that her ordinary, middle-class background makes her more accessible to and popular with viewers. “I don’t come with a lot of money, had a very normal middle-class upbringing and have a middle-class life right now. I think people like to hear stories from people that are just like them,” she says. The fact that a lot of South Asian women interested in finance and economy can approach her gives her much satisfaction.

Her observation of the Canadian media makes Rubina hopeful for potential South Asian journalists. “There are more South Asians on television than ever before,” she says and feels this is so because of the community’s natural draw towards journalism, telling stories and going into the heart of the matter. The one important advice she has for young aspiring South Asian journalist is for them to find out someone whom they admire, get in touch with them (through email, phone) and seek their advice. She herself receives lots of calls from people asking for guidance and is always willing to offer her advice.

As a young journalist, Rubina is only too aware of the role of social media in disseminating news. “If you’re not connected as a journalist in social media, you are doing yourself a disservice because when something happens around the world, Twitter is the number one place where I go.” She acknowledges the role of newspapers and the traditional television news telecast, but encourages everyone to be on every social channel possible and to actually be actively available on it so others can reach them.

It was perhaps her love of social media that took Rubina to work in the social media department of TD Bank. The short stint that she spent there helped deepen her understanding of the banking sector. However, the corporate world wasn’t the most attractive of fields to be in for her.

“I didn’t like the corporate world. As a journalist you will probably agree, there is a need for me to always speak my mind and be as honest to what I feel about issues.”

Closely linked to her liking of social media is her commitment to blogging. She blogs regularly and uses the blog as her landing page, where people interested in her work can find out more about her, her publications and schedule. She allocates a chunk of time every day to update her blog so that it stays current.

Rubina considers herself a liberal journalist and empathises strongly with the young Occupy Movement protestors across the world. She also feels some of the youth participating in these movements is misrepresented because of a few bad elements.

She says, “The core of what they’re trying to do is what we need. We need a change in our society, we need more access to better jobs, we need more people working, period. I wouldn’t say I’d go down and sit with them to support them, but I absolutely understand their frustration and do feel they have a right to voice their opinion for as long as it takes to bring change for good.”

Regarding the movement’s relevance in Canada, she feels the movement in this country is validated by the growing disparities between the super-rich and the middle class. Besides that, some Canadian banks too participated in the US housing crisis and as such people have the right to demand answers of them, she thinks.

Being in the thick of financial journalism, Rubina feels that the Canadian government is taking some steps to keep the economy on track. She mentions measures like raising the interest rates slightly, revising the mortgage rules that would help ensure that people who can actually afford a home get it. At the same time, she observes, like in any capitalist economy, it’s not the government, but big corporations, that eventually control the prices.

What is her view of the constant war between conservative and liberal media outlets?

She feels it is actually a reflection of how people feel in society. “Depending on how you raise your voice, you are put in the conservative or liberal camps and the same goes for the media,” she says.

Although she considers herself liberal, she isn’t closed to writing for a conservative magazine as she feels there is greater need to share ideas and understand different viewpoints. The gap between the two sides is widening, she thinks, because of growing frustration in the society.

At the same time, she advises readers and viewers to not blindly follow or believe any particular publication or media outlet, but to access as many avenues as they can to arrive at an informed judgment.

The fact that Rubina Ahmed-Haq really enjoys her current profile is proven when one hears about her future plans. She wants to continue writing on business and personal finance.

Her next big goal?

“To publish my book that talks about easy ways for people to save money.”

By Bhaswati Ghosh

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Welcome to RBC at 600 Queen’s Plate Drive

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

- L-R: Branch Manager Fahd Amin, RBC Regional President Jennifer Tory, Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford, MPP Shafiq Qaadri (Etobicoke North) with his kids and RBC Regional Vice President Kellie Sauriol.

RBC’s branch at 600 Queen’s Plate Drive was formally launched on Saturday November 19th. The branch will service the community in more than 14 languages. Fahd Amin is the Branch Manager of RBC for this location. Ms. Jennifer Tory, Regional President of RBC, GTA and Ms. Kellie Sauriol, Regional Vice President of RBC GTA were present on the occasion. The ribbon cutting was also attended by MPP Shafiq Qaadri from Etobicoke North and Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford.

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Bringing Canadian Banking Closer to South Asian families

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

L-R: Fahd Amin, RBC Branch Manager at The Queen’s Plate Drive, Etobicoke with Kellie Sauriol, Regional Vice President of RBC

“The thing that makes RBC different and special are our people, our employees and the passion that our employees have for proving advice to our clients to put them in a better place financially,” Kellie Sauriol, Regional Vice President of RBC.

“It’s [the idea of interest free banking] very new to RBC, and we’re working to develop a deeper understanding of it prior to making any type of business decisions,” Kellie Sauriol, Regional Vice President of RBC

Fahd Amin’s family moved westward from their Pakistan home in 2003. That was the year when the SARS epidemic had spread across many countries in Asia, Fahd recalls. Personally, Fahd was seeking a better lifestyle, a brighter future for himself and his family.

 

Back in Pakistan, he was a fighter pilot—a result of his passion and thrill. Once in Canada, he had to look for an alternate career. He started his banking career in 2007. In just over four years’ time, he is already a branch manager of one of the branches of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) located on 600 Queen’s Plate Drive in Etobicoke.  Generation Next chats up with him and gets the bonus opportunity to talk to Kellie Sauriol, Regional Vice President of RBC.

 

Although he didn’t have any formal education in banking, the profession came easily to Fahd.

 

“As fighter pilots, we’re called general duty pilots. We are not just flying the jets, but we do everything on the ground as well, be it administrative, payroll, financial stuff, we would take care of that. That gave me a lot of backing,” he informs.

 

Added to that was the business background of his parents, which meant constant interactions with banks and bankers. That is not to say that this young professional was without his share of teething troubles as a newcomer. At the same time, he remains appreciative of the processes and services offered by the Canadian government, which, he feels helped him reach his present position.

 

Notwithstanding all the help and support he received, it also took some personal drive and passion for Fahd to achieve success within a short span of time. He explains, “There are no Points for Second position .To me, my strategy has always been that you have to be in the number one position. As fighter pilots, we would always say that there can only be one winner. Going up there in the air, only one will survive. So it is survival of the fittest.” Kellie chimes in, “Fahd and I have worked together for several years, even when he was the account manager for business and personal. But you know his point is a good one, I’ve been with RBC for a number of years and my experience has also been that it’s very much a partnership. So Fahd is a great example of someone who worked extremely hard and earns the opportunities he’s been given.”

 

Generation Next is curious to learn RBC’s engagement with the community it serves.

 

Kellie says that RBC has always been a community supporter and corporate donor. She adds, “We are one of Canada’s largest employers and largest donors so being part of the community in the form of employee outreach in communities has been something that is just part of who we are.” In 2010, the bank invested more than $56.6 million with charities in hundreds of communities worldwide. $45.1 million of this was directed to organizations in Canada.

 

We are informed that the branch at The Queensplate Drive was opened “to meet the specific needs of this community…” And so far, she is happy with the response. “We definitely have a significant number of South Asian clients in this community and this branch. But I would say that we also experience that across the broader Toronto region. We get the opportunity to work in a really diverse community,” she says.

 

Humber College is a few blocks away from the branch. Almost 35 per cent of Humber College’s students are South Asians. The bank also welcomes student customers and even helps international students to build credit. Depending on each student’s situation, RBC helps develop student financing packages (student loans, credit cards) that can assist international students with their studies in Canada.

 

Also, a few blocks away is Etobicoke General Hospital. RBC recently hosted a “hoof-a- thon” in order to raise money for the Etobicoke General Hospital. RBC’s employees and their families had joined hands to walk around the Woodbine Race track in an effort to raise money for the hospital and the community.

 

With a view to particularly cater to the South Asian community and to raise awareness about various products and services offered by RBC, the branch hosts monthly seminars. “Last month, we held a seminar for helping small business owners start up their business. We would hold a workshop right here and integrate those people with other professionals in the community so that they can help them grow as well,” Fahd says. He talks about new immigrants from South Asia who often stay with friends or family and are, at times, unacquainted with how things like mortgage work in Canada. For people like these, the branch plans to host a seminar on first-time home buyers.

 

Kellie tells Generation Next’s readers that RBC welcomes suggestions and opinions from clients on which products and services they would like to know more about.

 

Small businesses are of special interest to the South Asian community. More so in today’s job-parched market. Does RBC have any specific schemes or policies to help new South Asian immigrants set up businesses in Canada? In response to this question, Kellie mentions RBC’s Welcome to Canada banking package for both business owners and personal clients. This particular offer includes access to special banking packages, an RBC credit card, an RBC deposit box and preferred pricing so as to make it attractive to newcomers. The bank also offers a full range of packages to business owners.

 

Kellie presents an optimistic picture regarding the use of banking technology by South Asians. “One third of our South Asian clients tell us that if they could do all their business online, they would do that,” she says.

 

To foster diversity within the bank environment, the branch has fourteen different languages spoken, ranging from Punjabi to Hindi and even Tanzanian.

 

There are Muslim members in the community who prefer interest-free banking to regular banking. We are curious to know if RBC has any solutions for them. Kellie evinces her own interest in this area and says RBC intends to explore it over the next year.

 

“It’s [the idea of interest free banking] very new to RBC, and we’re working to develop a deeper understanding of it prior to making any type of business decisions,” she says.

 

From Kellie we also learn about the South Asian community’s growing knowledge of financial institutions, reflected in their acquiring full suites of products, including RRSPs, RESPs and tax-free savings accounts.

 

RBC has also been sponsoring cricket in schools around the GTA. Kellie explains that while this is a step in promoting a healthier lifestyle, the bank also realizes the significance of this sport for certain communities like South Asians. RBC recently made a $25,000 donation towards a new cricket pitch.

 

So what differentiates RBC from its competitors?

 

The Vice President of RBC is thrilled to say “The thing that makes RBC different and special are our people, our employees and the passion that our employees have for proving advice to our clients to put them in a better place financially.”

By Asma Amanat

 

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Mental Health Issues among South Asians

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

The issue of mental health is rarely discussed in the South Asian community. The moment someone talks about mental health, the word “PAGAL”, meaning insane or crazy usually comes to play. But, people with mental health issues are not crazy. For most such patients, the journey is long and painful—one that ends at the gate of “stigma”.

 

At Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS), we see more than seventy clients every year, who suffer from one or multiple forms of mental health issues. Some of the mental health illnesses include depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorders, concurrent disorders and psychosis to name a few.

 

The following are some of our lessons from our experiences with people affected by mental health issues:

  1. They and their families are in denial that they have mental health problems.
  2. They refuse to follow prescribed medicine regimens. They are prone to increasing or decreasing or even not take medication, based on their mood. This can result in a return of symptoms and necessitate hospitalization.
  3. Often the parents or caregivers believe that the patient is “faking”, “lazy”, and needs to “pull up his/her socks.”
  4. Because of their denial, caregivers continue to have the same kind of expectations of mentally ill people as they would have of normal people. Teens who are depressed are still expected to get an “A”, and women who suffer from post-partum depression are expected to get up and cook breakfast for the entire family.
  5. Mental health illnesses are kept “hidden” in the family. PCHS has numerous marital cases where the mental illness was not disclosed to the partner. The partner only found out the seriousness of the illness when the illness becomes serious.
  6. PCHS has also found that “astrologers” make a huge amount of money, “treating” mental health illnesses. While these astrologers may not be able to make anyone better, they sure do become rich in the process.

 

What needs to be done?

In order for us to make any progress, we have to do the following:

  1. Educate the community about mental illnesses.
  2. Many mental illnesses can be cured and many more can be adequately managed.
  3. Medication and counseling together can comprise an effective treatment regimen for mental illness.
  4. If you suspect an individual’s behaviour to be “abnormal”, it is advised to check with your family doctor, and subsequently a psychiatrist.

There is a large South Asian community, but only one South Asian health agency in the entire GTA. PCHS is the only organization which provides help in the mental health field. It is time that the South Asian community demands more mental health services for their people.

 

South Asian Seniors and Health Issues

Elderly people are often isolated in the South Asian community as their loved ones go to work and grandchildren go to educational institutions. Seniors often come to Canada in a healthy state, but their health deteriorates as their length of stay increases. Physical problems often result from ageing, while other reasons may include mental illness and substance use problems, especially the misuse of alcohol. It can be difficult for health care workers, families and even seniors themselves to distinguish between problems related to ageing and those linked to mental illness. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the issues facing older people to ensure they have access to mental health services.

 

It would not be possible to address all the mental health issues faced by South Asian seniors, but a few of the illnesses are:

Depression

Depression is categorized in three stages, a) some depression symptoms, b) moderate to severe symptoms, c) extreme depression symptoms. There is some discussion amongst senior groups that many South Asian seniors are depressed because of loneliness and isolation.

 

Dementia

Dementia is a term used for a group of symptoms associated with non-treatable, irreversible, progressive illnesses that affect the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Late-life dementia interferes with a person’s ability to function normally in social and occupational settings.

 

Addiction

Addiction to alcohol or drugs and elder abuse may also affect seniors. Suicide is sometimes a consequence. These problems are often related to mental disorders. Seniors’ mental health issues also affect family members, many of whom experience caregiver stress and develop physical and mental health problems of their own.

 

Distress–Negative emotions like nervousness, sadness, or hopelessness generally decrease as people age. But as people reach the age of 75 and older signs of distress increase again. Physical problems and loneliness may explain why mental well-being worsens among the elderly.

 

Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS) have two offices to serve you. PCHS has a case manager to serve the seniors who are quite frail and would require home care services. The case manager works to link seniors and their family members to additional services as well. Help is just a phone call away – please call at 905.790.0808.

By Baldev Mutta

 

 

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CAREER CHOICE—WHOSE DECISION?

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

Dilemmas Faced by South Asian Students in Choosing their Career

 

“I don’t really want to become a doctor, but since my parents are willing to pay for it, I’ll just do it.”

Too many times, young individuals face the dilemma of what career path to follow. They constantly ask themselves, “What should I do in life?” and they often get a response like this: “You should probably consider a career in medicine, law, or teaching. This is the right thing to do.”

Advice like this may come from a friend, a sibling, or a loved one. However, most of the time, such advice comes from the individual’s parents. The fact is, many parents want the best for their offsprings and will, at times, push them into disciplines where they believe their child will be successful [read financially]. Mostly, these disciplines include sciences, computer science, medicine, teaching and law. Subjects in the arts field tend to remain as electives –courses that are ‘taken for fun’.

Why do so many young individuals, specifically South Asian young people aspire to be doctors, lawyers, accountants, and teachers? Why has there been an increase in admission to medical schools, law schools and teachers college over the last year couple of years?

As a young South Asian, I can say that many of the applicants are of a South Asian background and the reason why they chose these courses is because their parents felt it was the right thing to do.

Many South Asian parents emigrate from the East to get a better life in the West. In Canada, we see a growing number of immigrants, particularly in certain areas of the GTA.  For many parents, a better life here means for their children to not experience the same hardships they faced back home or when they immigrated to Canada.  One factor that causes parents to pressure their kids to go into fields such as medicine, law or engineering, despite the latter’s possible unwillingness, is because parents become insecure due to the fact they lived tough lives previously. For this reason, many parents pay for their children’s education in full. I remember a student telling me once, “I don’t really want to become a doctor, but since my parents are willing to pay for it, I’ll just do it.”

Young individuals find it hard to live independently because of these factors. Parents need to realize that even though their child may become successful, he or she may end up disliking their career path and bear resentment towards their parents. Such resentment can result in bitter conflicts in families. Parents need to understand that peace of mind is more important than success and wealth.

South Asian parents encourage their children to choose career paths that lead to high-paying and rewarding jobs in the future. Nonetheless, the approach can backfire and clash with a young individual’s identity formation. When young individuals grow up in societies such as ours where there is a huge entertainment and arts scene, they become exposed to a whole new world.

Take for example, ‘Rahul’, a second-year university student who resides in Brampton and is currently studying at Ryerson University in Toronto. He is pursuing a major in Computer Engineering. However, he is also taking many electives in the field of music and film. “I’m majoring in Chemical Engineering because I’ve always been told by elders and my parents that my life will be better and that these are where all the good jobs are at, you know. But when I started commuting Downtown Toronto and spending most of my time here, I realized there’s a totally different culture here. Then I realized that I wanted to do something involving music and film because there is a pretty big music scene in Toronto – one of the biggest rappers right now in the music scene was born and raised in Toronto and that’s pretty cool. That’s why I’m taking classes on film production and music because maybe one day I can work on a production site and produce a music video or something. Well, that’s if I’m not too busy fixing people motherboards,” chuckles Rahul.

Although Rahul’s interests lie in production and music, he is conditioned to think that a job in the engineering field will get him far in life. When asked what his parents would think if he pursued a career in film production, he stated, “I don’t think they would be too supportive or happy with it because it’s not really seen as a realistic job, you know.”

Another aspect to Rahul’s approach is that he went to university to realize he doesn’t like what he is meant to study there. All of a sudden he discovers, he has a passion for film production. He remained unaware of his passion for last 18 years. This is one of the reasons why adults don’t take their kids’ desires seriously.

This is the issue with many a young South Asian youth—they feel that while they are capable of pursuing a career outside the norm, they just don’t believe it’s realistic or that it will get them anywhere. One wonders, if young individuals have the confidence to tell their parents they want to go into fashion design or graphic design as opposed to law or teaching? Professors of youth studies agree on the fact that many young individuals feel as if they need to make their parents happy in order to continue on with their lives and become successful, even if it means burying their career aspirations.

Young individuals should rely on guidance counsellors rather than their parents for advice. Guidance counselors can often become a voice of reason for young individuals. Speaking from experience and having been through teacher’s college, I can say that I thought – and was told – that it was the right thing to do. I graduated teachers college in March of 2011 after graduating from York University.

Like Rahul and many other students, I started off in a major because I was told it would be good for me. After a year into the program, I dropped out and switched into a discipline that focused on research and writing and, of course, I got the whole “Where is this going to get you” speech from many individuals. But at the end of the day, regardless of what many might think is “the right thing”, I realized that a career in writing and research—though different from the norm—is something that interests me and would be something that I would feel most comfortable with.

 

By Jaspal Gill

Toronto

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Technology and I—Not the Best of Mates

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

I was born in a world when blackberries and apples were just fruits.

Web was a thing spiders spun, and net was something you caught a fish with. Hardware was hammers and nails and saws you worked with, and software was never heard of.

Rams, spiders, blue-rays and bugs were all living creatures. (Some of them creepy and crawly). And the ‘Trojan horse’ was just a chapter in history books. I do not to understand how they made their way into tech-textbooks.

Blue tooth? Can you imagine a more novel name? How would you look if you smiled with one blue tooth? I mean, it’s a gadget you wear on your ear and talk with your hands flung around to air as if you were schizophrenic. It could have been called a ‘hearing-phone’, ‘ear-phone’… anything. But BLUE TOOTH? And it’s hardly ever ‘blue’! Tell me, how does ‘tooth’ explain hearing?

My life has become complicated ever since. And then came the gypsy… oops, GPS. I mean the GPS looked pretty smart on my dash board, but the lady inside that gadget was the most annoying, rudest person I had run into in a long time. Every ten minutes, she would sarcastically say, “Re-calculating.” You would think that she could be nicer. I felt she could barely tolerate me. She would let go with a deep sigh and then tell me to make a U-turn at the next light… And then if I missed the turn, like that intolerable teacher in my geography class, she would grunt, “Re-Cal-cu-lating”…  Well, that is not a good relationship.

I was barely getting used to TV remotes, when a cell-phone entered my life. They were almost the same sizes then and looked pretty much alike. I would often tell my husband to ‘Pass me the remote’ when my cell-phone rang. And picked up my cell-phone to change channels. Thankfully, now cell-phones have become smaller and remotes larger, (for some incomprehensible reason!), and I am spared of the agony of screaming: “Hello! Hello!” pressing the TV remote against my ear.

I thought I had become quite tech-savvy when I had my own Facebook and Twitter accounts. But then suddenly you had Tweeter, Tweetree, Twhirl, Twitterfon, Tweetie and Twittererific Tweetdeck, Twitpix thrown at you! Hide! Cover! I need a place for cover!

The world is just getting too complex for me. Even in the remotest corner of earth, I get cell-phone signals. Hell! I am tracked! They know where I am, what I am doing! They even mess me up every time I go to the grocery store. You would think they could decide on it, but at the counter they (humans who bear a tad semblance to small robots) suddenly ask, “How many bags?” letting you know slyly that you have to pay 5c for each.

I am confused. I look at the quantity of grocery and mumble, “Five”. How could they expect me to understand how many bags would it need to fit in all that grocery? What if I needed another bag? Would I have to stand in the line again? Would I pay 5c in coins, or would they accept my card? I am so afraid of making a fool of myself that I never tried to find that out. Stuff in whatever you got in there, woman, and RUN!

The world of technology can never be complete without a beep. Whenever I hear a beep, I panic! I frantically look around!  What did I do? Where did I go wrong? It’s either that I’ve forgotten my microwave or something is burning in the oven; or I haven’t tied my car-seat belt; or I have missed my train in the subway; or the smoke alarm is about to go off! The scariest of them all is the smoke alarm. It makes me feel guilty for roasting or grilling some good food. And then there’s the fire alarm which is the Big Boss!!

These beeps in my life are constantly reprimanding me that I am not living my life up to their standards. The car beep starts shrieking the moment it sees me and won’t stop until my seat belt is fastened tight. I mean, I need some breathing space! And then when I am happy that I have fulfilled all the ‘beep’ rules… my Facebook chat window beeps!

Life was much simpler those days. We didn’t have cell-phones to carry to school, picnics or hang-outs. But our parents never panicked if we were a tad late.  We never had computers and so friends were constantly hanging out. Laughing with each other, going shopping together, eyeing handsome men or beautiful women, reading books, romancing in the library…. It was all so charming.

With the world getting crammed up inside ‘tabs’ on a computer screen, most relationships are getting virtual. The other day my son ‘poked’ me: no, not physically, but virtually, on Facebook, from his computer, sitting right next to me! I was :O

Sigh!! These relationships I share with technology around are simply falling apart!

By Kaberi Chatterjee

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SOLO CONCERT OF BANGLADESHI SINGER MOHONA

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

First solo concert of promising Bangladeshi Canadian singer Mohona Syed is going to be held on November 26th, 2011 at the U of T Isabel Bader Theatre. Well known in Bangladeshi community in Canada, Mohona will present a versatile selection of songs originally sung by Bangladeshi and Indian musical legends. The most intriguing aspect of this show will be the fusion of classical and Western music, wherein Mohona will sing classical pieces fused with elements of western beats and melodies.

Mohona Syed was born in a Bangladeshi family which defines success as excellence in academics, leadership, and cultural development. Raised with these fundamental values, Mohona acquired a keen sense for the musical arts since childhood. Her father, Tapan Syed, and her mother, Lina Syed, are both singers and have always been involved with cultural and musical events.

Mohona was drawn to the world of music since the age of five. She liked to play with her mom’s harmonium and was eager to learn how to sing along. Around this time, Mohona’s father taught the little girl her very first song, one written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore.

Seeing Mohona’s immense passion at such an early age, Her parents decided it was best for her to receive lessons in classical music. For the next several years, Mohona would obtain her first taste of musical education with her teacher in Bangladesh. Soon after, it was time for her family to move to Canada.

Mohona started a new life in Canada at the age of 11. Although she did not receive music training immediately upon her arrival to Canada, her parents always encouraged her to practice what she had already learned. Being surrounded by an extended family of musicians, which includes her uncle and aunt Sumon and Tonuka Syed, as well as Manunur Rashid and Dina Syed, also proved to be a positive inspiration for Mohona. Mohona continued to sing at various gatherings, special events, the school choir and Udichi cultural shows.

Following the completion of high school, she was accepted to the University of Toronto with a scholarship. Along with the news of getting acceptance to U of T, another great opportunity came Mohona’s way. She learned of the launch of a brand new music academy in Toronto, the Alam-Piya School of Music, and found a new teacher in A.F.M. Alimuzzaman.  Mohona discovered her true passion for classical music while being taught by A.F.M. Alimuzzaman. After attending the Alam-Piya school of music for several years, she gradually completed advanced to the senior level. Inspired by her passion and interest, she moved forward to pursue more advanced one-on-one classical music training also known as Guru Shishya Parampara with Alimuzzaman. She is one of the only students to persistently continue with training without a break.

Mohona graduated from the University of Toronto in 2004 with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management. In University, alongside maintaining strong academics, Mohona also developed leadership in various areas. She was the president of the Human Resources Students’ Association. She was also involved with the Bangladeshi Students’ Association all throughout her University career. Every year, she was involved with organizing performances for the Annual BSA show. She was also one of the solo singers at every show during these years.

Mohona’s cultural involvement took on a new path after University. In addition to singing more professionally, Mohona took leadership of the Udichi Youth Committee in Toronto. In the last two years, Mohona has organized annual shows with the Youth Committee that were enormously successful. After training in classical music for the last 7 years, Mohona has now reached 1 of her major goals; to successfully complete the renowned Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts curriculum at the Alam-Piya School of Music.

 

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Double Tragedy: A Call for Change

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

It’s more than just a story of best friends or teenage angst; it’s layers upon layers of challenges and struggles and as unfortunate as it terrible is, it’s a calling for change; for better strategy, passion, and above all, for collective action.

In recent news, and undoubtedly, a headline that will continue to flash before many people’s eyes for quite some time, Mississauga was struck by a double-tragedy that involved the untimely deaths of two South Asian teenagers.

Without delving into the details that have already been strewn across newspapers, and social media websites, most stating the deaths were a murder-suicide, what can be said about this tragedy at this point is the swiftness in which solidarity and support spread across hundreds, possibly even thousands of people and brought them together…to talk; to cry; to embrace; to share anger and angst; to question the system, the motives, and to many, even their faith.

Within hours, groups in remembrance of the deceased had thousands of supporters, and impromptu candle light vigils were held. On the rainy days that followed, youngsters were placing bouquets of flowers and letters filled with memories at these sites, and prayers were sent above for the souls to ‘rest in paradise’. It seemed even the skies were mourning the losses.

Many workplaces took time out to allow colleagues to console one another and to talk about how they were feeling and what this tragedy meant to them; parents began to live vicariously through the parents of the fallen teens; social workers, youth workers, and guidance councillors wonder what can be done differently to save the young lives that are at risk of being lost; young people are doing their research about adolescent depression and what it means. Beneath all these, we are all grieving in one way or another and probably will do for many more days to follow, but we must remember many of us are grieving together.

We’re creating action and energy; action to put our thoughts and emotions in the form of support, and energy in order to do something over and beyond providing support. The fallen teens are daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, students, friends, and children of our society so their needs become our needs. The silent cries of help tell us that stigma still needs to be combated; the helpless detachment from their own worlds tell us that there is always room for improvement; the families left in their memory tell us that some acts are simply unfathomable. The energy, the messages, the support, and the compassion can be redirected to the greater cause – the greater need. It’s more than just a story of best friends or teenage angst; it’s layers upon layers of challenges and struggles and as unfortunate as it terribly is, it’s a calling for change; for more strategy, passion, and above all, collective action.

By Poonam Patel

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Memo Pushes Zardari Government on Damage Control

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

The latest controversy in Pakistan about the memo to Admiral Mullen, former U.S. Joint Chief of Staff Chairman, through a Pakistan-background businessman clearly shows that the political parties and leaders do not miss the opportunity to wage wars of words against each other. The PML-N wants to pull down the federal government and prosecute President Zardari and his close associates for high treason.  Imran Khan is using the reports about the memo to show that the government is subservient to the U.S.  He wants to knock out the PPP and the PML-N from politics and establish his rule.

The poor performance of the federal government and the unrestrained political struggle for power helps the military to assert itself over the divided house of the political leaders. If civilian institutions are not working the major blame is to be shared by the political leaders.

In Pakistan, the parliament performs poorly because the members and political parties take limited interest in it.  The national and provincial assemblies often start their session late and suffer from the attendance problem. The assembly meetings have thin attendance or, if the members are present in large number on some controversial issue, their energies are spent on heckling each other.  The use of un-parliamentary language is common and some leaders are known for rude discourse.

The political parties find it difficult to go beyond their partisan agendas and view the two houses of the parliament and the provincial assemblies as instruments for promoting their party goals.   If their partisan objectives are not achieved through these institutions, the political leaders do not mind by-passing them and adopting extra-parliamentary methods to pursue their objectives. .

The PMLN has launched street protest to dislodge the federal government because it knows that it does not have enough votes in the National Assembly to move a vote-of-no-confidence.   As it cannot succeed within the framework of the National Assembly, it has decided to by-pass it and challenge the government in the streets.

There are no issues of public good involved in the PMLN street protest. It is a power struggle in the tradition of the late 1980s and the 1990s when these two political parties are engaged in a cut-throat struggle for power against each other. In the end both lost to the military.

All major political parties have to share the blame for Pakistan’s internal socio-economic and other problems because all of them are in power either at the federal level or in provinces.  If the performance of the federal coalition government led by the PPP is poor and it has mismanaged public welfare and economic issues, the PMLN is in power in the Punjab whose performance is no less disappointing.   The complaints of poor governance, troubled law and order situation and related societal problems abound in the Punjab.

The PPP counteracts this campaign by highlighting what they describe as the misdeeds of the Sharif brothers, including how their financial empire building synchronized with their years in power under General Zia-ul-Haq and later.

The Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf of Imran Khan is projecting itself as the new and third alternative to the two major political parties. The Jamaat-i-Islami is also pursuing the same agenda. It is also attempting to bring other Islamic parties on a single platform but the question of leadership of such an arrangement and the experience of the MMA (2002-2007) deters Islamic parties from creating a new electoral alliance.

The key point missing in the on-going political campaigning is that no political party has offered any workable plan of action to address Pakistan’s most serious problems, i.e. the troubled economy, terrorism and internal security, price hike, power and gas shortages and economic and political inequities.  They want people to help them to come to power which will solve their problems.

At this stage, the chances of removal of Zardari and the PPP-led federal government through street protest are minimal. The PMLN does not have the support of any other political party.  It must build partnerships with other opposition parties but the prospects are not bright for the PMLN to win over support from other political parties

The controversy among the political parties on the memo issue has made it difficult to undertake a dispassionate and non-partisan analysis of what has happened. The government is engaged in damage control and the opposition is using it as a new issue to beat the government. This pattern of politics can continue but it will not help to address the acute problems.  Even if the federal government is changed, the problems of the common people stay as these are.  The political leaders should cool down their tampers and work together for addressing socio-economic and internal security problems through clearly articulated plans of action. They need to strengthen the political institutions and learn to look beyond their narrow partisan interests.

Dr. Hasan Askari

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GTA Top Employers 2012 Winners

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

 

Accenture Inc.
Agfa HealthCare Inc.
Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited
AMEC Americas Limited
Amex Canada Inc.
Amgen Canada Inc.
AMAPCEO
Bayer Inc.
BD Canada Inc.
Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
BMO Financial Group
CAA South Central Ontario
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce / CIBC
Carswell, div. Thomson Reuters Canada Ltd.
Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto
Central Community Care Access Centre
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health / CAMH
CH2M HILL Canada Limited
Chubb Insurance Company of Canada
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
Compass Group Canada
Credit Valley Hospital, The
Deloitte & Touche LLP
Durham College
eHealth Ontario
EllisDon Corporation
EMD Inc.
Ernst & Young LLP
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Fleishman-Hillard Canada Inc.
Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP
Gamma-Dynacare Medical Laboratories Inc.
General Motors of Canada Limited
George Brown College
GlaxoSmithKline Inc. / GSK
Halton, Regional Municipality of
Hershey Canada Incorporated
Hewlett-Packard Canada Co.
Hill and Knowlton Canada Inc.
Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
Home Depot Canada, The
Honeywell International Inc.
Hospital for Sick Children, The
Humber College
Infusion Development Corp.
Intelex Technologies Inc.
KPMG LLP
Kraft Foods Canada
Law Society of Upper Canada, The
Loblaw Companies Limited
LoyaltyOne Inc.
Manulife Financial Corporation
Mars Canada Inc.
Marsh Canada Limited
Medtronic of Canada Ltd.
Meridian Credit Union
Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences
Miller Group, The
Molson Coors Canada
Mount Sinai Hospital
Nelson Education Ltd.
Novo Nordisk Canada Inc.
Nycomed Canada Inc.
Ontario Hospital Association
Ontario Power Authority
Ontario Public Service
Peel Regional Police
Pelmorex Media Inc.
PepsiCo Beverages Canada
Pitney Bowes of Canada Limited
PowerStream Inc.
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
Procter & Gamble Inc.
Rogers Communications Inc.
Royal Bank of Canada
SAP Canada Inc.
SAS Institute (Canada) Inc.
SCOR Canada Reinsurance Company
Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
Southlake Regional Health Centre
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
TD Bank Group
TeraGo Networks Inc.
Toronto Central Community Care Access Centre
Toronto Hydro Corporation
Toronto International Film Festival
United Way of Greater Toronto
University of Toronto
Whirlpool Canada LP
William Osler Health System
World Vision Canada
XE.com Inc.
Xerox Canada Inc.
YMCA of Greater Toronto
York, Regional Municipality of

 

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