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An Unconventional Techie: Sumi Shan

Posted on 08 February 2017 by admin

 SHANELLE KANDIAH

On a Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. Sumi Shan’s day of work is not yet over. She speaks to me over the phone while taking a break from finalizing plans for an event for one of her many projects in the tech world, TEx Ventures .

As a graduate in Political Science and former political staffer, the tech industry did not always provide an obvious career path for Sumi.

Migrating to Canada in the 1980’s, she was raised in a political household influenced by the political climate in Sri Lanka and by her parents’ own struggles to raise her and her brother in a new country. Attending her first political rally for the Liberal Party of Canada at just 14 years old, a passion ignited within Sumi which would influence her involvement and lead her to work for a Member of Provincial Parliament shortly after finishing university.

As a political staffer at Queen’s Park, she gained invaluable professional experience in communications, issues management, policy and stakeholder relations, from working on a diverse and complex range of projects, from a Bill to accredit foreign trained professionals, to marketing provincial tourism and negotiating bilateral agreements. However, while Sumi was realizing a long-held dream of a career in politics, the life of a political aide was beginning to take a toll on her. While balancing the demands of an intense work schedule, in the middle of her political career, Sumi was persuaded into an arranged marriage in her 20’s. After realizing that the marriage was not going to work out, she made the difficult decision to divorce and simultaneously decided to explore opportunities outside of politics.

“After my divorce, I felt like I had not lived up to expectations. As a Tamil woman, there’s so much pressure to succeed in all aspects of life. I’ve learned so much from what I thought at that time was a failure. I know now that it’s not the end of the world when things don’t work out. It provided a valuable lesson in knowing myself and that I needed to a lead a life filled with purpose.”

With the support and encouragement of her family, friends and mentors, Sumi was motivated to move on to the next stage of life and began building a successful career for herself yet again as part of the Public Affairs team at the Heart and Stroke Foundation. She achieved several successes during this time, including her work for a campaign which garnered several prestigious awards and acknowledgements ranging from – the Media Innovation Awards, ADCC, AdWeek and Huffington Post Canada. At the same time, she decided to take a professional risk and start a public affairs and diversity consultation business with some friends, Sangam Consulting. Feeling an unfamiliar and exciting new joy in running a business, Sumi eventually divested the partnership and spearheaded Niche Strategies on her own to help startups in Toronto and San Francisco.

“The passion and energy in the space invigorated me. I also found that in my interactions with startup founders, especially technical ones, that they needed help with go-to-market strategies and simple stakeholder or investor relations; all of which my background in politics, strategic planning and communications could help them with.”

As a result of her work through Niche Strategies, Sumi unexpectedly caught the eye of Microsoft Canada and was taken on as the Public Relations Lead for their Corporate Affairs team. While this has since become her “daytime job”, Sumi has continued running and growing Niche Strategies as her own business.

While many people would be satisfied and even overwhelmed with this level of professional success, Sumi is also an advisor at AVM Equity, a boutique firm that provides consultation on go-to-market strategies for start-ups, in addition to being a co-founder of TEx Ventures, “an integrated, multifaceted platform that aims to provide comprehensive support to the next generation of start-ups.”

What makes TEx Ventures different than her other tech consulting endeavors? Sumi started TEx Ventures with other members of the North American Tamil community after seeing eagerness from many in the community to venture into the start-up world. Leveraging the global networks of the TEx Ventures team, it aims to help mentor, fund and accelerate the formation and growth of startups from the ideation stage to the Series A funding round.

As a self-described “unconventional techie” Sumi admitted to feeling overwhelmed from time-to-time as the face of several tech consulting companies without a “traditional” tech background.

“I’m a minority woman. On top of that, I don’t come from the tech industry. I’ve felt intimidated throughout my career as one of a handful of minority women in Queen’s Park and now in the tech world. But like everything that I have come across in life, I have learned to overcome obstacles and learn to be confident in myself. I’m lucky to have a really great support system. If I allowed self-doubt and fear to overwhelm me, I would have missed out on all the great experiences that have happened to me.”

While Sumi may be an unconventional techie, her career is only growing and her work continues to garner attention in the industry. Her advice to aspiring Tamil entrepreneurs?

“You don’t have to do it all by yourself and don’t be afraid to fail. Whether it is a matter of ego, or just not knowing – many of the Tamil entrepreneurs that I have met feel that they need to prove to others by doing everything on their own. Don’t burn yourself out. There are many resources and professionals out there that can help – you don’t have to be the expert in everything. It’s ok to fail, just learn from it.”

Shanelle Kandiah is a graduate from the University of Toronto, Shanelle recently completed her Master’s in Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University.

http://tamilculture.com/unconventional-techie-sumi-shan/

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Award shows should have diverse judges to represent artist community

Posted on 01 February 2017 by admin

Raoul Juneja, music producer, TV producer, columnist, activist

Raoul Juneja, also known as Deejay Ra, is a columnist, TV host, music producer and activist. He is also a media expert on urban and South Asian music. He has created and produced the award-winning national Canadian music TV show.

Raoul was born in Toronto, and was raised in New York City. He studied media at Western University where he began DeeJaying and appearing as a TV host and columnist.He has also interviewed prominent Canadian celebrities including Russell Peters and Maestro Fresh Wes.

Raoul started his professional career in 2001 founding his Lyrical Knockout Entertainment company. He also began writing articles and interviewing artists.

Here’s Generation Next’s interview with this multi-talented young man:

 

You are multi-talented, music producer, TV producer, columnist, activist. Do you have to spread wings far enough to sustain yourself in show business?

To some extent, but you shouldn’t get distracted focusing on too many things at once as you run the risk of not excelling at any of them. I’ve found it’s more important to have the skills to work in multiple areas depending on the flow of your career. So for example, I was producing compilations and writing early in my career, spent 4 years producing a TV show, went back to writing, and now am back producing compilations.

It seems as if South Asian artists have been booming in Canadian and American TV. Is it just an impression or has the field really grown?

Growing up I was lucky to have Aashna on YTV and Monika Deol on MuchMusic as inspirations for me wanting to become a veejay, but ‘Apu’ from “The Simpsons” was still who the mainstream would compare us to. Russell Peters, who was one of my mentors, has done amazing on TV and Netflix as has Aziz Ansari and so many others.

How supportive is Canadian government of Canadian South Asian artists in comparison to say British, Indian or American governments?

This wasn’t always the case, but in recent years I’ve seen great support from the Canadian government and industry for Canadian artists of South Asian heritage, when it comes to grants and other opportunities. Not just because they are South Asian, but because they are talented artists who present themselves professionally, which is the most important thing.

It’s great that many Canadian artists have seen success in Britain, India and America so I hear each country’s government and industry has its own unique benefits for their artists. Raghav, Jonita Gandhi and Anjulie are just three examples of Canadian artists who’ve been very successful in Britain, India and America respectively.

You have worked in mainstream media. Tell us what the mainstream media gets wrong about South Asian artists working in Canadian showbiz?

Back in the day, it was still common for South Asian artists or TV personalities to be typecast under Bollywood when it came to the Canadian industry. It was difficult even for myself and V-Mix’s host Dilshad Burman to be taken seriously at first, given that we were both South Asian but doing an urban and world music TV show that didn’t cover Bollywood.

Now there are artists like Alysha Brilla who have large mainstream fanbases, or hosts like Sangita Patel on Entertainment Tonight Canada who are interviewing the biggest Hollywood stars. More progress can always be made, but I’m proud to have tried to do my part and will continue to!

What do you think about various Bollywood and Hollywood award shows in the light of the fact that many Hollywood and Bollywood stars do not think very highly of these shows.

I believe the Bollywood and Hollywood award shows are very important but should always have a diverse team of judges, so there is consistent diversity amongst the award winners. Not just culturally, but also within genres so the artists truly feel represented as a community.

I’ve won several awards in the past and definitely feel it helped with my career, plus now I’m honoured to now be a juror for several awards shows like Canada’s Prism Prize and the Toronto Independent Music Awards.

How do you think technology has changed music and music industry?

Technology has always and will continue to change various art forms and their industries, especially music. Bootlegging has always been there, as have consumers who like to purchase music versus those who like to hear it for free, whether on the radio in the past or by streaming today.

10 years from now, how do you see technology changing this industry even further. In other words what are the jobs of future in the music industry?

I feel there has always been a need for both artists and tastemakers. Artists to create the music, and tastemakers who can curate the music to present what they feel will be most enjoyed by the public at large. Both deserve to be compensated for their work, otherwise you won’t have the art or the public will be overwhelmed and not able to absorb it all, which is happening to an extent today as we see opportunities for music journalists lessen.

What are some of the social issues near and dear to your heart and why?

Bullying is something I’m very vocal about, and I’ve been honoured to tour Canadian schools these past few years as part of the “Conquer The Fear” tour alongside Alexi Couto, Shane Kippel, Jae Cabrera and recently Scott Graham.

Over the past year, the issue of human trafficking is something I became aware of and wanted to do something about.

Both bullying and human trafficking can negatively affect youth in a huge way, leaving a lasting impact on their lives or in many instances even put their lives at risk.

Sometimes I get an impression that you prefer to be behind the scenes. Is it accurate?

Absolutely, but I do enjoy being on camera or on stage when necessary! So many get into the entertainment industry because of acting or musical talents they have, even though I acted in plays and was in bands at school I was always more interested in whose vision the actors or musicians were helping bring to light.

A common joke about TV producers or producers of music projects is that we’re the ones who no one notices if everything goes right, but we’re the ones to blame if anything goes wrong! Our job is to bring out the best in the TV directors and hosts, as well as in the artists and composers, to make sure they get the credit they deserve.

Please talk to us about your music compilation releasing with The United Nations on Jan. 31st to benefit the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons.

I couldn’t be more honoured to co-produce the “Music To Inspire: Artists United Against Human Trafficking” triple album alongside Sammy Chand, Founder of the Los Angeles based label Rukus Avenue. We’ve assembled over 65 world renowned artists to lend their songs and names to raise awareness and funds to fight human trafficking. The album is out now on Rukus Avenue, available on iTunes and all digital retailers with the proceeds going to the UN Trust Fund.

I was very moved that the South Asian music community came out in full force to support us, including AR Rahman, Anoushka Shankar, Sonu Nigam, Apache Indian and Panjabi MC. Some of my favourite mainstream artists like Joss Stone, Vanessa Carlton and Garbage were also quick to offer their help.

What are some of the other initiatives you have been part of and why?

I’m excited to be returning as the keynote interviewer at the Canadian Urban Music Conference on September 2nd, and to host at TDotFest on September 3rd. The conference and festival have been a huge live platform for upcoming and established Canadian urban artists.

I’ll also be involved with the upcoming CUT Hip Hop Awards on May 6th, a hip hop awards show which is very much needed in Canada considering Canadian artists’ huge contributions to hip hop over the past 25 years.

Working in this industry, who has inspired you the most and why?

It may seem surprising, but Professor Noam Chomsky has been my biggest inspiration ever since I read a small article by him when I was in university. I was in a business program only taking one media course, which is how I discovered his work, and just a few of his words changed how I thought about the world entirely. I immediately switched to a media program, and the rest is history!

I was very inspired by the fact that he was both a linguistics professor and an outspoken activist, which made me believe I could also combine my love for media and music with making a difference.

With all the work you do, how do you find time to eat, sleep, rest and be on social media?

Having a schedule to do all those things is integral in the music and media industries, as there’s a constant mix of busy and slow times as well as emotional highs and lows. You can easily lose your work ethic, physical health or mental health if you don’t give yourself a structure, and even in my case it took years to find the right rhythm for myself.

I find it’s also important to differentiate between meetings, networking and socializing, as well as the hard work that progresses your career. All are important but focus on things that are actively bringing you closer to your goals, even if it seems like it will take a long time to get there. It took me 15 years of working in the industry before I got to go to The Grammy’s for the first time last year, but that made it all the more worth it. I couldn’t be happier to be going back to the Grammy’s this year too!

Follow Raoul on Twitter @RAOULJUNEJA and on Instagram @LYRICALKNOCKOUT

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My Experiences With Bullying

Posted on 26 January 2017 by admin

VITHYA

Feature image courtesy of MY Photography.

I have briefly mentioned experiencing bullying before, but after hearing about an incident in Netherlands of a young Tamil boy who took his life due to bullying, and receiving an email from a girl yesterday about similar issues she is facing, I thought I will write a blog about my thoughts on this, in the hope that this may create a ray of hope for anyone out there who feels what I felt many years ago.

I grew up in a refugee camp to begin with, and since my parents didn’t speak German, I was not able to pick up the language very quickly, so I went to kindergarten and was picked on for not knowing German. Not just by fellow kids, but also the teachers, who isolated me and never included me in anything. When I started primary school, I was picked on immediately. We didn’t have school Uniforms in Germany, and my parents couldn’t afford to dress me in nice things, so I was picked on for my dress code, not speaking German, and for being coloured. Germany in the 90s was extremely racist. I was called names just because of my skin tone.

In my last year at primary school, I used to get beaten up during break, I used to go home with bruises, and my mum believed every story I told her. My parents were never even aware of what went on at school.

When I started high school, things got better, only to then be told that we are moving to England. I hated the high school system here. Yes we had Uniforms, and the teachers had a lot more control over students and waited at the bus stops until every student got on, but that never stopped the bullies. I had to sit at the front of every class due to my language barrier (yep, I spoke no word of English at the age of 14), and the so called ‘cool’ kids sitting at the back used to chuck paper at me when the teacher wasn’t looking. On one occasion I had chewing gum chucked at me, which got caught in my hair, and I waited to use the bathroom, to cry in the cubicle because I couldn’t get it out of my hair.

I was teased for the way I looked, for having a hairy upper lip, for the way I dressed, for the way I spoke, for not being academically smart. Naturally I had no friends either. Not in Kindergarten, not in Primary school, and not during High School either. The only person I became friends with was also being bullied, so we were both always picked on.

I genuinely believed that Uni will change everything, but it didn’t. I moved out, and initially made friends with the people I lived with, but very soon they made their own friends from their courses and I was left on my own again. I tried really hard to make friends in my course, but I really struggled. I hated having group work or a lab partner, as I was always the last person to be selected. No one wanted to work with me.

I still managed to make a few friends who I am still close with to this day. But man, making friends during those days just wasn’t easy for me.

I was depressed, miserable, and just super insecure. I had the odd person I hung out with, or was desperate to have a boyfriend because I thought at least that way I won’t be lonely, but to no luck. Things never seemed to work out for me very well. (And when you are this vulnerable and lonely, you do attract the wrong kind of guys, so please please do not make the same mistake. It is better to be on your own, than wind up with a psycho boyfriend who will make you fell much worse about yourself than any of those bullies at school).

I didn’t tell anyone about it, and I didn’t talk to a therapist either. In fact none of my family members knew about it, and the teachers/lecturers weren’t aware either. Do you know what I did about it? I learned to not care about them. I figured that a few years down the line none of these people are going to matter. I took a vow that I will make something of my life, and that I will be happy, content, successful, and achieve my goals. I used to want those things, just so I can have people begging to be my friend.

Well today that doesn’t influence my decisions of course. Today I have learned to do things on my own, to be independent, and to run my own business. I achieved all the things I set out to achieve, and whoever stuck by me through this painful and long journey, are the ones I really regard as friends and who really matter to me. To me, my parents and my cousins are still my number ones, and every one else I meet along the journey come and go, and I am content with that. People who want to be friends with you because of success or fame, are never really real friends. Trust me!!!

I have considered taking my life numerous times during those awful years. I used to think no one would even notice if I am gone, and that I would probably enrich their lives by killing myself. I am telling you, I have never crossed paths with any of these bullies since leaving school, and I am glad that I never took my life for their satisfaction. Bullies make you believe that something is wrong with you, when in reality something is wrong with them. They are the miserable and unhappy ones, and they get their notion of happiness by making others suffer. It is their way of coping, their way of surviving. It is not your fault. In fact be the better person and feel sorry for them, if you are not able to do so, then just ignore them.

I could write an entire essay of what you could do to those mean bullies, but stooping to their level is never wise. We don’t know what they are going through nor why they are so bitter and unhappy. They must be fighting their own battles at home. Who cares? It is not your problem. You are loved, you have a beautiful family, and you have a roof over your head and cooked food on the table, stay strong and put up with it until you can make active choices. Yes you could change schools, or jobs, or stop being friends with the person that constantly picks on you. But does that solve the problem? It deals with the symptoms not the source. How we react to these situations is dealing with the source of the problem. Just ignore them, and don’t change. Be the same kind person you want to be.

You would think bullying only happens in schools, but no it happens at work, it happens in relationships, it even happens amongst family members. We can never get away from a bully. They are everywhere, and around us. But we have the power to do something about it. To make choices that allow us to stay away from such people. Or remove ourselves from these situations. The first step is to talk to a loved one, confide in them, and let them help you. If you don’t, then there are professionals you can talk to at school or even at work to make them aware of this.

I once had a staff member bully me at work for over a year. Since I became an expert at being bullied, I just noted down everything; anything he said or did. I never encouraged him, nor reacted to his behaviour. (Even though I used to cry at home, or in the bathrooms), and then after about six months of collecting evidence, I wrote a huge letter to HR, filed a formal complaint, and after a few interviews he was sacked. And I worked happily ever after!

Even now, I sometimes get cyberbullies. I even have some family members who bully me. I deal with it every day.

Why should you suffer for someone else? Why does the other person matter more than you? Why is it ok to feel sad, irrelevant, and lonely? Why?

No one has that right or that kind of power over you. So don’t let them!

Just use me as an example. I was bullied most of my life, and today I regard myself as a successful and independent woman. I am also about to leave my family and friends and move to another country where I am not going to know anyone and start from scratch. I got those bullies to thank! I became tough and strong because of them.

So get up, dust off, and LIVE!!! Life gets better. I promise!!!

Vithya is a London based Hair and Make Up artist who specialises in Asian Bridal Hair and Make Up, and dressing. She qualified at the London College of Fashion, has worked for M.A.C Cosmetics for almost three years, and is now self employe

http://tamilculture.com/my-experiences-with-bullying/

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Brampton man heading to India to be ‘part of real change’ in Punjab vote

Posted on 19 January 2017 by admin

Surinder Mavi’s political awakening began with his arrival in Canada eight years ago, when he realized bribes were unnecessary and basic rules, like stopping at red lights, were respected.

“I thought to myself, ‘Why shouldn’t the system work like this in the Punjab?” he says, referring to his home state in northern India.

On Tuesday, Mavi will be among 90 or so residents from the Toronto area flying to India to help the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) contest elections on Feb. 4 for Punjab’s legislative assembly.

“I want to be a part of real change,” says Mavi, a 31-year-old Brampton resident who helped organize the plane load of AAP election volunteers.

Mavi said the Toronto area volunteers are part of a campaign that will see thousands of Indian expatriates arrive in Dehli Thursday to help the AAP in the state elections.

For the election, Mavi will be ride an AAP campaign bus that will rally support in 16 of Punjab’s largest constituencies.

Before coming to Canada, Mavi was a politically inactive and unemployed engineer. But in 2014, after landing a job as a senior technical service analyst at a major Canadian bank, he decided it was time to act.

He joined the Canadian branch of AAP, which had burst onto the Indian political scene two years earlier with a platform of ending the culture of “bribe-taking.” Its leader is an austere former civil servant, Arvind Kejriwal.

Up for grabs in Punjab are 117 assembly seats in a state where Sikhs make up the majority of its 28 million people. The election will test the AAP’s support outside of its base in Dehli, where in 2015 it won all but three of the capital’s 70 assembly seats in local elections.

The Dehli results were a spectacular comeback for a party that, the previous year, was trounced in national elections by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). The AAP won only four seats — all of them in Punjab.

The Punjab election will also test the popularity of Modi’s BJP, which is part of the state government thanks to its alliance with the Sikh-based Shiromani Akali Dal party.

The election is the first since Modi’s bold “demonetization” policy of fighting tax evasion and corruption by scrapping India’s two biggest notes — 1,000 rupees (about $20), and 500 rupees (about $10). The policy has resulted in lengthy lineups at banks as Indians scrambled to exchange the old notes for new ones.

“It’s a good bellwether for the effect that demonetization has had,” said professor Kanta Murali, an expert on Indian politics at the University of Toronto, noting that Punjab’s farmers and large agricultural sector rely heavily on cash transactions.

Azad Kaushik, Canadian president of the Overseas Friends of BJP, notes “an anti-incumbency factor” prevalent in Punjab. But in a phone interview from Dehli, where he was visiting, he insists the BJP’s economic record and its development of infrastructure — from roads to airports — will keep its state coalition in power.

Kaushik, who accuses the AAP of having “failed miserably” as Dehli’s government, stresses his group is not a political party and therefore will not be sending volunteers to India to help the BJP in the Punjab election.

Polls in the last several months have indicated widely different results. But all show the AAP having a significant impact.

Mavi, whose parents live in Punjab, said the Toronto-area volunteers will largely be staying with family and relatives. Key platform issues, he said, are the AAP’s proposals to fight widespread drug abuse among youth and programs to give farmers more money for their crops.

He has high hopes for his party but no plans to take his wife and one-year-old son to live in India, at least not until big changes happen.

“If the system started working as it is in Canada, then there’s no harm in going back,” he said.

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Youth are struggling with sentiment that they don’t belong

Posted on 11 January 2017 by admin

Yaseen Poonah, President of Naseeha (advice)

For every phone call that gets answered, Yaseen Poonah can’t help but think about the thousands that don’t.

Poonah, founder and president of Naseeha, a GTA-based volunteer helpline for Muslim youth, started the service nearly a decade ago with the aim of giving teens across North America a free and confidential place to call for support.

Staffed with counsellors for only three hours on weekday evenings, the service has long struggled to meet the demand of teens calling from as far away as Hawaii, New Mexico and California to talk and seek spiritual guidance, on issues common to all teens.

But then came the U.S. election campaign.

Over the past year, Naseeha (which means advice in Arabic) saw its call volume increase by more than 300 per cent over 2015, according to Poonah.

“Now it’s a different ball game,” he said. In 2015, Naseeha received more than 4,000 calls. But between January and December of 2016, the service received more than 16,000 calls — many of which went unanswered simply because of a lack of staff, he said.

The concerns of Muslim youth are largely the same as those of all youth, Poonah added: “Depression, mental health, bullying, suicide, LGBT and questioning gender identity are the big ones.”

But there are some culturally specific ones: intergenerational cultural clashes, marital problems and, more often these days, discrimination. “Youth are struggling with the sentiment that they don’t belong and that is manifesting itself in unhealthy behaviours,” he said. Most of the calls Naseeha gets come from the U.S.

“We had a number of mainstream organizations in the U.S. asking us if we had enough resources available in light of a Trump presidency,” Poonah said. “Admittedly, we are a little concerned about what will happen after Inauguration Day.”

The service has been receiving calls not only from youth, but also from their parents about how to deal with the effect of Donald Trump’s presidency, he said. “It’s getting a little bit out of our scope.”

Poonah believes the boost in call numbers could also be due to word of mouth and Google searches. The non-profit, which recently received charitable status, is also listed as a crisis resource by the Toronto District School Board and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; it most recently collaborated with Kids Help Phone.

There are times when the organization has been approached by authorities, including the RCMP, Poonah said. “In the case of so-called honour killings, local authorities will sometimes ask us if we got calls from the victims,” he said.

“And when it comes down to radicalization, it’s the same. We would report it if it came up.”

On its website, Naseeha states that all calls are confidential, unless there is concern about harm to oneself or someone else, if there is suspected child abuse, or if information is subpoenaed by a court.

Dr. Gursharan Virdee, a researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health who has done work with Muslim and Sikh youth, says that the discreet nature of Naseeha — which operates chat and email services in addition to a phone line — takes away many of the barriers that traditionally exist for these communities to get support.

She said that in her work with youth, many have said they wanted faith and spirituality to be a part of their counselling — something that has been missing when they access mainstream services. “If there is a lot of distance between the therapist and the client, there are some schools of thought that say that therapy might not be as effective as it could be,” she said. So Naseeha fills a large void.

She said it is possible that the recent spike in calls is due to general adolescent difficulties being compounded by heightened incidence of racism and Islamophobia.

“All of this can affect one’s sense of self, identity and mental health,” she said. It’s also why a youth may call Naseeha, “because they expect there will already be some understanding of this environment on the other side.”

The service accepts calls from anyone, but for youth who identify as Muslim, the religious advice provided by the counsellors is meant to be supportive and comforting, never preachy or proselytizing, Poonah said.

“One of the reasons the youth call us, as opposed to a different phone line, is that they are looking for someone who understands their faith, their religion or cultural context,” he said. “We never talk about heaven or hell, or sin.

“We want to be the first line of contact, without really giving any Islamic message, but we understand that they are calling us to hear that kind of advice gradually,” he said.

In one call log Naseeha shared with the Star (where all identifying information was removed), a female caller talks about relationship problems with her boyfriend, and his abusive behaviour toward her. In another call, a female discusses her confusion about her gender and desire to be a male. There is limited discussion about religion from the counsellors, unless the youth themselves bring it up.

These complex discussions can sometimes go as long as an hour, said Poonah.

“Out of the 16,000 phone calls, we are only answering less than 20 per cent of those phone calls, because of hours of operation or our lines are occupied,” he said, adding that the average call is now 54 minutes, up from 27 minutes the year before.

Currently, the service has about 25 counsellors from around the GTA, between the ages of 18 and 35. The phone lines and live chat are open Monday to Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with two counsellors on duty. In addition to calls, the service gets emails and messages on social media, and senders are then encouraged to call in. Advice is never given over email.

Poonah has big plans for the organization, including increasing its hours of operation, doubling the number of counsellors to 50 and establishing a centralized hub or call centre. Broader plans include counselling in different languages, call centres in different countries and a round-the-clock answering service. But expansion dreams require money. Poonah estimates $8,000 a month could help make some of the items on the wish list become reality.

“We always need money, but it’s never been our focus,” he said, noting that for the past few years the organization has grown with a budget of just a few hundred dollars a month. “But now, the demand is unsustainable. We need to grow.”

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Jagmeet Singh: I want to do something epic

Posted on 05 January 2017 by admin

He is the candidate many New Democrats hope will take the federal leap — a bright light who represents the future of the party, and a leader who could potentially compete against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, say supporters.

Outside of the Greater Toronto Area and NDP circles, however, few have heard of Jagmeet Singh.

Singh, 38, is a confident, charming, political organizer who currently serves as deputy leader of Ontario’s NDP. With a provincial election around the corner in 2018, Singh has an important decision to make.

Does he jump into the federal leadership race — a contest many high-profile New Democrats have eschewed? Or does he stick around provincially, and line himself up to take over from current leader Andrea Horwath if she loses the next election, or a senior cabinet portfolio if she wins.

In an interview with The Huffington Post Canada, Singh acknowledged the dilemma.

“I’m considering all the options. What would be in the best interest of Canada. What would be in the best interests of the progressive movement… these are some of the factors that I’m thinking about as I chat with folks.”

Exciting times

Provincially, it’s an exciting time to be a New Democrat, he said. Pointing to the 1990s, when then provincial NDP leader Bob Rae won a surprise majority government, Singh said the party has “an amazing opportunity to really shine.” The governing Liberals under Kathleen Wynne are deeply unpopular and the New Democrats’ platform will differ substantially from that of the Progressive Conservatives. The party also has a popular leader in Horwath, Singh noted.

Still, Singh — who speaks English, Punjabi and a remarkably high level of French — is testing the field. Supporters are calling to encourage him to enter the federal leadership contest. He is gauging interest, fundraising capacity, and organizational strength.

“I’m definitely keeping the doors open, listening to what people have to say. I’m really honoured by my position, like I’m really excited with what I’m doing provincially as well, so I will definitely continue to listen to what people have to say,” he repeated.

“How’s that? Did I skate it well, or what?” he added with a laugh.

Singh has ready answers to the current problems facing the federal party, but he has little to say, so far, on what policies he might champion.

On the controversial Leap Manifesto, which split party members at the Edmonton convention last April, Singh argues that New Democrats don’t need to choose between leap or no leap.

“If you get New Democrats together in a room and you ask every single one of them … if they believe we need to do what we can to address climate change and we need to tackle the problem of our impact on the environment, you would have everyone’s hand up,” he said. “All New Democrats believe Canada needs to transition to a sustainable economy.”

While his language may help bridge both sides of the party, it glosses over the manifesto’s radical call to leave oil in the ground by not building new pipelines and for the shift to care for the earth to “begin now.”

“There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future,” the manifesto states, for example.

Singh is clear on what he wants the NDP to be. The party needs to compete to win. And, he said, he sees a possibility in 2019 — much as he believes one exists in Ontario in 2018.

“I firmly believe that you have to be in a position of power to influence change, and you can see how much amazing change can be brought when you are in power,” he said, pointing to Rachel Notley’s NDP government in Alberta. “Within a year, they froze tuition fees, they implemented a change in the way electoral financing happens, they brought in $15 minimum wage. They brought in so many epic things.”

Jagmeet Singh poses for a selfie. (Photo: Gurkirat Batth)

Those who know Singh describe him as a young politician who is the complete package. NDP organizer Robin MacLachlan described him last year as someone who has the “royal jelly.”

Dan Harris, a former NDP MP for Scarborough, Ont., notes that Singh is the only elected New Democrat in the 905 area around Toronto.

“There are just as many ridings in that part of the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] as there is in Toronto proper, and somebody like Jagmeet could potentially do very well in those areas. And with 50 seats in the GTA, nobody is winning government without a plurality in that area,” Harris said.

Singh’s popularity with young people could also help swing them from Trudeau to the NDP, Harris hypothesized.

Singh is active on social media, with a strong following. He tweets and Snapchats.

The bachelor’s Instagram feed is filled with glamour shots of him posing in different coloured turbans and three-piece suits — some of which he designed himself — with his hipster Gazelle bike, epitomizing urban life in Toronto.

But not all of Singh’s actions on social media have garnered praise. His enthusiastic support for former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro raised more than a few eyebrows.

In a statement similar to Trudeau’s own foreign affairs faux pas, Singh tweeted that Castro “saw a country wracked by poverty, illiteracy & disease. So he lead [sic] a revolution that uplifted the lives of millions”

R

Jagmeet Singh

✔@theJagmeetSingh

He saw a country wracked by poverty, illiteracy & disease. So he lead a revolution that uplifted the lives of millions. RIP #FidelCastro

He earned rebuke from a self-described Zionist Toronto Sun columnist in December, who took issue with Singh allowing some professors to hold a press conference at Queen’s Park to decry the suspension of a Mississauga teacher who had made inflammatory remarks at a pro-Palestinian rally.

That said, the vast majority of the media attention Singh has received in the past has been overwhelmingly positive.

There are flattering profiles in the Toronto Star. Toronto Life named him one of their best-dressed in 2013 — he listed Tom Ford suits (which retail for approximately $5,000) as his current obsession and included a handmade briefcase in his fall must-haves.

Buzzfeed dubbed him “the most stylish politician in Canada by like a million kilometres” and Canadian Lawyer called him “the most interesting man at Queen’s Park.” TorontoVerve, a blog about fashion, wanted to talk to the politician about his relationship status just as much as it seemed interested in his policies and fashion choices.

It’s not difficult to see why he was a star at the federal NDP’s Christmas party, or why the British Columbia wing of the party and the Alberta NDP asked him to give keynote speeches last year at their gatherings.

A former criminal defence lawyer, Singh first ran federally in 2011. He came within one percentage point — 539 votes — of winning Bramalea–Gore–Malton, a GTA riding with one of the highest percentages of East Indians in Canada.

“It was pretty epic,” he said of his campaign, which motivated a large number of young people in particular.

His candidacy was mostly a protest and advocacy campaign, he said. The NDP had never won more than 15 per cent of the vote in the riding. Spurred by that campaign’s success, Singh and his team decided to push their momentum towards the provincial election that was only six months away.

They focused on two issues he kept hearing about at the doors:

•          The use of temporary job agencies, which drive down wages and prevent permanent employment

•          The high cost of auto insurance, due to a practice known as redlining, he said, that discriminatively charges more for the same service in poorer neighbourhoods.

“It’s not the sexiest issue, per se, auto insurance, but when you get into it, the fact that people are being discriminated against by their postal code and it happens to be racialized people, lower socio-economic people, that’s wrong. And that shouldn’t be happening.”

On Oct. 6, 2011, Singh became the first NDP MPP to represent the Peel Region. He also became the first turbaned-Sikh to sit at Queen’s Park.

He proudly notes action on one of the issues he championed. The NDP convinced the Liberals to trim auto insurance rates by 15 per cent — cost-savings that were supposed to kick in last year. Some people noted that cheaper plans came with a loss of coverage. And last fall, rates appeared to be back up.

In 2015, a few months before the the federal election campaign kicked off, Horwath offered Singh the position of deputy leader, then he confirmed he wasn’t going to run federally.

“She gave it to me because she wants to win this next election and needed someone to help with outreach and I had proven myself as someone who could engage new communities and young people,” he told HuffPost.

Singh worked with members of the black community to fight the Toronto police force’s policy on carding. He engaged an impressive number of young people and built strong ties with the Tamil and Muslim communities.

Asked if he’d feel guilty about leaving Horwath just before the Ontario election, Singh said he believes the provincial party is in a “tremendous position” going into the 2018 vote. “But I wouldn’t feel guilty about making any decision about politics, if I felt that it would best serve the people.”

Singh’s dedication to fixing issues of inequality and oppression can be traced back to his early life in St. John’s, Windsor and Detroit.

Singh is the eldest of three children. His first name, which means “friend of the earth,” is a combination of his parents’ names, Harmeet and Jagtaran.

They wed in Punjab in an arranged marriage in the mid-1970s. His mother was already living in Canada at the time, having been sponsored by her sister. Harmeet, in turn, sponsored her husband, and Singh was born in Scarborough on Jan. 2, 1979.

When he was one year old, his parents sent him to live in Punjab with his father’s mother. Harmeet worked at a bank, and Jagtaran, a trained physician, was working as a security guard at night and studying for his medical recertification during the day. They were struggling to make ends meet and couldn’t take care of the baby.

A year later, Jagtaran was accepted to the psychiatry program at Memorial University in St. John’s and Singh returned to live with his parents.

“For a little bit of time, I called my actual mom ‘aunt’ [Bhua] because I called my grandmother ‘mom’ …. My mom was really sad.”

Newfoundland is where Singh learned English. His sister, Manjot, was born shortly after the family’s arrival, and his brother arrived three years later.

A newspaper clipping shows seven-year-old Singh with his siblings playing in the sand. The caption identifies him as “Jimmy.”

His birth certificate actually reads: “Jagmeet Singh Jimmy Dhaliwal.” His parents thought it would be easier to go by Jimmy and “less weird sounding than Jugmeet,” he explained. (Jagmeet is pronounced “Jugmeet.”)

Singh dumped “Jimmy” (a name “chosen just so I could fit in”) in favour of his first name when the family moved to Windsor, where his father got a job as a hospital psychiatrist.

Windsor was “rough.”

“There was a lot of racism as a brown kid, with long hair and funny-sounding first name…. I got in a lot of fights all the time,” he recounted.

“Kids would say: ‘You’re dirty, your skin is dirty, why don’t you take a shower’ … or ‘You’re not a boy, you’re a girl because you have long hair,’ and then they would just come up and pull my hair, or just punch me.”

It wasn’t just the kids, Singh said. Parents would also point and laugh.

His father enrolled him in taekwondo so he could learn to defend himself. Singh later became captain of his high school wrestling team and won the scholar athlete award. Between 2003 and 2007, he was the GTA’s undefeated champion for his weight class in submission grappling — a form of judo, wrestling and Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Being picked on also forced him to learn to portray confidence, he said.

“That makes you less of a target when you are very sure of yourself,” he said. “I tried to carry myself very confidently and I had to try to develop this mentality that people are going to stare at me, they are going to look at me, so I better give them something to look at.”

Windsor is also where Singh learned French. He came to the language in a somewhat unusual way.

In grade school, Singh was fascinated by Punjabis’ struggle for language rights in India. “They didn’t allow certain states to be able to teach their own languages … and it was really oppressive,” he said.

He focused on that language issue for school work, and his research invariably led him to struggles that French-Canadians also faced.

“I felt like it was kind of an act of solidarity. I’m Canadian, I’m born in Canada, and as an act of solidarity, I learned the language of another community that was also struggling with their language rights.”

He took French as an elective, worked with a tutor in Grade 8 to improve his skills over the summer, and did “extra things” after school to “develop a better accent.”

Singh listened to francophone music, including New Brunswick heartthrob Roch Voisine and French singer Patrick Bruel.

“I bought his cassette, ‘Alors Regarde,’ and I used to play it a lot,” he said, of his 1989 HMV find.

Singh said he speaks French “fluently for an anglophone with a decent non-anglophone accent.”

Concerned about the daily fights at school, Singh’s father sent him across the border to attend high school in Detroit. Some of his father’s friends had enrolled their kids in the private Detroit Country Day School, and his dad thought it would remove the bullying and help him focus on academics and sports.

The new school helped.

Changing course

Singh went on to complete a bachelor of science in biology with a minor in sociology. He intended to follow his father’s footsteps and go to medical school. But when his dad got sick, he began pursuing a computer science degree as he felt it would allow him to enter the workforce sooner. Singh changed course again when he was accepted into law school.

As a student, Singh championed anti-poverty efforts, immigrant and refugee rights, lower tuition fees, and access to to education. As a lawyer, he provided these groups with free legal advice on their rights during protests and how to do it effectively.

After graduating from Osgoode Hall, he joined Pinkofsky, a big criminal defence law firm in Toronto. It drilled into him, he said, the notion that everyone in a democratic society should be able to get good legal representation.

A year later, he started his own practice in Mississauga, Ont. Business was going well, and he was planning a move to a bigger office across from the busy Brampton courthouse, when some of the groups he had helped encouraged him to run for office.

Some Sikh activists, led by his brother, Gurratan, and a friend named Amneet Singh, were particularly vocal. They had protested against the visit of Indian minister Kamal Nath, a man accused of leading a deadly rampage against Sikhs in 1984 after Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. ‘

And they felt the political representation in Brampton wasn’t supportive or respectful of their concerns about the visit, Singh told HuffPost.

He was initially reluctant to give up his law career. He enjoyed his job, liked making money — he candidly admits he has a penchant for the finer things in life — and wasn’t looking forward to taking a pay cut.

“I was hesitant, but it turned out to be amazing,” he said “I’ve learned so much, I’ve grown so much, I’ve helped out so many people, I feel like I’ve inspired so many people, it’s been so rewarding.”

During his first campaign, Singh eschewed using his actual last name “Dhaliwal.” It was the name he used to practice law, and the one everyone knew him by, but he said he wanted to drop the Punjabi upper-caste surname to send a message. The caste system is racist and classist, he said, and he wanted his candidacy to represent a message of equality and justice.

“I want everything we do to have meaning, so I decided that if I’m running to represent the people of my riding, I want it to be known that I will represent all people, not just my clan,” he offered.

Some people in the community thought Singh’s idea would backfire, but he believes it made him more approachable at the doorstep.

Addressing systemic discrimination across Canada is one thing Singh would like to continue working on if he decides to jump to the federal scene. He also wants to address income inequality and overhaul the justice system so fewer people are spending time in jail for offences that he feels don’t require such harsh punishment.

At Queen’s Park, Singh recently garnered a bit of attention for a statement condemning Republican president-elect Donald Trump. Trump’s misogynistic language and divisive message of creating fear by pitting communities against each other was xenophobic, anti-Muslim, racist and bigoted, Singh told HuffPost.

“That message offended me, and I wanted to denounce that and also kind of inspire a bit of hope that we can build up a better society that doesn’t require us to tear others down.”

Singh genuinely appears unsure of what his next career move should be.

Asked if he thinks the country is ready for a young, brown Sikh prime minister, he laughed.

“I would not have thought we were ready for a brown Sikh defence minister, and that turned out pretty good, so who knows? Maybe.”

In a conversation a week later, he said: “I’ll treat [my run in politics] like a sprint and try to do the maximum amount of good in the time I have, and then figure out what to do afterwards.”

Politics isn’t a career, Singh added. “It’s an amazing opportunity. It’s a gift but not something you can take for granted…. I want to do something epic, that I enjoy, and that leaves the world a little better than I found it.”

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My Wife’s Memory Lives On In Our Anti-Cancer Cookbook

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

My wife would never call herself a foodie. She was a picky eater who loved salads, eggs for breakfast, sweet treats and spicy foods. Recognizing flavour profiles or the effects avant-garde cooking techniques such as molecular gastronomy have on the food on her plate was never her thing. Neither was adventurous eating. She didn’t like pork belly, foie gras or anything raw, including sushi.

Yet, Julia became one of the best photographers of food and the chefs who prepare it I’ve ever known. She photographed plates meticulously — whether it was fish and chips from a shack in Nova Scotia or an exquisite spread of canapés at one of the nation’s luxury restaurants.

Her desire to present food that looked as fantastic as it tasted was rooted in her professionalism. She sought perfection with every photograph she captured. But Julia also wanted her images to match the pride and dedication the chefs would use when creating their dishes, which were their labours of love. If someone poured their heart into an undertaking, Julia would support them, cheer them and thank them.

She was the most genuinely nice person I have ever known, the most gentle soul and kindhearted spirit.

Just days after Julia was diagnosed in April 2015 with glioblastoma multiforme — the most aggressive form of brain cancer — she and I joined InspireHealth. For several months, we came often to the Vancouver location, taking part in cooking classes, counselling sessions, and nutrition tutorials. Julia called InspireHealth her sanctuary from the clinical and sometimes cold world of mainstream medicine. The team at InspireHealth boosted her spirits, instilled in her hope and confidence, and made her feel supported through the nightmare of a stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

Read the Tribute and Eulogy to Vacay.ca’s Julia Pelish

Despite her condition, Julia was determined to find a way to thank InspireHealth for its comfort and services. The idea of Inspired Cooking, a new cookbook featuring 21 of the nation’s best chefs, was hers.

She thought a cookbook with some of Canada’s best-known chefs discussing what nutrition means to them and providing cancer-prevention recipes that could change how future generations eat and think about food could elevate InspireHealth’s profile, helping it expand to offer supportive cancer care to more Canadians.

The plan was for Julia to photograph the chefs and the food, while I volunteered as editor of the cookbook. For more than 20 years, we had done everything together, so neither of us doubted we would be entwined in this project, too. But the disease showed no mercy. Julia passed away in my arms just after 8 a.m. on March 10, 2016.

Inspired Cooking, which features several of her photographs taken in recent years, is part of her legacy. The culinary community from across the country was eager to participate and assist in a project that promises to alter how the nation views nutrition, food sourcing and healthy eating. In the stories in Inspired Cooking, readers will also receive intimate insights into the lives of some of Canada’s leading culinary talents — and learn why beating cancer is so important to them, as well.

Saskatoon’s Dale MacKay, the first winner of the Top Chef Canada competition, is a cancer survivor himself, while the likes of Michael Smith and Vikram Vij express their deep passion and commitment for making sure all of us eat better food, knowing it will lead to healthier living.

You’ll also discover the fascinating diversity of the country’s food choices, both in products and kitchen talent. Chefs such as Calgary’s Roy Oh and Angus An of Vancouver bring their Asian heritage, including philosophies on balanced diets and vegetable-focused dining, to the forefront at their respective restaurants.

Montreal’s Antonio Park looks back at his upbringing in South America where he would cook by his mother’s side after plucking fruits and vegetables from trees and plants right outside of their home. Jason Bangerter of famed Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario, looks forward, making it a point of emphasis to teach his young sons about the farms and gardens that produce the food they eat.

And there are also articles on nine of InspireHealth’s members who are using nutrition to help them deal with their disease.

For me, the cookbook is an expression of love and ongoing devotion to my wife. Julia would be ecstatic to know her idea has manifested into one of the most important and exciting cookbooks ever to be produced in Canada. Inspired Cooking has already been called “the best cookbook of its kind” and “the best edited cookbook of the year” by Best of Food & Wine radio hosts Anthony Gismondi and Kasey Wilson.

For you, the hope from those of us involved in the project, including the team at Vacay.ca, is that it makes an impact on how you view daily food choices.

I know you’ll enjoy the stories in the cookbook — and be delighted with the chefs’ great recipes.

MORE ABOUT ‘INSPIRED COOKING’

Website: www.inspiredcooking.ca
Notable: Proceeds from all sales go toward InspireHealth’s not-for-profit cancer-care programs.
Release Date: Dec. 5, 2016
Featured Chefs: The following chefs contributed recipes to Inspired Cooking and are profiled in articles written by some of Canada’s top travel and food journalists.

Eastern Canada
Jeremy Charles (Raymonds, Merchant Tavern), St. John’s, NFLD
Michael Smith (Inn at Bay Fortune), PEI
Chris Aerni (Rossmount Inn), St. Andrews By-the-Sea, NB
Patrice Demers (Patrice Pâtissier), Montreal
Antonio Park (Park, Lavendaria), Montreal
Jason Bangerter (Langdon Hall), Cambridge, ON
Victor Barry (Piano Piano), Toronto
Rob Gentile (Buca), Toronto
Roger Mooking (Twist), Toronto

Western Canada
Dale MacKay (Ayden Kitchen and Bar), Saskatoon, SK
Connie DeSousa and John Jackson (CHARCUT, Charbar), Calgary
Roy Oh (Anju), Calgary
James Walt (Araxi, Bar Oso), Whistler, B.C.
Angus An (Maenam, Longtail Kitchen), Vancouver
Ned Bell (Vancouver Aquarium), Vancouver
Stefan Hartmann (Bauhaus), Vancouver
Jackie Kai Ellis (Beaucoup Bakery), Vancouver
Vikram Vij (Vij’s, Rangoli, My Shanti), Vancouver
Warren Barr (The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn), Tofino, B.C.

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The 100 Most influential People

Posted on 21 December 2016 by admin

Sania Mirza: An inspiration on the court

By Sachin Tendulkar

The Mirzas probably knew what the future held for their daughter. Her name, Sania, means brilliant.

I first heard about Sania Mirza back in 2005, when she became the first Indian to win a Women’s Tennis Association event. In 2008 I saw her play in the third round of the Australian Open against Venus Williams. Though she lost, I believed she had the potential to be a star.

When Sania’s singles career was cut short by wrist injuries, she, through dedication and willpower, reinvented herself fully as a doubles player. Today Sania and her partner on court, Martina Hingis, are No. 1 in doubles and utterly dominant—they have taken the past three Grand Slam events.

Sania’s confidence, strength and resilience reach beyond tennis. She has inspired a generation of Indians to pursue their dreams—and to realize that they can also be the best.

Tendulkar is one of the greatest cricketers of all time

Sundar Pichai: The Internet’s chief engineer

By Bill Nye

Sundar Pichai has helped change the world. Last summer he became the CEO of Google. You can look him up, er, I mean, you can Google him. He was the head guy on Google Drive. That’s the original term for “the cloud.” He worked on Google Chrome, Gmail and Android phones. A great many of us can’t tell which side of a street we’re on without checking Google Maps. He was born in Chennai, India, to a middle-class family, and discovered an aptitude for numbers when his family got its first telephone, a rotary, when he was 12.

He is an engineer. So is his wife. Engineers use science to solve problems and make things. Engineering applies a combination of logic and intuition to problem solving. It’s a way of thinking that leaves one well suited to run a company. We are all watching for what he produces next.

Nye is a science educator and the author of Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World

Priyanka Chopra on Breaking Out of the Bollywood Stereotype

Diane Tsai 

Priyanka Chopra has already accomplished a lot in her acting career, with some 50 films to her credit, and she’s only on the up-and-up. The actress and TIME 100 honoree stars in the hit show Quantico on ABC and will appear in the the upcoming movie reboot of Baywatch.

But she’s had to work hard to get where she is. In an interview with TIME, Chopra explained that as a young actress, she was treated as a dime a dozen. “When I was very young, I was 19 and I was doing the first few movies, I remember that my dates weren’t working out. My scheduling wasn’t working out for a movie with a very big actor. And the producer said, ‘Well, she can’t work it out, it’s fine, we’ll just cast someone else. Or, you know what? I’ll launch a new girl because girls are replaceable.’ I didn’t understand it then. But I think subconsciously it really worked on my mind, and I started picking up parts which were strong, which were not just the damsel in distress waiting for someone to rescue me. As much as I like being rescued. Every girl does … Now 13, 15 years later, whatever, I think that the movies that I do, I’m irreplaceable and the boys are replaceable.”

Aziz Ansari: TV’s new romantic

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson

As people who shoot in New York, we know there’s no way to have an on-location show there that’s generic. It always ends up becoming specific. And on Netflix’s Master of None, you see New York through Aziz Ansari’s eyes. Each episode is its own little experience: the way Aziz talks about his ethnicity and career is so interesting, and the entertainment-industry world he writes about is hysterical and on point.

Our shows are really different; Aziz shows people in a slightly more settled phase of life. As Dev, an aspiring actor, Aziz is looking for love in a more openly sentimental way than we usually see on TV. It’s inspiring to see him experiment and break the mold. The episode “Mornings,” a time lapse of days Aziz’s character spends with his girlfriend, felt different from anything on TV; so did “Nashville,” where his foodie character missed a flight because he was buying barbecue sauce.

Aziz is obsessed with food too. When we went to Mission Chinese Food with him, we just let him order. We knew it would be good—and it was amazing.

Glazer and Jacobson are the creators and stars of Broad City

Sunita Narain: Clearing the air

Sunita Narain’s ideas have shaped some of the key debates of our time. A paper that she co-authored in 1991 remains to this day the foundational charter of the global climate-justice movement.

As an activist, Narain is a pioneer. She and the organization that she heads, the New Delhi–based Centre for Science and Environment, have been campaigning to reduce the Indian capital’s dangerous air-pollution levels for almost two decades. Despite resistance from many quarters, some of their key recommendations have been embraced by the courts.

Narain has also consistently opposed the kind of elite conservationism that blames environmental problems on the poor. Instead she has advocated policies that recognize India’s forest dwellers and indigenous peoples as essential custodians of their environments. Hers is a voice that urgently needs to be heard in this era of climate change.

Ghosh’s most recent novel is Flood of Fire

Nadia Murad: A witness for war’s victims

By Eve Ensler

Nadia Murad stands in a long, invisible history of fierce, indomitable women who rise from the scorched earth of rape during war to break the odious silence and demand justice and freedom for their sisters. At 19 she lost her home, her country, her culture, her mother to murder; witnessed male members of her family murdered in mass killings; and was kidnapped, sold and endlessly raped by members of ISIS. She now travels the world speaking out on the genocide being inflicted on her Yezidi people and demanding release for the more than 3,000 women still held in bondage.

As Europe closes its borders to terrorized refugees in Greece and the U.S. turns its back on the suffering, Nadia is a beacon of light and truth—a reminder that it was the American-led war in Iraq that laid the path for ISIS, that U.S. arms left behind on the battlefield fell into the hands of ISIS and that the U.S. waited too long to intervene in the mass killing and enslavement of the Yezidi people. At 23, Nadia Murad is risking everything to awaken us. I hope we are listening, because we too are responsible.

Ensler is a playwright and the founder of V-Day, a movement to end violence against women and girls

Raj Panjabi: Health care hero

By Bill Clinton

To spend time with Raj Panjabi is to see up close what happens when someone with uncommon courage and compassion puts himself on the front lines of the world’s most complex challenges.

I know. I visited Liberia last spring five days before it was first declared Ebola free, and the heroic work Raj and his organization Last Mile Health did to train 1,300 community health workers was critical in helping the government contain the epidemic.

The outbreak in West Africa has been a tragic and cautionary tale about what can happen if we don’t invest in the human resources to stop epidemics before they begin—and why Raj’s mission to put a health care worker within reach of everyone everywhere is so critical. I was proud to present Raj with our 2015 Clinton Global Citizen Award for his part in the massive, coordinated response that brought a halt to this terrible disease.

We will always face challenges, but we’re all better off because there are people like Raj who are visionary, caring and determined enough to meet them.

Clinton is the founder of the Clinton Foundation and the 42nd President of the United States

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Dev Patel’s role in Lion allowed him to ‘dig deeper’

Posted on 15 December 2016 by admin

 Dev Patel was an 18-year-old unknown actor, enthusiastic, a bit awkward and not quite able to process the prolonged ovation Ryerson Theatre audiences had given Slumdog Millionaire the night before at the Toronto International Film Festival, a few years ago.

“That was amazing,” Patel recalled of that September 2008 evening as he prepared to see how Toronto audiences would react to the world premiere of his latest film, Lion, at TIFF 2016. Lion opens in Toronto Dec. 9.

Slumdog won the TIFF People’s Choice Award that year and went on to sweep the Academy Awards with eight Oscars, including Best Picture.

Based on a true story, emotional drama Lion stars Patel as Australian adoptee Saroo Brierley, who searches in adulthood for his lost family in India with the help of Google Earth. It earned an enthusiastic, although less rapturous reception at the festival and was named first runner up for the TIFF People’s Choice Award (behind winner La La Land, out in theatres Christmas Day).

Directed by Garth Davis and based on Brierley’s bestselling memoir A Long Way Home, Patel stars alongside Nicole Kidman as his adoptive mother, Sue, and Rooney Mara as his girlfriend, Lucy. Five-year-old Sunny Pawar steals hearts as the childhood Saroo.

Too young when he was terrifyingly separated from his family to be able to recall the name of his mother or home village, Saroo grows into a young adult who loves his Australian family, but feels the ache of loss and a lack of connection. Lucy encourages him to unlock the secret of his heritage.

Now 26, the eager, friendly side of Patel is still evident when he sits down with the Star, although it’s a more restrained version, unlike last time when he was all knees and elbows. That was evidenced by the scraped shin he was nursing the morning after Slumdog’s TIFF premiere; Patel cut himself when he leaped out his theatre seat with joy when he heard the reaction to the film as the credits rolled.

Since then, Patel has gained experience in front of the camera with starring roles as struggling hotelier Sonny in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films and as mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan in The Man Who Knew Infinity, as well as playing blogger Neal Sampat on TV series The Newsroom.

And while he has learned to temper his enthusiasm for what he calls “my craft,” he can’t suppress it entirely, which is not an unwelcome thing at all.

“I put in the time,” said Patel. “Whereas in Slumdog, I felt so humbled and blessed by it all, but I felt so new. I felt so unworthy.”

Patel praised Luke Davies’s “beautifully profound” Lion script, adding roles like Saroo “are really difficult to come by for any actor. Just by the colour of your skin. It’s really difficult.”

He said while Slumdog director Danny Boyle initially schooled him in acting, Lion director Davis continued the process. The two directors are “very similar” he said.

“Danny is like this tidal wave that I have been … that he’s created for me that I’ve been riding for a while and as that started to dissipate, I ended up on this beautiful, tropical, lush island full of all these fruits, and that’s Garth,” he said. “And (he) provided all these things for me and allowed me to really dig deeper as a young adult and really expose myself and give me the character and the opportunity to do so.”

It required commitment. Davis told him: “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to have to really change you and transform you.” Patel took eight months off from other work to prepare for the role, working on his Australian accent and training to gain the bulk to play the athletic Saroo.

“I owe it to Saroo and I owe it to this piece,” he reasoned.

In fact, Patel only appears onscreen for half the film, with the first part of Lion following the young Saroo’s frightening separation from his family after he inadvertently ends up on a train to Kolkota, thousands of kilometres from his home.

Patel said a grocery store misadventure gave him some inkling of what Saroo must have felt. “I was a young boy and I got split up from my mum … for all of five minutes. It felt like five hours. And then on the PA system, the microphone: ‘Would Dev Patel come to aisle whatever,’ and I was there, a ball of tears, my mum’s like, ‘Where were you?’ ”

It was an emotional meeting when Patel was introduced to Saroo’s birth family while filming Lion in India. He and actress Priyanka Bose, who plays Saroo’s biological mother, Kamla Munshi, met with Munshi.

“I don’t speak Hindi and she doesn’t really speak English, so we just sat there and Priyanka was there, and we just all hugged and cried,” Patel said, adding the encounter helped inspire his performance. “You really feel the weight and you know what you’ve gotta do.”

Patel will be seen next in Hotel Mumbai, about the 2008 terrorist attacks at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, playing a Sikh waiter in what he described as “a really harrowing” story.

“I really wanted to be a part of telling this film. It’s very close to me, it’s something that rocked India,” said Patel. “Many people died, most of which were staff members. And again it’s a story of triumph over adversity and right now in this canvas, it’s extremely relevant.”

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An immigrant security guard’s triumphant homecoming

Posted on 08 December 2016 by admin

Mayank Bhatt returned to the warm embrace of residents of a Forest Hill condo where he once worked as a security guard. But this time he was there to do a reading from his newly published novel.

The last time Mayank Bhatt was in this Forest Hill condo building he wore a navy blue uniform and worked as a security guard.

It was one of the new immigrant’s first jobs in Canada, a position the Mumbai native landed just weeks after arriving at Pearson International Airport with his wife, Mahrukh, and son, Che.

Seven years after he left that job, Bhatt, 54, recently returned to the warm embrace of the tenants he used to serve at 260 Heath St. W., but this time as a published author invited for a reading of his debut novel, Belief — the story of a new immigrant family’s struggles in Canada. The book will be officially launched at the Gladstone Hotel.

“I wanted to read at this condo building. I came to Canada not knowing anyone. I was a complete stranger and they welcomed me. My new life started here. The residents in this building were the first set of people who made life possible for me and my family,” said Bhatt, his voice choked with emotion.

“My idea was not to come to Canada to become a security guard. I wanted to come back to show what I have become today, that I’ve lived up to that expectation. This is a bit of a homecoming for me.”

The Heath St. condo was also an apt venue for the occasion because this is where Bhatt first conceived of the idea for his book and started crafting the story while working the graveyard shift guarding the building and protecting its residents.

“I had nothing else to do. You read but you need to do something else” to keep yourself occupied and engaged, said Bhatt, 54, a former journalist who had also previously worked as a media adviser and trade officer for the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai.

It wasn’t a straight path for him from doing survival jobs to getting his work published; he still works full time to support his family, now as a marketing and administration co-ordinator at Simmons da Silva LLP, a Toronto law firm.

Upon his arrival in Canada, Bhatt took a one-year journalism program at Sheridan College, while working as a security guard, with the hopes of getting back into his profession. But it was a tough task, with every door closed to him despite delivering more than 500 resumés to prospective employers.

Finally, in 2009, he met someone from Mumbai who tipped him off to an opening at the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, where he eventually landed an office job.

At that point, Bhatt had already completed a short story — which would become the first chapter of his future book — and showed it to some of the residents at 260 Heath. One of them urged him to submit it to the Diaspora Dialogue, a mentoring program that matches up immigrant writers with established Canadian authors.

Tenant Myrna Freedman said she was impressed by Bhatt’s intelligence, command of English, gentlemanly demeanour and how well-read he was when she first met him on the job. To see him become a published writer in such a short span of time “is just wonderful,” said the retired high school English teacher.

“I’m so proud of him and so impressed that his book is carried by Indigo and Amazon. They just don’t take any book.”

Bhatt worked under the wing of award-winning writer M.G. Vassanji for three months. The experience inspired him to enroll in a creative writing course at Humber College in 2010.

For years now, Bhatt gets up at 4:30 a.m. and writes for two hours before he leaves for work. On weekends, he spends eight hours in front of his computer, writing. He wrote and revised his novel countless times before taking it to publishers.

Getting one’s writing published is hard, but it’s even harder for newcomers who lack the professional and social networks to get a foot in the door. For two years, Bhatt tried in vain to find a publisher. No one even bothered to respond — until he took his manuscript to Mawenzi House.

Belief — which covers the nuanced journey of an immigrant family in Canada and the issue of radicalization — came out in September and has already garnered a favourable review in Quill & Quire, the reputable literary magazine.

“Bhatt’s illuminating, plain-spoken novel could be instrumental in generating substantive discussion about the immigrant experience in a country that is still a long way from understanding what that really entails,” the review says.

David Raymont, a tenant of 260 Heath, said the subject of Bhatt’s book is timely in the current global context.

“This is a very important topic that needs to be discussed. I hope his book can help encourage discussion and create more understanding between communities,” noted Raymont,

Bhatt made it clear the novel is by no means a reflection of his personal life but it does capture the observations he has made of other newcomers he’s come across.

“On one level, Canada welcomes everyone here with the opportunity to grow and prosper, but on another level, there is a lack of cultural acceptance,” Bhatt said. “People do not accept you for who you are and you have to constantly prove yourself.”

That was always what motivated Bhatt to get his book published. “I had to prove to others that I can do this. When you take up something you want to do in Canada, it’s not going to be easy, but you just can’t give up.”

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