& occasionally about other things, too...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Yusuf and the Lotus Flower

Guest Post by Leo Paradela

The launch of Doyali Farah Islam's first book of poetry was a delightful one. Her verses echoed the melodic voice of the poet as she stood in an ever-so lovely bright red dress before her happy guests as she read several selections from her book Yusuf and the Lotus Flower.

Doyali Farah Islam
Her delicate words lead us through mystical passages filled with invisible threads of her soul drawing the anxious listener to the core of her world of graceful and spiritual richness. Her intricate yet bold poems came as a reminder to all who heard her that GOD is one among all – Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, or any other are all alike in the worship of the Supreme Deity.

Through images from the Qur'an, Doyali managed to unite us all and serve as a gentle reminder of humanity's oneness as we all embark, during our earthly journey, on our search for the soul, the divine, the deeply wise, and the deeply spiritual reason for our being. 

We are all one in our greatness as we are all one in our nothingness.

Yet our one common denominator remains the lightness of our existence during the brief time we are given to discover sacred that lies deeply within our hearts.  

To put it in Doyali's own words,

"I will crawl up the trellis now,
a salient rose,
and leave the air fragrant
just for your presence".

Indeed, Doyali, with your lovely and sublime verses, you have done exactly that! 

Thank you and much success in your future!

Very Sincerely,

Leo Paradela

Leo Paradela is a poet. His collection of poems Hearts & Souls was published in 2011

Follow Doyali's blog: www.doyalifarahislam.com

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Puzzle of Murders

Brandon Pitt’s first novel, Puzzle of Murders, is a haunting, gripping tale.

Sam Giltine is a young man who embarks – rather inadvertently – on a killing spree when he fails to kill the man who raped his sister.  

The novel has a multi-layered structure that unfolds rapidly.

There is a strong physical dimension to the book.

The robust, solid descriptions of Sam’s world – Faridemidland, the deadbeat, forgettable and wasted hometown he runs away from, to the polluted and permeable back alleys of Los Angeles.

There is also an intangible, amorphous dimension of the varied ways in which Sam’s mind works.

It is at this level that the book transcends from a story of a serial killer and transmogrifies; it becomes an exploration of transformations of a mind that is prone to involuntary callisthenics.

In this world, religion and spiritualism take on hues that make them unrecognisable from each other.

Brandon adroitly acquaints us with Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the concepts of Avatar in Hinduism, Rasool in Islam, the philosophies of Bodhisattva and Zarathustra.
Brandon Pitts

This is clearly Brandon’s forte. 

He makes these discursive excursions into spirituality and understanding the meaning of realisation evocative without ever becoming preachy or pompous or hallucinatory.

The other aspect of the novel that stays with you  is the soft, pastel shades Brandon gives to all his women characters, especially Eisheth Percy.

He is masterly when he describes Sam’s love-hate and lust for Lilth Jahl.  

I personally would’ve liked if there was a bit more of Kali Naamah, Tamara and the stripper, the Avatar of God.

But, ultimately, the book is about murders – the coldblooded and the random manner in which Sam kills people.

This is what makes Puzzle of Murders a page turner.

There is pure horror in the psychotic pleasure that Sam derives in plunging a knife through his victims and sees the “life force” leave their bodies.

BookLand Press continues to experiment with different genres and manages to unearth undiscovered talent. 

Ninth Hindustani Drama Festival 2011

Consul General Preeti Saran with Jawaid Danish
and the cast of Jeevan Saath Clinic

The ninth edition of RangManch-Canada’s Annual Hindustani Drama Festival held Saturday commenced with a lively debate on the Challenges of Staging Indian Drama in Canada and Experiences of Desi Talents in Mainstream Showbiz.

Participants in the debate included Jawaid Danish, the artistic director of the festival Juhair Kashmiri, Jasmine Sawant, Nisha Ahuja, Mukesh Aspoa, Beeyah Mirza, Nass Rana, Samrina Qureshy, Vishnu Sharma, Nitin Sawant and Naval Bajaj.

The challenges that those involved with South Asian theatre in Canada are manifold – lack of acceptance from the mainstream Canadian and the South Asian community; lack of support from private donors and from the art councils of the local governments; apathy of interest from the theatre-loving audiences. The discussion also revolved around some basic issues of identity and language; the mainstream theatre versus the art theatre movement.

Everyone in the panel agreed with Bajaj’s contention that for South Asian theatre in Canada to remain relevant and find a larger following amongst the second and third generation South Asian Canadians there is need for more English adaptions of classic plays from different South Asian languages, and also more original English plays that depict the life of South Asians in Canada.

Then, the festival began and in one evening there were five plays in five languages:

Jeevan Sathi Clinic: Urdu, Anarkali: English, Adhi Mitti, Adha Sona: Punjabi, Magazine vendor: Bhojpuri, I No Inglis: Gujarati

The first play – Jeevan Saathi Clinic – ran to a packed house (Maja Prentice Theatre at the Burnhamthrope Library, Mississauga). It’s a simple story of a lover’s tiff between a newly married couple – Fareeha and Shaharyaar – and their eventual meeting at a matchmaking boutique.  Vishnu Sharma as Gulfaam – the lead in the lighthearted comedy with a social message – was plain brilliant, as were the others (and all of them have a day job and were doing this for the love of theatre).

Preeti Saran, the Consul General of India in Toronto, inaugurated the festival and was the chief guest.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Isabelle of Bombay - A Cosmic Conflict

Every immigrant hopes to someday return home.

She lives in the hope that when everything is over and done with, she’ll return to her roots, even if there’s nothing left to return to.

Her past belongs to a miasma of imagination and is addled mixture of regrets and nostalgia.

Her future is a lost in hope – hope to somehow return to her world that actually never was.

And her present is lost between an implausible past and an impossible future.

As I read Isabelle of Bombay, I couldn’t help thinking about this quintessential immigrants’ dilemma.

Colleen Ansley’s first novel captures this dilemma eloquently. 

Isabelle leaves her Bombay and comes to Canada (Ottawa-Montreal and finally Toronto), but her struggles continue; her life changes and its gets worse -- much worse before it gets better.

Perhaps the true reason why Isabelle finally succeeds is the 'Keep Calm & Carry On' spirit that is essential to Bombay and Toronto.

Ansley is able to capture the true character of both the cities in the novel. 

The book is peppered with innumerable such examples. 

She illustrates Toronto’s culture of tolerance by a remarkable anecdote. 

Isabelle’s colleague Harry narrates an incident to illustrate to her to teach her to stand firm for her rights.

“As Vice Principle of a school, I attended the annual teacher’s conference. At one session, participants stood up to give their view on a particular issue. I stood up and gave my opinion too. My Scottish accent was much stronger at that time. I had barely finished speaking when someone in the crowd stood up and questioned me.

“Hey! You there with a Scottish accent. Aren’t you a Displaced Person?”

“Before I could think of an answer,” Harry continues, “Another person in the crowd stood up and inquired of that man.”

“And may I ask your name sir?”

“Oliver Greenhill,” the man responded.

“Well Oliver, you certainly are not from here either. You don’t have an aboriginal name.”

“People in the crowd stood up and cheered. That was the day I realised how many others were in the same situation as me. Since then, I decided I was going to stand my ground and not flee again. Don’t let anyone step on your toes Isabelle. Speak up. Everyone here has come as an immigrant. You have a right to this country just like everyone else.”

She reveals and Bombay’s vibrant multi-religious, multi-ethnic composition with an evocative example of multi-faith healing. 

When a friend of the family – Bernard – is taken ill and in addition to the doctor, holy men from different faiths come and administer their special panaceas – and Bernard is miraculously cured.

“Whose God cured Bernard? In each case, prayers were said to a God with a different name. When it came to saving a person’s life, religious barriers were easily discarded.”

The cosmic conflict between Kali and St. Brigid is in reality a friendly contest to protect Isabelle from both real and perceived threats.  

This is the second self-published book I’ve read in the last month. Just Matata by Braz Menezes. 

Both the books have better production quality that books published by mainstream publishers, and should ideally been included in their oeuvre.

Five Good Ideas

Working for a not-for-profit organisation has its charms as well as challenges. 

Among the positives, there are considerable more opportunities innovate, to choose a different path, and even do something audacious.

On the flip side, there’s never enough money, enough people, enough resources, enough anything.

Moreover, the pay sucks.

For the same results, the corporate and the government sectors pay more.

On the balance, I think, those who prefer the not-for-profit sector do so because of the freedom it offers.

Running a not-for-profit requires better skillsets than running a private or government sector organisation because you’re expected to do everything.

But there are few, if any, opportunities for training.

The Toronto-based Maytree Foundation’s 5 Good Ideas is a training program for those who work at not-for-profit organisations.

It’s simple, effective and free.

I’ve attended a few of these sessions and have always benefited from them – both from the main speaker as well as from the exchange of ideas that emanate from the group that I sit with.

But with all such workshops, there’s always a problem of retention. There’s a lot one learns, but not everything stays with you.

And there’s never enough time to compile notes from the workshop and keep them handy for reference.

With the publication of Five Good Ideas, Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success that problem is solved.

Edited by Alan Broadbent, founder chairman of Maytree, and Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, the book is a manual for all professionals working for not-for-profit organisations.

The scope of the book is exhaustive. I doubt if any aspect of a not-for-profit is left uncovered. 

But instead of a tome full of treatises, the book is an easy-to-read compilation of five good ideas on seven issues that a professional working for a not-for-profit organisation encounters daily.

These include:
  • Leadership & Vision
  • Organisational Effectiveness
  • Human Resources
  • Resource Development
  • Communications
  • Advocacy and Policy
  • Governance

All the contributors are stalwarts in their chosen field of expertise. 

If you have anything to do with a not-for-profit, read this book.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Love conquers all…

Love conquers all is a line from Leopoldo Paradela’s poem Amor Vincit Omnia.  

Here’s the poem:

Let me look at you and
make sense of my theology.
No matter what I do,
I can never empty my heart.
Good for me is good for all.
Silence! My heart speaks;
Love conquers all.

It was the theme of an evening of poems and music organised by the enterprising Jasmine D’Costa’s Trade Architects. 

Jasmine is by now a master at infusing an evening of poetry reading with a touch of chutzpah and turning it into something that stays in your mind for long. 

Love conquers all brought together poets from diverse background – Jasmine from India, Leo Pardela from Brazil, Colin Carberry from Ireland (and now in Mexico) and Goran Simic from Bosnia.

Violinists Mary Elizabeth Brown and Laura D’Angelo complemented the poets and gave a new dimension to the evening by playing pieces from Mozart and some folk interpretations of Bartok, one of 20th century’s foremost ethnomusicologists.

The venue of this splendid evening was the spectacular St.John’s Cathedral of the Polish National Catholic Church on Cowan Avenue

The poetry was brilliant, as was the music.

The poem that touched my heart was Goran Simic’s My Accent.

My Accent
(for Visnja)
I love my accent, I love that wild sea
which attacks my weak tongue.
It doesn't reside in the morning radio news
as much as in the rustle of the job offer flyers
stapled to the street poles.
In my accent you can find my past,
the different me who still talks with imagined fishes
in a glass of water…

My grandfather was a fisherman
and I grew up on a dock
waiting for him to come back.
He built a gigantic aquarium when I was born
and every time he brought a fish
he named it immediately by some word I had to learn
until the next came...next came...next came.
I remember the first two were called "I am"
and after that the beauty of language came to me
through the shining scales.
I learned watching the aquarium
and recognizing the words by the silent colors.
After returning home
my grandfather would spend whole nights
making sentences by combining the fishes
who would pass each other.
It's how I learned to speak.

I left the house the day when my grandfather went
fishing for a black fish he was missing
and never came back.

Now I am sitting in the middle of my empty room
as in an aquarium
and talking with ghosts of the fishes
I used to recognize by words,
talking with the shadows floating
over the flyers ripped off street poles.

"I love my accent....
I love my accent.."
I repeat and repeat again
just not to ask myself :

Who am I now.
Am I real or just the black fish
my grandfather failed to catch.