Archive | Culture

The Politics of Sex and Money: Reflections on the Kama Sutra

Posted on 16 October 2013 by admin

By Nadia Chowdhury

Toronto

Aha!

So, this article is on one of my favorite topics. Sexual pleasure, satisfaction and economic necessity. What a fantastic way to start your day, eh? With an article on sex and money.

Clearly, this is my favourite topic.

Indeed, money and sex go well together.

Kind of like blood and stone. Or fire and water. Oh, or sex and pistols.

Which could be very violent. And orgasmic.

Unless one ends up dead from a gunshot wound to either the testicles or the vagina. Whoever the shooter may be.

This does not sound very pleasant, does it?

No, it does not.

Well, anyway.

Back to my bhodro writing.

Know what bhodro is?

Bengali word for “polite”.

To reiterate and start again.

In South Asian culture, the management of sex and sexual growth moves along certain bylines of conduct. After our sarees, cholis, ghaghras, shalwar kameezes, lahengas, kurtas, sherwanis, paghs, tupis, burqas, pajamas, dupattas and so forth, are we to be told that we are supposed to pretend like sexuality in us does not exist despite wearing such colorful and sexy outfits?

Puh-lease.

We know that we not only look sexy, but had our cultures been a bit bolder, every man and woman at every South Asian wedding would be humping each other. We look so hot. And we are so hot.

Yes. I am not ashamed to admit it.

We South Asians are sexual. Perhaps it would do us good if we accepted it.

It was in South Asia that we got the Kama Sutra and sure, it’s a great piece of literature-cum-erotica, but an interesting note of observation regarding the Kama Sutra is that the majority of texts and prose contained within the piece of literature relates to men and women enjoying sex in well-lit, well-decorated rooms with curtains, beds covered in fine linen and gracious palaces, gardens and hallways.

Now that could only mean the sex got more comfortable, but on the other hand I find it interesting to observe that the majority of texts on the Kama Sutra portray a certain class background, with the well-lit, well-decorated rooms, the curtains, beds covered in fine linens and of course, the gracious palaces, gardens and hallways.

What could this mean?

Those having sex in the Kama Sutra are rich. And wealthy. And if I was alive back then, I would have been one the mistress of one of those well-hung men.

Oh well. Opportunities will always come again.

But what is the other message?

That only the rich and the wealthy could make sex-and sexuality-an identity issue, since everything else-livelihood, upkeep and economic maintenance-is already covered.

 For the poor, survival itself is precarious.

Where is the time to think about sex if there is no food on your table, no money to pay your medical bills and none for education?

When your tin house is about to be blown away in the next tornado? Or swept away in the ongoing floods?

An interesting observation, don’t you think?

Western narratives group sex and sexuality as primarily an issue of liberty and freedom. As a South Asian, having lived in South Asia and seen the abject poverty people live in and survive against, including incidents in which property and money is stolen from people either because of greed or malice, to see the sun tomorrow is considered a blessing. When one’s survival itself is dependent on a commodity which is no longer present, how can anything else be considered more important? When one knows that a depleted bank account is no longer enough to ensure survival, where does one go?

Where do people go then?

In other words, to write a book on sex would require slaves and/or servants to come every day into the writer’s room, deliver tea, breakfast, lunch and dinner, wash his or her clothes, and be a rich badass. To write in the first place would require knowledge of a common, well-used language and to know it properly would require access to a good educational institution, which would be connected to your family’s caste, religion, color, and/or marital status.

In other words, the rich only get richer. While the poor get poorer. Sex or no sex.

What does that mean again?

Where in hell will I have the time to think about SEX if I know that I will be DEAD in a few days? Due to a lack of food, money and care?

Exactly.

Sex at the end of the day, is only enjoyable if you are doing it in an A/C room. Sigh.

To conclude, I have decided that maybe I will not have sex until I get a mansion for myself or at least an affordable apartment. Or when I buy the latest version of the Kama Sutra off the internet. Second-hand.

Damn. Life is hard.

Shit.

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Eid-ul-Adha: The ‘Qurbani’ Eid

Posted on 02 October 2013 by admin

Qurbani means sacrifice. Every year during the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah, Muslims around the world slaughter an animal – a goat, sheep, cow or camel – to reflect the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail, for the sake of God.

At least one third of the meat from the animal must go to poor or vulnerable people. Traditionally, a Muslim would keep one third of the meat for their family and give the final third to their neighbours.

The significance of Qurbani

The practice of Qurbani can be traced back to the Prophet Ibrahim who dreamt that God ordered him to sacrifice his only son, Ismail. In his devotion to God, Ibrahim agreed to follow his dream and perform the sacrifice. But God intervened and sent a ram to be sacrificed in Ismail’s place.

Ismail was spared because Ibrahim proved he would sacrifice his son as an act of piety, despite the loss it would have caused him.

The continued practice of sacrifice acts as a reminder of Ibrahim’s obedience to God.

Eid-al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, is celebrated during the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar, known as Dhul Hijjah – which translates as ‘Lord of the Pilgrimage’. It is during this month that pilgrims travel to Mecca in order to visit the Kaaba. Hajj is performed on the eighth, ninth and tenth days of the lunar month. Eid ul-Adha begins on the tenth and ends on the 13th. In 2013, Eid is taking place around 15th October.

See more at: http://www.islamic-relief.com/qurbani/what-is-qurbani.aspx#sthash.6an4eEBO.dpuf

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May The Sun Be Ever In Your Favour

Posted on 25 September 2013 by admin

Yumna Baqai

Toronto

“Ma’am what kind of drink would you prefer?” asked the flight attendant of the California bound flight, interrupting my thoughts about the delicate composition of the Subway foot long I had bought for Iftar. “Nothing,” I replied politely, “I am fasting.”

Before leaving for my vacation, I consulted with the local imam who advised not to fast while travelling if it exceeds my regular fasting hours. I used my wonderful math skills to conclude that during flight the Iftar will be 3 hours earlier than usual, hence I chose to fast.

 It was a lovely day, but after going through the customs and tough scanning at the security, I was exhausted, hungry and cared the least about the day’s beauty. I just wanted it to end. Trust me, you would wish the same if it were the fifteenth’s time you have apologized to your neighbour for the kind of grumbling coming out of your stomach. It really sounded like I had swallowed a live Velociraptor!

 Anyways, after an hour or two into the flight, I saw the sun drawing close to the horizon. “YES!” exclaimed the desperate voice in my head, “Food time! ….I mean, Alhamdulilah! The fast went well. It’s almost time for Iftar.” It was finally the moment I had been waiting for. My tongue braced for a delicious impact while my stomach skipped with excitement, preparing to digest the mouth-watering Tuna sub. I took out the exotic foot long that I have been hijab-over-heals about for the past few hours. Maintaining the visual contact with the sun, I recite my pre-Iftar supplications alongside counting down the final minutes. Upon my request, the flight attendant poured for me, a glass of water. With a water-filled Styrofoam glass in one hand and the sub in another, I continued staring at the sun knowing that at any moment the red across the horizon would appear announcing the Iftar. What happened next transformed this well-behaved Hijabi into a furious and barbaric Hulkjabi.

The sun that was almost setting seemed to have time warped back a couple of hours. It was afternoon all over again!! The sun had repositioned itself to the point it was at during the time of take-off from Toronto. Shocked, confused, disappointed, angry are all the words that fail to describe the exact intensity of the emotion I felt. What in the Merlin’s beard was that?! Did the sun trick me? — It can’t! So what was it? After a while, the major flaw in my genius calculation hits, “Dagnabbit, Yumna!” I yelled inside my head “Time zones!” Yes, time zones! Something I clearly skipped during the calculations. Moving from Toronto towards California, the time zones change and the day becomes younger. “Stupid fire ball!” lashing out at the innocent sun, I slammed the shade shut and fell asleep.

“Ma’am what kind of drink would you prefer?” the flight attendant shook me awake during the second round of refreshments. I slid open the shade. The sun hasn’t seemed to have moved a bit! “Fasting,” I groaned irritably. Turned and fell asleep again.

About three hours later, half an hour away from the destination, the sun finally sets. The fast lasted more than 23 hours leaving me enervated. No longer caring about the deliciousness of the sub, I devoured the entire sandwich within seconds. My neighbour was clearly not impressed by the barbaric behaviour, but hey! He shouldn’t be talking… he ate chips, cookies, sandwiches and much more throughout the journey. Of course, I apologized for my ruthless behaviour later. He understood. All is well that ends well.

Anyways, this was the most energy depleting journey. However, I learned several lessons like: Never let Yumna calculate anything important as it can be disastrous and ALWAYS take time zones into account. Remember, if you’re travelling westwards, the day lengthens, while on the contrary, travelling eastwards makes it shorter. Apart from aforesaid lessons, I also got a true essence of hunger provoking thoughts about starvation across the globe. This experience was painful but definitely made me grateful, encouraging charity.

I chose to share my story with you as each year its during Summer when Ramadan begins and it will remain so for the next few years. Summer is the high time when people travel. These mistakes are surprisingly very common— something that serves to lift my self-esteem. Hoping this article helps you plan better. Cheers! Finally, to everyone planning to take a trip during the next Ramadan:

Happy travelling! May the sun be ever in your favour!

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Musings On The Written Word

Posted on 18 September 2013 by admin

By Nadia Chowdhury

Toronto

Who does not adore classics? Everyone does.

Okay, let me be honest. I never liked classics. Yes, I might like them now, but reading them in grade school was not easy. Especially when you were on a deadline and you knew that text was on your term papers, which would determine your life because those term papers would carry a grade to be reported on your report card. Which would come back to your parents and then……well, you know the rest of the story.

But you know something? Reading literature was-and still is-a great way to learn about the world. And in the age of super-fast technology, opening a print book could be….a really nice hobby. Having had friends who will gawk if I told them I don’t own an Ipod and feel embarrassed rather that I lament Indigo closing the World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto, Ontario, I feel that yes, times have changed.

Nevertheless, it is fun sometimes for me to go and open a moth-eaten book in a public library and smell the smell. Yes, books have a smell of their own and they can be zesty. Yes zesty, for that is how books smell. Like potato chips. Yes, I know what you are thinking-this person really loves books!

Yes, I do and with that kept in mind let me begin by saying that books have been-and will always be-important. Some assume with the advent of visual and virtual technology, reading will decrease-no, print media will decrease. And to a certain extent, this is true.

Indeed, when I visit local bookstores, all I see on the shelves are fading book titles with tomes printed a decade ago gathering dust and dirt. While market sales are a topic worth considering for a separate article altogether, it is interesting for me to see how the majority of these books are not only classics but in some cases, pretty priceless ones too. Even as we live in an era and age of uber-fast, digital technology, it might be true for others to see the monetary value of holding on to books and what economic reasons would warrant holding on to books, you ask? Why Amazon and Ebay and the self-sell tab on both. Great way to bring in extra money.

Although my experiences regarding this field of work (that is, business and education) have been both desolatory and desultory, for various reasons. One reason being that people these days do not want to buy books no more and like many of the people I know would rather spend it on the latest Ipad. Not exactly a bad thing depending on your taste but if your ability to string two words together is lower than your ability to drive a car and murder pedestrians because you are on that Ipod, then baby, you just proved my point. Bok deprivation kills.

No Nadia, how can you say that? Surely you are over-reacting a bit, huh? Maybe I am, but what if I am? I am going to be reactionary if people do not know how to string two words together and that apparently, was what books were good for. And it was not just grammar. Books were also good for taking trips unknown into various different places through the simple flipping of pages and that was-and still is-pretty damn remarkable.

Do people attain that form of wonder with their gadgets and devices these days? That would have to be a separate piece of research and indeed, magic is everywhere, learning is everywhere. Learning with discipline, focus and wonder is also something very relevant. In today’s times, is that possible? Unaccustomed to 21st-century gadgetry, I will never know but in other news, it still good to see kids these days use their gadgets for stuff other than going to a friend’s house and/or accessing social media. How useful that will be, is something only time will tell. And yes, I do critique social media including its different facets, aspects, ratios and measure of usefulness; do you want me to start on it, do you want me to start on it? No? Good. Don’t get me started on it. It will take me till next week to finish. Instead, be a good little reader and wait for my next article.

In conclusion, it was a good experience to rant on books and technology and how the tides have changed for the better or worse. In any case, it’s time for me to go and catch up on 50 Shades of Grey. Have you heard of the book? Its a very educational piece of work. Go check it out, okay? HappyReading!

 

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Lessons from Mum

Posted on 08 May 2013 by admin

Manpreet K Chandpuri

Toronto

When you love someone you don’t stop trying for their happiness and well-being.

 

 

Mum says, “Don’t be distracted from food while eating”; mum says, “Get 8 hours of sleep every single day instead of catching up over the weekend”; mum says, “rise and sleep with the sun”; mum says, “Don’t follow trends, develop your individual style”; mum says, “it’s better to be alone than to be in bad company”; mum says, “Don’t ever grovel before anyone”; mum says, “always do your duty regardless of whether it is appreciated”; mum says, “self-respect is more important than money”; mum says, “siblings are for keeps”; and mum says, “the most important thing in life is peace of mind.”

 All good things and the list goes on; but the best lessons that I have learned from my mother are the ones that she has not intended to teach me. Unbeknownst to her, mum has taught me more by the way she has led her life than by giving explicit advice. Actions always speak louder than words and leave a lasting impact on many an impressionable mind.

The biggest lesson from mum is to never give up on the happiness and well-being of the people you love. Every so often a friend, a relative or a child fails, either in life or in living up to our expectations; and we are quick to jump to the conclusion that the person is beyond redemption. We give up on people too quickly; but not my mum, she roots for her near ones and tries to do her best for them.

 A more practical person might think that she is fighting a battle lost from the word “go”. There are times when we are so exhausted from fighting life’s countless battles that we give up on our dreams and aspirations. In those times having a loved one who believes in us and is rooting for us, can change our perspective. My mum’s childlike faith in people is so touching that it has brought tears to my eyes on more occasions than one. The lesson that I have learned is that when you love someone you don’t stop trying for their happiness and well-being.

My mum is the ideal eldest sibling, the one who left no stone unturned to make sure that all the younger siblings were settled in their respective homes and careers. Being a daughter in a traditional Indian home settling the younger siblings wasn’t her responsibility but she willingly took that responsibility because she loved them and wanted the very best for them. Her siblings might have let her down but her loyalty and devotion to them never wavered. She still adores them and still stands up for them. All her siblings are well settled now and have grown-up children but my mum is still very protective of them and refuses to hear a word of criticism against them. The lesson that I have learned: “Siblings should protect each other.” Do not join the rest of the world in pulling a sibling down; shield them like a protective cocoon, and stand up for them.

I must have been about six at the time when I was playing around the house one day and I broke an ornate mirror; I was scared of telling my mother about it. Nevertheless, I mustered all my courage and told her about what I had done.

 Contrary to my expectations, she shrugged it off and said, “so what!” She assured me that it was too trivial a matter to be concerned about and ascertained that I didn’t have an iota of guilt. That was my first lesson that when it’s a case of things versus people the choice is very easy.

Mum has had her ups and downs but she hasn’t lost perspective that people matter more than things. She hasn’t lost sleep over material things but she has lost sleep over a near one’s suffering. All of us have had our share of monetary losses, its useless to shed tears over them; in the ultimate analysis, we are defined not by our material gains and losses but by the friendships and relationships that we nurture and the memories we create.

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How Vaisakhi Became a Canadian Celebration

Posted on 11 April 2013 by admin

Amneet Singh

Ottawa

Growing up as Punjabi speaking kid, born and raised inLondon,Ontariowhere a turban and a beard were less than common, I always wondered what it felt like when my non-Punjabi or Sikh friends would celebrate Christmas, Channukah or Eid. To be honest, growing up as the only turbanned kid on the block, I kind of felt left out!

 

It wasn’t until a truly Canadian experience in my high schools years that I realized Vaisakhi to me, was what Christmas was to many of my friends. All the excitement, family, friends, laughs and joy, these were emotions that we shared in moments of celebration universally. Obvious, right? Well, not really.

 

Here’s how my genius was sparked. Every year my family and I would attend the large Vaisakhi Parade through the streets of downtownToronto, where we’d be greeted by a stage full of politicians, disconnected and speaking political lines upon deaf ears. But, one particular year that experience changed – as I walked through a sea of orange, amongst thousands of Punjabis and Sikhs, over my right shoulder was Jack Layton, hands folded, head raised, walking the Parade!

It may sound silly, but this simple gesture spoke volumes. For years, Vaisakhi was a political stage that no one really cared about, where politicians shook a few hands, struggled for more minutes on the microphone and left as quickly as they arrived, but for Jack, Vaisakhi meant more. For the first time ever, a politician took the time to enjoy the Punjabi-Canadian experience, to celebrate, share more than a few moments with the community and show a special kind of respect.

 

As many of us know, we lost Jack over a year ago now and with him we lost a great politician and a human being. But Jack gifted us with a new kind of politics, one that was about everyday people and making the experience of all Canadians, a little better with every gesture.

 

Today, the NDP carries on that legacy, with Tom Mulcair as the Leader of the Official Opposition andCanada’s New Democrats. Vaisakhi isn’t a political opportunity for New Democrats but a renewal of a bond forged with every step taken by Jack during that Parade. With each passing year, Tom Mulcair has demonstrated that stages mean less and respect means more.

 

Last year, Tom Mulcair made a Vaisakhi promise and he kept it. As Leader of the Official Opposition of Canada, he dedicated his first Opposition Day motion as leader of Canada’s New Democrats with a demand that the Government of Canada apologize for the Komagata Tragedy officially in the House of Commons, the Conservatives disagreed.

 

This year, Tom Mulcair initiated the largest and most successful consultation withCanada’s Punjabi community in the Party’s history to mark Vaisakhi. But, that’s not all. After hearing the concerns of Punjabi Canadians across the country about the lack of recognition for a community that has over one hundreds years of history inCanada- Tom Mulcair andCanada’s New Democrats acted.

 

On April 6th, 2013 in the city ofBramptonOntario,Canada’s NDP announced their support for the recognition of Punjabis inCanada by calling for establishment of April to be designated as Punjabi Heritage Month in all ofCanada.

For me, with real politics for real people – Vaisakhi has become a little more Canadian every year.

You can support the petition by logging onto www.punjabiheritagemonth.ca

 

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Happy Navratri

Posted on 24 October 2012 by admin

Ontario Soccer Association in Vaughan was a sight of Garba celebrations on Oct 20th. Men, women, and children dressed in traditional dresses celebrated Navratri with great deal of zeal. Navratri is a very important and major festival in the western state of Gujarat and Mumbai, during which the traditional dance of Gujarat called ‘Garba’ is widely performed. This festival is celebrated with great zeal in North India as well including Bihar, West Bengal and the northern state of Punjab.

The festival at Ontario Soccer Association was organized by Swar Sadhana Music School. More information about the school can be found at www.swarsadhana.ca.

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Garba: ‘Good for Canadian Culture’

Posted on 03 October 2012 by admin

Garba is good for “culture inCanada” says Varun Panchal, a photographer who has a degree in Business Finance fromCentennialCollege. It is an opportunity for all communities “to come together and dance on one floor,” he told Generation Next.

Born inCalcutta, Mallika Kapur is now studying to be a doctor atMcMasterUniversity. She wanted to be a lawyer initially, only to discover that “I didn’t really like arguing with people,” however she was also not sure if she was “ready for the commitment” to study long and hard to be a doctor.

Mallika is also leading a research study looking into the implications of diabetes management within the South Asian population in Canada. Her family moved back toIndiafromCanadaas her “dad wanted to work inIndia,” she told Generation Next.

An accomplished Bharatnatyam dancer, Mallika aspires to be a source of pride for Indo Canadian community.

Varun, who moved to Canada only a few years ago, cannot find a job in his area of studies and has taken up photography as a weekend job. During the week, he does a manufacturing job. He says his interviewers ask him for experience, but “if you don’t get a job, how will you get experience,” he wonders.

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Art Exhibition

Posted on 05 July 2012 by admin

Staff Writer

There is an artist in all of us but how many of us know about it. There is always some inspiration or teachings that inspire and guide us in life.  AsmaArshadMahmood also has such learning and inspirations which she shared with us, exhibiting through her art in a colorful display.   “This exhibition is a tribute to my father who taught me to enjoy everything in life as an adventure. He taught me to draw. He taught me to dream’’ said Asma. 

AsmaMahmood is a Mississauga based artist who completed her masters in Fine Arts and studio practice from York University.  Asma works as a General Manager for Cre8iv80 Studio and as Artistic Director for Promenade Gallery in Mississauga.  Established as an art gallery located at the premier location in Mississauga with major transit routes in immediate vicinity, this gallery aims to serve artists and community as an arts and events venue. Her art work is informed by her personal experiences.  Her work inspires from old letters, cards, mountains, landscapes and most of all her father.

There were a lot of people that applauded her work. I spoke to one such admirer at the art exhibition that said, “it’s great to have an art gallery in the heart of Mississauga area.”   Going back in time, Asma tells us “I remember my good friend NazirSabir, encouraging and keeping my dream to scale to Himalayas. He made me fall in love with mountains”.  She continues “the exhibition is also a way to thank Raja Changez who trusted me with his technique of scaling these massive mountains with my paint brush.”

I am in love with colors this season. Everywhere that I go, it makes me so cheerful to see all the nice and bright colors around me.  And so were the paintings. There is fabulous use of vibrant colors on canvas, carefully projected by Asma. She said, “The painted mountains and landscapes are another chapter in my development as a visual artist. I have created large canvases to go back to the basic skills and visual temptation of a colorist”.

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First Urdu Telefilm Venture in Toronto Inaugurated

Posted on 21 June 2012 by admin

Bhaswati Ghosh

The debut venture of Barefoot Films Canada, BadaShayarChhotaAadmi, also the first Urdu telefilm venture in Toronto was launched over the weekend. Renowned Indian playwright and filmmaker, Mahesh Dattani inaugurated the Mahurat ceremony by “clapping” the first shot. The mahurat took place at Open Space studioin Mississauga.

Barefoot Films is the venture of Jawaid Danish, a leading theatre director and the main force behind Rangmanch Canada. Speaking about the film, he said it was a unique love triangle based on the lives of South Asians in Canada and how some of them misuse the system or their privileges.

Mahesh Dattani said he was thrilled to inaugurate the first Indian telefilm venture in Toronto and felt confident about the capabilities of South Asians in this country.

The film is expected to take eight weeks of shooting and is scheduled to release in the Fall of 2012.

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