Archive | December, 2011

Bangladesh celebrates 40th Anniversary

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

It’s a day for joy; it’s a day for sorrow. It is also a day for renewed commitment and to take a new pledge. The country as a whole took a fresh pledge to ensure the trial of the notorious child of the nation, who fought against the birth of the country, the war criminals. The nation celebrated the 40th anniversary of independence on 16th December with utmost honour to the valiant sons of the soil who made the supreme sacrifice to liberate Bangladesh from the Pakistani occupation forces in 1971.

On December 16, 1971, Pakistani occupation forces chief Lt Gen AAK Niazi along with 93,000 troops surrendered to the joint forces of Mukti Bahini and Mitra Bahini at Suhrawardy Udyan in the capital. The nation, under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, finally clinched independence on December 16 after the nine-month-long war that took the lives of 3 million people.

It was something different for the people to celebrate the victory day this year. Because they saw most of the top ranking war criminals not free to show their audacity in public, the day meant different thing to different people. Rather they are facing trial in an independent tribunal and except few most of the top leaders are facing legal consequences. The incident encouraged them to express their joy and amid enthusiasm and gaiety, thousands of people, who thronged the National Mausoleum to salute the martyred heroes, called for expediting the trial of war criminals and formation of political unity to protect national interest through the banners and posters they were carrying. Roads near the National Mausoleum were flooded with people carrying banners with patriotic slogans in their hands and chanting patriotic songs.

The capital had a festive look since early morning. Many buildings, vehicles, thoroughfares and median strips were decorated with the national flag and banners. The national flag was hoisted atop all government, semi-government and other important establishments.

Many demanding trial of war criminals carried effigies of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Matiur Rahman Nizami and Ghulam Azam with shoes and noose around the necks. Students and teachers of different schools, colleges and universities brought out colorful precessions with patriotic lines written on festoons and banners. Dressed in red and green, men, women and children flocked various monuments, parks, the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, Dhaka University campus and other public places to celebrate the day. The celebrations of Victory Day, a public holiday, began with 31 gunshots at the National Parade Square in the capital at the break of dawn.

While the city streets seemed deserted in the early morning, later in the day heavy traffic was seen on many thoroughfares as enthusiastic people flooded the streets singing patriotic songs and carrying banners of different political, social, cultural and professional organizations.

Meanwhile, supporters of Awami League and BNP clashed in front of the National Mausoleum early yesterday over tearing of banners and festoons when the prime minister was in the mausoleum. The clash ensued when activists of pro-Awami League student body Chhatra League’s local unit chased rival Chhatra Dal accusing them of tearing off festoons and banners, some eyewitnesses said. There were some scattered clashes across the country too, mostly over placing wreaths at memorials.

Though the people across the country were in festive mode in celebrating the victory day, they had expressed their desire to see the faster completion of the ongoing trial of the war crime.  The crowd outside the Savar National Mausoleum on the outskirts of capital Dhaka chanted ‘Try them, hang them,’ referring to seven alleged collaborators in the massacre of up to 3 million civilians and rape of 200,000 to 500,000 women during the nine-month conflict.

The Awami League-led coalition government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed has been prosecuting suspected war criminals since she assumed office in early 2009. Five of those facing charges are top members of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party, including its leader and former minister Matiur Rahman Nizami. The other two are leaders of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. All were detained last year. Jamaat-e-Islami was opposed to secession, and assisted Pakistani forces during the war. An earlier initiative to prosecute war crimes was called off in 1975 when the independent country’s founding father and first Prime Minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was assassinated, and his successor Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad took power with a more conservative Islamic agenda.

The ruling Awami League, it its election manifesto, during last national election committed to try the war criminals. People of Bangladesh gave their mandate to try the criminals and the Awami League came to the power with landslide victory. So, it has become a people’s demand to try the war criminals.

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Komagata Maru – Justice delayed is justice denied

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

Growing up in a small Canadian city, my parents did everything they could to keep me and my siblings connected to our language, faith, culture and history. For example, they enforced a “Punjabi-only rule” in our house (mostly to accommodate my elderly grandmother so she wouldn’t feel so alienated when we jabbered away in English).


Bedtime was a chance to hear stories of old Punjabi heroes. Sometimes the stories had a happy ending – sometimes they didn’t.


Here’s one story that has stuck with me over the years:


On May 23, 1914, a Japanese ship called the Komagata Maru carrying 376 passengers from colonial India tried to dock in a Vancouver port. It was denied because of racist legislation called the “Continuous Journey” law, put in place by Conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden. From 1908 to 1948, the law required ships to make one continuous, uninterrupted passage to Canada for eligibility to dock and for passengers to disembark. However, that was virtually impossible as ships could not make a continuous journey from any South Asian country without stopping at least once to refuel and restock supplies before reaching Canada.


For two months, the Komagata Maru anchored offshore while Canadian authorities drove the passengers to the brink of starvation and desperation. Finally, Prime Minister Borden intervened by calling on the Canadian Navy and local militia and prepared for violent confrontation. In the end, no conflict occurred but the ship was forced to return to India on July 23 with fuel and restocked supplies.


When the ship returned to India, 19 of the passengers were immediately killed by the ruling British government. Others were charged with treason, imprisoned and had their properties expropriated.


It’s a tragic story with an unhappy ending.


However, Canadian politicians are trying to address this historical wrong that has passed unrecognized for too long.


In January 2007, then-NDP Leader Jack Layton demanded that the Government of Canada officially apologize to the community. In his address, Mr. Layton said “one of our greatest strengths as Canadians is our ability to face the past and learn from it. This is the time to exercise that strength.”


In addition to the apology, the NDP had suggested a permanent memorial be created as a reminder of the tremendous hurdles members of the South Asian community have had to overcome, and to celebrate their invaluable contributions to Canadian society.


The motion was put forward in Parliament on May 18, 2007, and required unanimous consent by all parties. Sadly, it was blocked by Conservative MPs. Personally, I was disappointing to see the Conservatives deny justice to the community.


The Conservatives have proven they have a heart when it comes to saying sorry inside Parliament to communities such as the First Nations, Metis and Inuit regarding the decades of residential school abuse, and to the Chinese because of the head tax and the Japanese over their unjust internment. Now it’s time to apologize in the House of Commons to the Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities who suffered from the Komagata Maru tragedy.


This apology is an opportunity for the government to correct this historical injustice and offer a chance for healing and reconciliation. This is an opportunity to create awareness so that this kind of tragedy never happens again. For the past 97 years, the Komagata Maru has been an unhealed scar in the community and in Canadian history.


Here is a chance to make the Komagata Maru story have a happy ending.


Maybe I should teach Mr. Harper how to say “I’m sorry” in Punjabi.


Rupinder Kaur is the Press Secretary to Ontario’s New Democrats.

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Can I please have my freedom back?

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

Minister Jason Kenney has cooked up a controversy by legislating that women wearing niqaab be banned from citizenship ceremonies.

“..any individual will have to show his or her face when taking the oath of citizenship,” declared Mr. Kenney in Montreal.

“Allowing a group to hide their faces while they are becoming members of our community is counter to Canada’s commitment to openness, equality and social cohesion,” he explained.

But does banning niqaab indicate “openness, equality and social cohesion” of the Canadian society?

As a progressive woman, I oppose wearing burqa, niqaab, veil, etc fully. I will confess hijab, I’m okay with. Coming from a fairly conservative society of Faisalabd, I fear the women who hide behind black veils. I am fully aware that these women are very modern in their private lives –  haircuts, make-up styles, dress code when they are among their families. Their wearing burqa does not necessarily mean to me that they are suppressed and oppressed in the confines of their homes or in the open Canadian society.

When I watch these burqa and niqaab clad women in the aisles of grocery store behind or in front of me, I wonder if they are defying the very essence for which Muslim women cover their breasts and hips as said in the Holy Quran. The spirit of covering head or wearing niqaab or burqa is to not attract opposite gender’s attraction.

But in the Western societies such as Canadian, don’t these women end up attracting attention of not only men but everybody in the society by dressing up differently? In the Canadian society, aren’t these women propagating same sort of extremism that people like Tariq Fateh spew in mainstream media.

I do not believe that Mr. Fateh represents anything that I stand for just as I know that burqa-clad women are not representative of my beliefs.

Having stated that, I also detest the government’s interjection in ordering Muslim women to take off niqaab – anywhere, period. If wearing a niqaab means not showing the face, doesn’t wearing bikini mean showing too much skin, leading police officers to make statements like women should not dress up like sluts?

Just as security people at the airport make accommodations so that these women can be screened by female officers, similar sort of arrangements can be made by the government to see, really see if these niqaabis are indeed saying the words of the Canadian oath, the oath that makes us open, tolerant and socially cohesive.

I have lived in Pakistan. I know that I cannot choose to live the way I want to in Islamic Republic of Pakistan. That’s why I left my parent’s home country and decided to immigrate to Canada.

Can I not live the way I want to even here, in Canada?

I wish Mr. Kenney would really understand visible minorities he has taken an oath to represent.

By Huma Nazir



Niqab – No Niqab

By Qasim Abbas



Recently Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has introduced with immediate effect the rule about “no veil” at the time of oath of citizenship.  The logic and justification behind this rule is proper identification of oath taker.


As a Muslim, knowing what Muslim Scripture the Holy Quran says about this type of controversy, I fully support Immigration Minister Jason Kenney about this “no veil” rule at the time of oath of citizenship.

As a matter of fact, Muslim Scripture Holy Quran is very clear about following and obeying “law of the land” i.e. “current law in force”.  Here is justification in light of Holy Quran:

As per Verse 4:59 of Holy Quran, as under, one has to follow and obey the “law of the land” i.e. “current law in force” i.e. Muslim believers men and women have been ordered by Allah to obey those lawmakers who are charged with authority:


“O believers, obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger.” (4:59)


Based on above Verse, this is open truth that as per the Canadian law, when the Muslim women have to be temporarily without Niqab for the purposes of issuance of passport, P.R. Card, Health Card, Driver License, Visa Application and so many other documents, in fact and in reality, they do follow the above Verse and obey those charged with authority among them, in good faith and in true spirit, and they remove their Niqab in order to show their faces for identification to the authority and their photos taken without Niqab for the above documents.


Based on the above justification, Muslim women have to remove Niqab at the time of citizenship oath, as ordered by Immigration Minister since they are ordered by Allah to obey those charged with authority among themselves and in this case of citizenship oath, they have to obey Canadian government officials in the same way when they obey officials charged with authority while applying for above mentioned documents and their photos taken without Niqab.


Also at the time of Hajj i.e. pilgrimage, which is fifth pillar of Islam, women are ordered to keep their face open Niqab in Hajj by women.  It means if Niqab is on, Hajj is not complete.  Similarly, if Niqab is on, citizenship is off.



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Five Tips to Save Money This Holiday Season

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

1. Make a list, and check it twice. Did you know that research has proven that people who shop at the grocery store with a list spend between 30% and 40% less than those who don’t plan their purchases? The same can be said for your holiday shopping. Make a list for everybody before you hit the malls, and avoid making impulse purchases at all costs.

2. Stash away a little extra cash. Even when you’re great at sticking to a holiday shopping budget, often the spirit of the season causes generosity to beat out frugality. Pad your available cash for the holidays a bit by setting aside a few extra dollars a few between now and the end of December. This will help you avoid, or at least reduce, the amount you use credit cards to make holiday purchases.

3. Hunt down online deals, especially for big ticket items. It’s unusual these days to find big ticket items like jewelry, computers, or electronics in stores for less than you can buy the same product online. If you plan on surprising somebody special with a gift that costs more than $100 this year, keep browsing the Web for the right deal. One tip: A long-time favorite Web store of high-tech professionals, e-store offers some of the best prices on hot consumer electronics like digital cameras, laptops, and mp3 players. New customers can also enjoy either $5 off $100 on anything or $5 off $75 on $5 OFF the purchase of $75 of music, movies, or games.

4. If you must use a credit card…Your monthly budget is already stretched thin. If you haven’t been saving for holiday gifts all year, you’ll end up using credit to make the purchases. Using credit cards for the holiday’s isn’t ideal, but so long as you’re good about paying off those balances in a few months (not a few years) I don’t think it’s a cardinal sin.

If you do use a credit card for your holiday shopping that you don’t plan on repaying immediately, get a card that offers a 0% APR on purchases for 12 months.

5. Finally, if you need to travel this holiday season; book now if you haven’t already! (Then, book now for next year, too). The days before Thanksgiving and Christmas are the biggest travel days of the year, and carriers jack fares accordingly; the fewer seats left, the higher the cost of the ticket. It’s hard to spend money on an airfare weeks or months before you’ll use it, but doing so could save you hundreds.


Gift giving spend decreases while holiday entertaining increases

According to the BMO 2011 Holiday Spending Outlook, global economic uncertainty doesn’t seem to be putting a damper on Canadians’ holiday spending plans. In fact, on average, Canadians expect to spend $1397 during this holiday season – up from $1305 in 2010.

Holiday Spending Allocation – Year over Year Comparison

Purchases 2010 2011
Gift Purchases $613.50 $582.70
Trips $356.50 $359.80
Entertaining $203.80 $307.30
Other $131.80 $147.50

Holiday Spending Across the Country

2011 Avg. Spend (Total) ATL QC ON MB/SK AB BC
Gift Purchases $582.70 $715.20 $483.30 $616.10 $443.30 $731.30 $573.40
Trips $359.80 $312.70 $403.50 $342.20 $198.10 $374.40 $423.30
Entertaining $307.30 $276.40 $321.40 $291.90 $273.60 $376.10 $303.60
Other $147.50 $115.00 $113.90 $171.60 $117.80 $117.00 $197.50

To help shoppers make sense of their money, avoid overspending and save more this holiday season, BMO Bank of Montreal offers the following tips:

  • Set a Budget and Stick to It – Build your budget as early as possible and revisit it often to lessen the impact of the holiday spending surge. Using online tools, such as BMO MoneyLogic, to set and track spending limits can help keep you on track.
  • Get a Head Start – According to the survey, while the majority of Canadians plan weeks or even months ahead for their holiday shopping (81 per cent), one in 10 consider themselves last-minute shoppers. By waiting until the last minute to get your holiday shopping finished, you risk over-spending, going over budget and sometimes missing out on the gifts at the top of your list.
  • Spend Smart – Get the most out of your purchases this holiday season by using a credit or debit card that offers rewards for purchases at multiple retail locations. Combine this with programs such as the AIR MILES® Reward Program to accelerate your rewards earnings by allowing you to double dip, essentially earning rewards twice on the same purchase.



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The Rumour Factories in Pakistan

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

The rumour mongering is a symptom of weakness of the political institutions and processes and narrow partisan attitude of the political leaders.

Pakistan has been in the grip of rumours. This is partly due to the controversies about the memo and the sudden departure of President Asif Ali Zardari’s for Dubai on Dec 6th for medical treatment.    Some rumours were about his incapacitating illness. Others suggested that he had gone abroad to save himself from the memo scandal that was being looked into by the Supreme Court. Others talked of the President being forced out of office by the military and that he would not return either for medical or political reasons.

In the earlier phase of civilian rule (1988-1999) the rumours used to surface from time to time about the removal of the elected government.

An interesting situation developed in Islamabad on September 24, 2006. The countrywide electricity breakdown caused the rumours that the military had removed President General Pervez Musharraf who was also Army Chief at that time. This unusual news of the army staging a coup against its own chief lasted for a few hours.

Rumours have become part of Pakistani politics.   Many people, especially the over-competitive private sector media, push rumours for drawing greater attention to their programmes or comments. Such rumours cause unnecessary mental strain to a large number of people and have negative impact on business and economic activity.

Before the speculations about the president’s departure to Dubai, the politically active circles and the media were focused on the memo controversy as the most  critical issue , pushing aside the problems of internal insecurity, terrorism, troubled economy and energy crisis.   The politically active circles in Pakistan and the media were dancing around the statements of one person, Mansoor Ijaz, based in New York. As he realized that Pakistani media was listening to him, he issued several statements that not only reflected his changing position but also dragged more issues and personalities in the controversy.  His word was taken as the whole truth because he was targeting the people that were not liked by the opposition and many people in the media. This enabled the main opposition party, the PMLN, to step-up its campaign to remove President Zardari from office.

The abundance of rumours manifests the fragility of Pakistani politics, especially civilian political institutions and processes. These institutions are so weak and unsustainable that any speculation about their collapse or removal is viewed by the politically active circles as plausible until a new speculation overrides the old one.

Another reason for popularity of rumours is the non-aggregative nature of Pakistani politics.     The political competitors have not cultivated the habit of agreeing on goals and strategies of political conduct.   The political parties and leaders are mostly unable to aggregate diverse individual and group political claims into broad policy demands, thereby not moving in the direction of consensus-building on what is to be pursued as the key political issues.    Non-aggregative politics intensifies conflict and weakens political institutions and processes.  It hardens the cleavages based on ethnicity, language, region, religion, political agenda which in turn fragments the political process.

Still another reason for the on-going political uncertainty and the overall absence of confidence in the future is the inability of the political players to rise above their partisan interests. If the democratic institutions and processes do not help the achievement of partisan interests of a group it tends to question the legitimacy of the political process and institutions.   In Pakistan, this trend is quite common when civilian governments are functioning.

The PMLN in its bid to oust President Zardari and the federal government feels that the parliament is not helpful. It does not have enough votes in the parliament to impeach the president or move a vote-of-no-confidence against the Prime Minister in the National Assembly. Therefore, it argues that the parliament has become irrelevant and it is endeavouring to launch street agitation.  It would like a conflict to erupt between the federal government/presidency and the Supreme Court or the military, which would result in the collapse or removal of the federal government.

The past experience suggests that whenever there is civilian rule, the opposition parties individually or collectively declare the federal government (irrespective of its party affiliation) as a security threat or launch movement for saving Pakistan from “anti-nation and anti-state” federal government.   Now-a-days, these strategies are being initiated by various opposition groups

Political parties and leaders are the guardians of elected civilian institutions and processes. If they decide to by-pass or reject these institutions and processes in pursuit of their partisan interests, these cannot endure.   Similarly, if a section of the political elite look towards non-elected state institutions like the military and the judiciary for displacing a civilian government, the future of democracy and civilian order can never be secure.

The rumour mongering is a symptom of weakness of the political institutions and processes and narrow partisan attitude of the political leaders. If these trends continue Pakistan’s civilian institutions and democracy will not stabilize and the people will continue to raise doubts about the future of Pakistan as a federal democratic state.

By Dr. Hasan Askari

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The Christmas Carol at the Brampton Rose Theatre

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

Not even the old and grumpy Ebeneezer Scrooge would dare utter a single ‘humbug’ Wednesday evening in seeing the number of nostalgic fans lined up at the Brampton Rose theatre to relive the classic. The beloved Dickens’ tale has once again attracted admirers young and old to witness their holiday hero journey through his past, present and future to attain the all too famous Christmas epiphany. Accompanied with a string of catchy musical numbers, and well constructed props, ticket holders were delighted by the fresh take of a story they’ve already grown to love.


Already in its fifth year running, Mr. Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit and many others have grown into a traditional holiday performance for fans to enjoy at the Rose theatre giving many supporters a reason to come again with their loved ones. With only three performances set to run in December from the 15th – 18th fans who were unable to attain tickets will only have to wait until next year for the humbugs of Mr. Scrooge.

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Authentic Flowers: Brampton’s Local South Asian Flower Shop!

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

“ A lot of South Asian clients are into the peacock feather arrangements lately. It’s a hot trend in the community!”



Accessorizing an extravagant wedding, a much anticipated graduation, or simply your next hot date with a beautiful set of flowers are among the typical daily services local florists can readily relate to on a day to day basis. Yet, for Nimili Anka, the new owner and florist of Authentic Flowers, her typical 9-5 workday reveals a very different and unique floral tale.


Opening her local flower shop in an area with Temples and Gurdwara’s, Nimili knew that her store entitled “Authentic Flowers” would have to cater to the large South Asian population around her. It became a crucial decision for Nimili that she began to open her doors with unique services that were specifically designed to fit the needs of her new clientele. “We provide a lot of Jai Mala’s and Jasmine and Lotus Flowers and things of that nature to specifically cater to the South Asians. They come in wanting puja flowers and often wedding malas because of my location. I am surrounded by all the temples that order jai malas and puja flowers. ”


With a dedicated wall full of extravagant and colourful garlands designed from India to choose from, Nimili’s location has become a Brampton hotspot for South Asian community members to work with for both religious and momentous occasions.


When asked what are the next hot flower trends within the South Asian community, Nimili was quick to reply to our Generation Next reporter that, “a lot of South Asian clients are into the peacock feather arrangements lately. It’s a hot trend in the community!” As many of her clients bring in special requests with unsual ideas and pictures to work with, Nimili often finds herself pushing the boundaries of floral designs to meet the new demands and high expectations of a strong South Asian market.



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ANJALI BANERJEE: Attempting to Touch Many Many Lives

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

Born in India, Anjali Banerjee was raised in Canada and California and received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. She has written five novels for youngsters and three for adults. Her next novel for adults, ENCHANTING LILY, will be published by Berkley/Penguin.


Why did you feel the need to take to writing?

Writing is in my blood, in my DNA. From early childhood, I had the urge to put pen – or crayon, at first – to paper, to fill a blank page with words. I started writing stories at the age of seven, on a trip to India, when I saw a skinny stray dog and wanted to save him but couldn’t. Writing gave me an outlet for these feelings of compassion and the childhood sense of powerlessness. After reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I started keeping a journal, developing my writing voice. I used a toy typewriter to create short mysteries. I stapled the pages together in book format and pasted little copyright notices inside the front covers. None of my childhood friends did this kind of thing, so I suppose I was a writer from the get-go.  On a basic level, writing is a mysterious compulsion, a creative urge – it’s a world I inhabit. So I suppose there really is no “why.” It’s just something I must do.

How has writing impacted your outlook and life?

In a book called Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, Natalie Goldberg says that her doctor always wanted to be a writer. She wonders why a doctor would want to be a writer – medicine is such a prestigious profession, and doctors are already helping humanity. And yet, we meet people in many fields who want to be writers. But writers hardly ever want to be anything else. I have to agree. While sometimes I’ve thought life would be easier if I’d become a doctor or lawyer – I might have a higher income, for sure – I’ve never wished to be anything but a writer. Now that I’m actually making some money doing what I love – writing – there is a sense of professional satisfaction.

But the writing life is not easy. I have a second job, and I’m constantly negotiating obstacles to success. It’s a complex, difficult profession, but also fantastically rewarding. I’ve met some amazing people and touched lives in ways I never thought possible.

What is your view of Canadian-SA literature?

Although I grew up in Canada, I’m now living in the U.S. (near Seattle), and I’m afraid we hear very little about Canadian SA literature here. I would love to read more of it. While I was growing up as one of the few Indian children in a small Manitoba town, I had no idea that my childhood was fairly unusual. It was only many years later that I realized I had an immigrant story to tell. I want to read the other voices by writers who may have thought they were alone out there in the Great White North.

What issues do you wish to talk about through your writing? Why are these important to you?

I believe that my task as a writer of fiction is to tell a good story and try to make it believable and entertaining for the reader. The issues – political, social, environmental, philosophical, or whatever – will naturally emerge from the story. Nonfiction essays are different – you approach the topic with a viewpoint in mind. If I approach writing fiction with an issue in my head, the story inevitably becomes tiresome and pedantic.  The issues that seem to *naturally* emerge from my stories are the idea of second chances, coming of age, learning compassion for all creatures, and finding one’s identity and place in the world. MAYA RUNNING, my first novel (YA), features a Bengali-Canadian girl trying to discover her personal and cultural identity in late 1970s Manitoba. It was my most autobiographical novel, but I don’t feel a need to revisit the issues I addressed in that book.

How has the diaspora experience impacted your writing?

I’m not sure I understand this question. I would have to say there are pros and cons. While I feel my experience as a first generation Bengali-Canadian and as a Bengali-Canadian-American, or however one defines it (I was born in India but grew up in Canada and the U.S.) have added depth, complexity and resonance to my writing, I find the “diaspora experience” can also have a strangely inhibiting effect if a writer becomes pigeon-holed – or branded as addressing certain issues. For example, while I feel my stories address universal issues- growing up, love, grief, and so on – reviews often focus on the cultural elements. In my novel Looking for Bapu, a Bengali-American boy must deal with grief after losing his grandfather in a post-September 11th environment in the Pacific Northwest. From the Publishers Weekly review: “This perceptive exploration of one child’s grief demonstrates that grief is a universal emotion that flows through all cultures.” From School Library Journal: “many readers will see this novel as a window to a culture they know little about.” Other reviewers took a more expansive approach. From The Chicago Tribune: “We never lose sight of either the serious issues – the family’s loss and love – or the comedic ones – on an 8-year-old’s rocky path to becoming a holy man.”


My ultimate goal as writer is to broaden my readership, to touch as many people as possible from all backgrounds. I’d like to tell all kinds of stories, not just about the immigrant experience. My cultural background is part of who I am, but it’s not everything.

What can we expect from you in the days to come?

I have a new book for adults out from Berkley/Penguin in August 2012, Enchanting Lily, in which a young widow, who is hiding out in her vintage clothing store on a Pacific Northwest island, comes out of her isolation and falls in love with help from a quirky cat. I’m having a lot of fun with the cat’s point of view. In this book, for the first time in any of my books (except in my novel, The Silver Spell, which was part of a series) the protagonist’s cultural background is not woven in as part of the story. She’s not of Indian heritage. The “hook” in this story is the cat’s unusual perspective.

By Staff Writer

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Prostate Cancer in South Asian Men

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

It is estimated that during his lifetime, 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Rates of prostate cancer in men are comparable to rates of breast cancer in women.


The incidents of prostate cancer is increasing due to the aging of the population and due to better detection methods.  It is a far greater threat for those with a family history of prostate cancer.

Dr. Ash Tewari is one of the world’s leading researchers and surgeons in the field of prostate cancer; he specializes in robotic prostatectomy.

According to him, the incidence of prostate cancer amongst South Asians in the U.S. is just 4.6 per 100,000 as compared to 104.3 per 100,000 amongst non-South Asians.

The prostate gland is located in front of the rectum, just below the bladder.  In the early stages, when the cancer cells are only in the prostate, the disease is very curable (cure rates of 90% or better) because in most cases, prostate cancers grow relatively slowly.  Unfortunately, it is hard to detect in the early stages due to few symptoms.  If you have a family history of prostate cancer or if you experience any of the following symptoms, it is important to consult your doctor:


(1)   Need to urinate frequently, especially at night

(2)   Difficulty to start or to control the urine stream

(3)   Hesitancy with urination

(4)   Painful urination

(5)   Difficulty with erection or pain with ejaculation

(6)   Blood in the urine or semen


Ignoring the symptoms may hinder detection in the early stages.  Your doctor may examine the prostate by one of many methods – digital rectal examination (DRE), PSA blood test, ultrasound, and biopsy.




Treatment ranges from just monitoring in simple cases to radical surgery/radiation/hormonal therapy for more aggressive cases.  If untreated, aggressive cases can spread to other parts of the body, considerably reducing the chances of a cure.
Prevention of prostate cancer has not yet been achieved because the genetic and environmental risk factors have not yet been strongly identified. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. It is very rare (although possible) to be diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 40, but a man’s risk increases quickly after age 50.



Ethnicity also plays a role in the risk for prostate cancer. African-American men have the highest risk of developing prostate cancer; they are 65% more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men.  However, South Asian men are more likely to die from their prostate cancer. This discrepancy may be because 85% of these patients present for treatment of prostate cancer are detected at late stages. In contrast, 15% of Caucasians in the United States present are in the late stage for treatment.


Diet may play a role; for example, Asian men who remain in China are at lower risk than Chinese men who have moved to North America. The following are some dietary strategies that may reduce your risk of prostate cancer recurrence or to delay the progression of any diagnosed disease:

  • Reduce the amount of fat in your diet, especially the amount of animal fat like red meat and of high-fat dairy products.
  • Substitute with a variety of plant proteins, such as lentils, beans, grains, and nuts and seeds.
  • Consult with your doctor about adding soy to your diet as one of the substitutes for high-fat dairy and animal protein.
  • Significantly increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, particularly of dark-green leafy vegetables, red and purple vegetables and fruit (e.g.  red grapes, and pomegranates), and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.  Choosing by colour ensures consumption of foods with different anti-cancer properties:

a)      Red group: tomato juice or sauce, watermelon, pink grapefruit.

b)      Red/purple group: pomegranates or pomegranate juice; red grapes, red grape juice, or red wine; plums; assorted berries.

c)      Orange group: carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, mangoes, cantaloupes, apricots.

d)     Orange/yellow group: oranges, peaches, papaya.

e)      Yellow/green: spinach, yellow corn, green peas, honeydew melon.

f)       Green: broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale.

g)      White/green: garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, onions.

  • Drink green tea
  • Avoid excessively preserved, pickled, or salted foods.
  • Use olive oil, which is rich in vitamin E and antioxidants.
  • Avoid refined sugars.


Research suggests a probable link between increased physical activity and decreased prostate cancer risk/improved survival among those diagnosed with prostate cancer. Learning to keep the levels of stress to a minimum will also help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

After consulting with your physician, you can invest in some supplements that may be possibly reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer -  selenium, lycopene, garlic, vitamin C, and vitamin E, vitamin D and pomegranate extract.  Excess calcium, zinc and vitamin A may increase the risk of prostate cancer; therefore, it is better to get these from the diet.  Previously suggested supplementation with prostate cancer-SPES, shark cartilage and saw palmetto are no longer suggested.

In short, South Asian men may not be able to substantially reduce their risk of prostate cancer but they can definitely reduce their mortality from prostate cancer by seeking medical attention sooner rather than later.


Dr. Amitha Mundenchira is a family physician.

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Global Medic: Getting the Relief Work Done

Posted on 21 December 2011 by admin

“The public sees us as portrayed through the media as people who do the heavy lifting and actually get the work done. A good part of the educated public really cares about where the donor dollars are going and after researching they realize that we don’t have any administrative fees, we’re just about getting work done.”

“They’ve [the Canadian government] got some concerns and they have a pattern of the way they program tax payers’ dollars and we challenge that norm. We think that doing your projects with larger agencies is not necessarily the answer, which is the way the Canadian government wants to spend its money. The government wants to have accountability and we understand that, but we are trying to show them that there are other ways to have the same accountability and deliver more aid with the same amount of money. We try to explain from our side of it. Can they be more supportive? Absolutely.”

Tis’ the season of holly jolly. But in this season of holly jolly and cutting budgets, let’s not forget organizations that help and service the poor across the globe that are hit by natural disasters.

One such organization completely run by a team of volunteers is Global Medic. Originally called Mecant-Gibson Foundation, Rahul Singh, Toronto based paramedic, started the organization in honour of his friend’s memory.

Global Medic has done a lot of work in places like Sri Lanka, the Solomon Islands, Turkey, Pakistan, Somalia and Kenya.  Its volunteers are first responders, the paramedics, the police officers, the firefighters, the doctors and the nurses. Global Medic has had over 1,000 volunteers. In the last few years, it has put about 154 folks into the international operations. In 2010, Global Medic deployed over 5 field hospitals that treated 37,000 patients. Global Medic’s volunteers had installed 100 water units that purified and distributed over 20 million litres of clean drinking water in disaster affected areas.

No wonder Global Medic’s work has been recognized internationally. Its Founder has been one of the Time magazine’s most influential personalities of the year, joining President Obama, talk show queen Oprah and Apple’s boss Steve Jobs.

Sharing his experiences working in different countries, Rahul told Generation Next “Some of the countries you’re dealing with are customarily dealing with disasters. Most often you’ll get a country like Pakistan. Bureaucratically it’s accustomed to accepting and asking for foreign aid, making processes easier. So they let agencies come in and some international airlines even bring in free aid on behalf of our agencies. .. You can look at Burma; it’s an isolationist regime and doesn’t necessarily want foreigners coming in a helping role.”


As an organization that provides emergency relief services, Rahul and Rahul’s team goes through trauma of their own when they witness a life lost. However, Rahul says “’s the next 6 or 7 that come in through the door that you actually manage to save – who would have died – that you see the difference that your work makes.”

As a non-for-profit organization, Global Medic is constantly looking for innovative ideas to raise funds Unlike many non-for-profit organizations, Global Medic’s admin costs are zero. Funded by public, Global Medic raises funds through dinners, selling T-shirts and asking public for donations.

Rahul noted “the public sees us as portrayed through the media as people who do the heavy lifting and actually get the work done. A good part of the educated public really cares about where the donor dollars are going and after researching they realize that we don’t have any administrative fees, we’re just about getting work done.”

The local South Asian community has been generous. However, Rahul feels much more needs to be done. “They’ve [South Asian community in Canada] funded us and helped us in the past; we’ve got to do a better job of coming in front of them and explaining the work capacities we have and what we can do. The drawback is that we are a group of doers; we want to do the work and not talk about the work, so we don’t necessarily have a group of talkers that go out and say to the community that we need your help and this is why you need to support us.”


With recession rumours gaining momentum, are people inclined not to donate?

“We’ve grown in terms of our charitable numbers every year but I think that’s more to do with the fact that there are more disasters that have grown in a big scale. Everybody’s feeling the pinch in Canada and around the world,” responded the founder of Global Medic.



Global Medic partners with other organizations to discuss and develop strategies to help those who are in desperate need of emergency relief.

As an organization, Rahul believes that the Canadian government’s response to floods in Pakistan was encouraging. Nonetheless, he feels “We need to do a better job of getting it to the government’s ear and also more about the good things we’re doing and how they work and why they should be funding us.”

“They’ve [the Canadian government] got some concerns and they have a pattern of the way they program tax payers’ dollars and we challenge that norm. We think that doing your projects with larger agencies is not necessarily the answer, which is the way the Canadian government wants to spend its money. The government wants to have accountability and we understand that, but we are trying to show them that there are other ways to have the same accountability and deliver more aid with the same amount of money. We try to explain from our side of it. Can they be more supportive? Absolutely,” he adds.

As a South Asian paramedic, Rahul feels that “the South Asian South Asian community has overlooked this field [emergency response], and they should take a second hard look” at their career choices.

Are there enough jobs for youth in paramedics’ field?

“I think we’re coming into a transition in the City of Toronto. For example, in the next 5 years, we’re going to lose a solid 20% of our workforce, so there will be opportunities for younger people to get in and become paramedics so it is a good filed to be studying right now. There are not enough jobs for people coming out of the colleges now because it’s such a specialty profession, but in a couple of more years, that will completely spin the other way and there will be too many jobs and not enough folks to come in,” stated the son of a father who is from Rajasthan, India and a mother who is from Quetta, Pakistan.

As far as the equal representation of visible minorities in Canada goes, Rahul feels “You can’t ask for someone to come into a job of power if you’re not willing to populate that industry to move all the way up..For example in the police force today in Toronto you will see a few Indian officers and South Asian paramedics but in 10-20 years from now when those people climb through the ranks, will you get a South Asian chief? I’d like to think so. So I think the country has opened up the opportunity and it’s up to us to take the advantage of that and rather than making the excuse that the system isn’t good enough..”

For Global Medic, Rahul’s ambition for next ten years is “to see us a bigger agency with a more stable funding base that is recognized by Canada as the primary agency of choice to give money in a disaster. More importantly I’d like to see us as the gritty frontline emergency workers agency that goes in and focuses on doing the work.”








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