& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brighter Red: An immigrant son envisions Canada

Gavin Barrett was among those strangers who helped me when I came to Toronto in July 2008. Although he’s from Mumbai I met him in Toronto. As it turned out, his suggestion led to my working at the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce.

After reading Kevin Lobo’s book Brighter Red: An Immigrant Son Envisions Canada, I realise Gavin, besides being a successful advertising professional, has also made it his avocation to help newcomers to Canada.

I’ll write about him later, perhaps when he restarts writing poetry. This blog is about Kevin Lobo's Brighter Red.

Kevin Lobo is a man we should take seriously. He will be representing us in the federal parliament one day in the very near future. I'm convinced about that after reading his book.

And when that happens, we’ll be in safe hands. Again, I say this with conviction because the underlying feature in his memoir and political philosophy (he terms it his “Simple Dream”) is tolerance.

Kevin’s a Conservative and I don’t agree with many of his political views. But what comes through in his book with clarity and sincerity is his tolerance to differing views. He also has a rare trait (and one wishes it’ll last) is an ability to probe his own beliefs and hold them up for scrutiny.

Brighter Red
begins as a memoir and Kevin narrates his immigrant story with detachment. Again, this is rare. I’ve been an immigrant here, too, and I doubt if I would be able to narrate my story with the same sense of detachment.

He quickly moves on to his political philosophy and discusses the various socio-political and economic issues that beset Canada.

Here, too, his descriptions, his arguments, his advocacy of alternatives are based on a deep-rooted understanding of the issues. He doesn’t adopt a journalistic style of being on an even keel while writing, neither does indulge in needless hyperbole.

That is not to imply that he doesn’t feel passionately about these issues. He does and given an opportunity, will definitely shape officially policy with passion.

Finally, the heartfelt praise of the Indian ethos in several places and in different contexts in the book surprised me.

In the nearly two years that I’ve been here in Canada and have interacted with immigrants from India, I’ve met some who feel acutely embarrassed to acknowledge their Indian roots.

Kevin lavishes fulsome praise on India. That is so rare and commendable, especially so because he immigrated to Canada from the Middle East and must have left India many years ago.

Image: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=113254018712751&ref=ts

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Rabindranath Tagore: 150 years celebrations begin

High Park Library Writers Group

To be able to write and then read before an audience requires more than a bit of courage. Earlier this month, I attended a reading session at Toronto Public Library’s High Park branch organised by High Park Writers Group.

Writers who read included Nancy Kay Clark, Mark Staplehurst, Cassie McDaniel, Elizabeth Barnes, Anna Smith, Altug Cakmakci, Allen McGugan, Jasmine D’Costa, Jenny Zhou and Gemma Meharchand.

All of them very impressive. I particularly liked Staplehurst, Cakmakci and Meharchand. My friend Jasmine, of course, continues to be as impressive as ever.

Some of the writers at the reading had their work published in Canadian Voices Volume I and will also have their work in Volume II as well.

High Park Library Group Reading from Imelda O. Suzara on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

TOK 5: Writing the New Toronto

Later this month, Diaspora Dialogues will release the fifth edition of TOK: Writing the New Toronto.

It includes my short story – The New Canadians.
I’ve described my participation in the Diaspora Dialogues’ mentoring program, and the privilege and honour of working with my mentor MG Vassanji on my Canadian Immigrant blog (The Write Stuff). 

I don’t exaggerate when I say that Diaspora Dialogues’ mentoring program gave a new direction and purpose to my writing. I’m sure many other writers have felt the same over the last five years.

Even a cursory browsing through the earlier
four volumes of TOK shows how Diaspora Dialogues has nurtured writers from a diverse cross section of Toronto’s multi-ethnic population.

In the Preface to TOK-1,
Helen Walsh, Editor, and President Diaspora Dialogues, explains, “In 2005, Diaspora Dialogues was launched to encourage writers from diverse communities to create new work that explored Toronto as “place” in their fiction, poetry and drama. We wanted to create a literature of the city that was current and vibrant and truly reflected the people who live in it.”

Walsh adds, “We wanted to support a range of work that mirrors the city’s complexity, and that brings to life, sometimes overtly and sometimes obliquely, the taste and smell, sights and sounds, of this city as people experience it every day.”

In his Foreword to TOK-1,
Alan Broadbent, the then Chairman of Diaspora Dialogues Charitable Society, lists the two objectives with which the organisation was launched:
  • To let immigrant writers be heard, and to help them find a market for their work.
  • To reflect back to those Canadians who arrived earlier the changing face of their communities and country.
Broadbent adds, “By providing outlets for works that have local settings and themes, we can see our country anew, and see it differently. We think this will deepen our understanding of who we are, and where we live.”

In a country that is made and remade by immigrants, it’s surprising nobody thought of this before.

TOK 5’s launch details:

Location: Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, Toronto Reference Library

Date: Thursday, May 20, 2010

Time: 7:30pm
You can order the earlier volumes here

Image: http://torontoist.com/attachments/toronto_prathnal/2007_16_08TOK1.jpg