& occasionally about other things, too...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Asian Writers


Multiculturalism in Canada is like secularism in India – preached more than practised.

In the Indian context, it means that the government says the minorities (Muslims, Christians, etc) are equal to the Hindus in India. What it really means is that they must fend for themselves.

In Canada, officially, the governments – both federal and provincial – are committed to multiculturalism. Again, as with the minorities in India, the immigrants are to fend for themselves.

That’s not a politically correct thing to say, I know. However, that’s been my experience as an immigrant in Canada in the last ten months that I’ve been here. 

Even if they generally keep quiet about their situation, that is the experience of most of the minorities in India.

But let's get back to being politically correct. Being polite is to be a Canadian.

One of the happy fallouts of the official policy of multiculturalism is the celebratory recognition that each ethnic group receives from the officialdom.

May, for instance, is the Asian heritage month. February is the Black History month (my friend Mike Odongkara guided me to Morgan Freeman’s views on the subject that have been posted on the youtube; take a look).

Earlier this month I attended an interesting event at the North York Central Library (branch of the Toronto Public Library) on New Asian Writing.

Aparita Bhandari, CBC’s Metro Morning What’s Going On columnist, anchored the show. 

She was both vivacious and studied – an essential necessity in any anchor hosting a show full of writers, for an audience that comprises wannabe and published writers.

If she wasn’t both, she would have either bored or embarrassed the audience. By being both, she made the evening seem short.

The show began with a fabulous dance recital first in the Bharat Natyam style and then in Odissi style by the members of the Menaka Thakkar Dance Company

For a brief moment, I didn’t feel I was in Canada, and this is despite the Canadian accent of the young dancer of Indian origin who introduced the dances and the danseuses.

The writers who participated in the event included Kerri Sakamoto, Saleema Nawaz, Devyani Saltzman and Jaspreet Singh

I found Saleema Nawaz and Jaspreet Singh’s readings from their works (Mother Superior: Nawaz and Chef: Singh) evocative because they effortlessly created vivid images in my mind of their characters and the settings.

I may be creating an erroneous impression by singling out one or a couple of writers from the group that participated in the show, because all of them had different experiences to narrate as writers and different stories to tell.

I approached Singh and Nawaz after the show and requested them for an interview for this blog on the craft of writing. 

They said they would get back. They didn’t.

Probably because I’m unknown, anonymous. They are published writers.

Then, a week ago, I attended the Writers and Editors Network (WEN) meeting. 

I wanted to meet Jasmine D’Costa, an immigrant from Mumbai, and a banker-turned-novelist whose Curry is Thicker than Water is making waves across Canada right now and is certainly going to be among awards and prizes. D’Costa is the president of the WEN. 

The breakfast networking session that morning had a star speaker – Robert Morgan, Publisher with BookLand Press. Morgan discussed Publishing Tips for Authors from the Publisher's Perspective.

The endearing part of the meeting was interacting so many aspiring writers, and so many of them of Indian origin – some born in India but raised elsewhere; some whose parents were born in India, had no first-hand experience of India, and yet seemed to love the idea of India. 

That morning the idea of India did appear to be shinning bright – Sonia Gandhi had won the election.

Mybindi.com is holding D’Costa’s book launch on May 27. Click here for details, and attend it to meet a very interesting personality. 

Images: Singh: http://www.ufv.ca/MarCom/UFV_Today/090223.htm

Nawaz: http://www.freehand-books.com/authors/saleema-nawaz.html

D'Costa: http://www.wildsound-filmmaking-feedback-events.com/images/jasmineanitadcosta.jpg

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