& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A decade in Toronto - 13

Che - quiet, shy & handsome
I’ll continue with 2011 because when I look back at the year, I realise that a lot of things happened. And while it’s not possible to capture everything into this series, I do want to ensure that I don’t miss some important occurrences.

My involvement in the Festival of South Asian Literature and the Arts enlarged my circle of acquaintances in the creative world. I realized that the suburbs of Toronto – Mississauga, Brampton, and Oakville had a thriving cultural scene buzzing with events and programs and that South Asians were organizing most of these events.

I was invited to an exhibition of Hindi film posters – Picture House – organized by Ali Adil Khan and Asma Arshad Mahmood at the Art Gallery of Mississauga. It was a painstakingly put together exhibition, where Ali and Asma put a stamp of originality on a subject that could easily have become a sentimental and lachrymose, not to say banal, depiction of a dying art. 

I blogged rather animatedly about it, and my journalism teacher-turned-friend Teenaz Javat read it. She got me invited to the CBC’s Metro Morning show for a brief chat about the exhibition. (Read the blog: Picture House)

At IIFA, photo by Mariellen Ward
In late June, I was invited to participate in the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards at the Rogers Centre with Mahrukh, Che and Durga who was with us. The invitation was from my friend CP Thomas, who was doing the public relations for the event organizer Wizcraft (co-owner Sabbas Joseph used to be a colleague).

Thanks to CP, a serial entrepreneur and the publisher of Indian Voices, we got some of the best seats at the awards venue. The show belonged to Shahrukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra, and a bunch of film stars from the yesteryears. (Read the blog: IIFA in Toronto)

Farzana Doctor, the author friend who organizes the immensely influential Brockton Writers’ Series invited me to read at the September 2011 edition of the series along with Jessica Westhead and Pratap Reddy. She was greatly amused by the emails I exchanged to finalise my reading at the series and quoted from it verbatim while introducing me.

With Pratap and Jessica at Brocton Writers' Series
I have tremendous admiration and respect for Farzana. She gave key inputs to improve my manuscript and make it more “Canadian,” when I was struggling with it. Of course, by the time the manuscript emerged as a novel, a lot had already changed. At different stages of my writing process, she was willing to assist, suggest, promote and otherwise help in whatever way she could. Being a star author that she is, she’d forgotten my name by the time her third novel was launched.

Later that month, at the Word on the Street, I participated in the “Adopt a Writer” program with Jessica Westhead at the Word on the Street festival. Books and books-related events had become a major preoccupation. The Munk Centre in midtown Toronto became a regular venue to participate in such events. (Read the blog: Parallel Histories) It was to continue for a few years until recently when I began to consciously slow down my activities in view of my deteriorating kidneys. 

Marshall McLuhan’s centenary was celebrated globally in 2011, and in Toronto, his hometown, he was remembered at a panel discussion organized by the McLuhan Legacy Network. It was an important discussion.

McLuhan remains prescient about the future of the media. He’d predicted the Age of Internet long before it became a reality. He said, “The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function, and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind.”

My blog was being noticed and I began to get offers from publishers for book reviews. I’d prefer to write mostly about authors, book events and about books without doing reviews. Calypso Editions in the USA sent me a new translation of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘How much land does a man need’. It’s a simple, straightforward folklore of human greed. I blogged about Tagore and Translation in two parts. (Part 1, Part 2)

Che - getting ready for the
school concert
At work, I was doing all that needed to be done to give back to the ICCC – the organization that had made life possible in Canada for me and my family. I enjoyed the work, and what I loved more was the constant interaction with people who were deeply involved with the organization. 

Under Satish Thakkar's leadership, the organisation took off and successfully scaled peaks of glory never before attempted in the three-and-a-half decades of the organisation's history. 
Harjit Kalsi was another stalwart – an unassuming, soft-spoken, hands-on manager, who made the most menial tasks pleasurable. Together, Harjit and I created a short documentary on Hindi film songs with the railway motif for the ICCC’s year-end gala that had the Indian Railways as its theme.

At home, Che was in his final pre-teen years and was turning into a handsome young man. The next three years would be hard on him; years that’d change him forever.  I’ve often thought about these years and often wondered whether I did the right thing in getting us here.

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