& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A decade in Toronto - 16

First photograph at our new home on 09/03/13
We moved on 13/03/13
Before I move on to 2013, I must record a few important occurrences of 2012.
The sudden rise of Christine Sinclair, Canada’s woman footballer, who made Canada proud in the London Olympics, is definitely one of them. I also began to follow with some seriousness the National Hockey League, and Maple Leafs perennially depressing performance.

On the suggestion of Naval Bajaj, with whom I’ve had an on-again, off-again sort of friendship, I stopped the consumption of alcohol till recently when I restarted having red wine (Shiraz) which is a small concession that I’ve allowed myself. In 2013, again on his suggestion, I turned vegetarian. And a few years later, I made a concession – salmon. So, red wine and salmon are quite evidently, my weaknesses.

The year (2012) was memorable also because the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) was awarded the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award – it was an immensely proud moment for all of us at the Chamber.  Anurag Kashyap’s phenomenal Gangs of Wasseypur was released and changed the paradigm of popular cinema. 

The most traumatic event was the gang rape of a young woman in Delhi, who subsequently died in a hospital in Singapore. Nirbhaya, as she was named, became a symbol of all that is wrong with India (A swivel moment in India’s history), and galvanised people into action even in Canada, when Yogesh Sharma organised a community meeting to raise awareness and register a protest.

The role and the presence of the indigenous people in the making of Canada’s past, present and future is a topic that newcomers seldom give the attention it deserves. But 2012 saw the sudden rise in the Idle No More movement that focused on the rights of the indigenous people.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence went on a fast unto death to demand the rights of the indigenous people. John Ralston Saul’s A Fair Country argues that Canadian identity is more indigenous than European.  Read the blog on the subject: Idea of Canada.

Ω¤◊*Ω¤◊*Ω¤◊*Ω¤◊*Ω¤◊*

2013 was another eventful years for us. In March 2013, we moved into our new home at Gibson Avenue in York. Che discovered it. We’d been on the lookout for a new home for some time, because we’d mentally outgrown the two bedroom apartment at Keele and Lawrence West. The new house was (is) a stacked townhouse on two levels (it’s my first home with a staircase) and has become a home.

In many ways, it reminds me of my home in Teli Gali, where I grew up and lived for nearly three decades. The complex is truly multicultural, with many ethnicities cohabitating. The best part of the new home is the study that has become my room. Each of us has a room – our own private space. It’s essential, as anyone who’s lived in cramped spaces, will understand.  

The strangest part of moving in the new home was the silence. I’d lived at busy traffic intersections all my life, and this house, while not far from a busy thoroughfare, was still a bit inside. Except for the sound of the refrigerator, the house became so silent that I could actually hear myself breathe. That, if you’ve experienced it ever, can be eerie initially. Both Mahrukh and I worked together to make this dream possible. Read my blog about our new home here: A New Home.

But life is always a mix of the good and the bad. Soon after we’d moved into the new home, Che was mugged by a group of schoolchildren, not much older than him. The incident occurred just outside our home, and the group of boys snatched his bag, his handheld gaming device and roughed him up. Che was traumatized, as was Mahrukh. They called me at work and I rushed home. 

We called the cops but nothing came out of it. We were scared and even contemplated moving back to the apartment. Che, who’d been going through a rough time at school, was so disturbed that he couldn’t focus on his studies. All these occurrences intensified his anxiety syndrome and affected him mentally.

Che's first shave
But he recovered smartly and quickly and was growing into a fine young man. I helped him with his first shave on 27 August 2013 with his first shave.

I lost a dear friend in 2013 when Charudatta Deshpande committed suicide in Bombay. It shocked the entire journalism fraternity because Charu was a well-known and much-admired colleague and friend to many. I’d had the privilege of knowing him closely and he tried to help me get a job when my tenure at the US Consulate came to an abrupt and unexpected end.

He arranged my meeting with Anand Mahindra of Mahindra and Mahindra, but nothing came of that. Charu went on to become one of the best public relations professionals in India. I met him in 2011 when I visited India for the first time after coming to Canada. And he was as warm as always – not ready to believe me that I’d worked as a security guard initially.

My friend and former colleague Smita Sherigar visited Toronto and spent a few days with our family. Most friendships develop suddenly and continue forever despite there being little to no contact between friends; our (Smita's and mine) friendship is just like that. 

Among the noteworthy global events that occurred in 2013 included the bomb blast at the Boston marathon by two terrorist brothers, the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, killing over a thousand garment workers, another terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Kenya, where Kenyans of Indian origin were the target.

Malala Yousifzai, the brave girl, who became a victim of a terrorist attack in 2012, emerged as an authentic voice for girls’ right to education and freedom of expression. Nelson Mandela passed away into history. India launched its Mars mission – Mangalayaan, was launched, and it’d reach Mars a couple of years later, showcasing India’s frugal innovation technology.

Ice storm in Toronto
The year ended with one of the most severe ice storms ever witnessed in Toronto’s history. It was an incredible sight, beautiful and magnificent, but it brought the city to a standstill for nearly a week, with hundreds of thousands of residents without access to power, spending their days and nights in that bitter cold, with no heating.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sacred Feminine


Guest Post by Lata Pada

"I stand here a woman who has traversed life in many avatars daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, dancer, teacher and mentor. I ask myself what is the common thread that weaves each of these roles in my life – it has been the abiding feminine spirit, restless and ever seeking," says Lata Pada, the renowned danseuse, and the artistic director of Sampradaya Dance Creations, in her introduction to Meena Chopra’s book She – The Restless Streak


Your worship Mayor Bonnie Crombie, distinguished guests, artists and friends. I am very honoured to be invited to speak today and illustrate how the poems of Meena pay homage to a woman, in all her myriad moods and facets.

Lata Pada performing an abhinaya to Meena Chopra's poetry
at the launch of She - the Restless Streak
at Mississauga Central Library
Photo: Sheila Tucker
As I read She- The Restless Streak, I found Meena’s poems replete with imagery, nuance, allegory and subtext. Each poem has touched upon a central motif - that of a woman. The release of her new book of poetry – She– The Restless Streak– is a deeper journey in that feminine mystique, mysterious and unpredictable, into the abstract and the tangible, complementary and contradictory.

I find the poems are an exploration of the feminine energy, that those of us from India know as Shakti, she who has the power to annihilate evil while also protective of her devotees, her restless creative energy juxtaposed against her meditative and still presence. Shakti is the divine mother that creates, nurtures and nourishes, protective and fierce about her creations, unhesitating about destroying evil.

Meena’s poems have resonated for me at a deeper level. Each of her poems epitomizes what I would like to call the ‘sacred feminine’ – a principle that reaffirms our connection to the divine, the Goddess, the earth and each other. The poems take us on several inner journeys, that are deeply personal and yet universal.

Today, I stand here a woman who has traversed life in many avatars daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, dancer, teacher and mentor. I ask myself what is the common thread that weaves each of these roles in my life – it has been the abiding feminine spirit, restless and ever seeking. That spirit has been my constant companion and has been part of artistic voice which has found expression in many of my dance productions.

In the arts of India, the female divine has been an intrinsic part of every artistic expression, represented over centuries in temple carvings, paintings and murals, poems and devotional outpourings of the saint-poets and in dance of every genre.

As prakriti – nature, she imprints every creation with her divine energy, moving unceasingly, restless to complete the natural cycles of the sun, the wind and waters to restore order, so the new day can begin. Meena has captured it so beautifully in her poem Kaleidoscope where she describes the ever restless, changing nature through the dawn of day, surging, shifting towards establishing cosmic order.

The female Divine has always been an intrinsic part of life in India, the Indian tradition, where Shakti and Shiva, the female and the male, are seen as essential to the balance of the universe. Artistic traditions such as painting, literature, dance and music honoured this principle of ardhanarishwara, the union of the male and female, as a necessary part of every aspect of nature.

As a dancer, I have found inspiration in the many facets of the feminine in Indian writing, but always searching and restless as how to reconcile the tensions between western and eastern sensibilities, and to explore universal meaning for themes of the goddess, divinity and woman.

Revealed By Fire was the result of this quest. 16 years after the devastation of the Air India bombing in June 1985 in which my husband and two daughters were victims, I felt compelled to create an autobiographical work that was my personal journey through tragedy and survival. 

While my world as wife and mother had been cruelly wrenched from me, I came to understand that my identity as a woman had survived, an identity that no outside force could destroy. No force, even fire like the archetypal Sita of the Ramayana. 

Instinctively, I turned to Sita, where her agni-pariksha- a test of fire, resonated for me; a motif of my re-birth and renewal. Sita emerged unscathed - strong and luminous.
Fire became a metaphor, both for its destructive and regenerative energy. I surrendered to my strong instinct; I did not question the need for this work, I only needed to imagine how to create it. In Revealed By Fire, I returned to wholeness, a new peace and equanimity.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Interview with Pratap Reddy - author


Pratap Reddy
Pratap, your first novel Ramya’s Treasure has been published recently by Guernica Editions. You have been working at it for a long time. In fact, if I remember it right, you began the novel even before you began your short story collection, Weather Permitting, which was published in 2016. Why has it taken so long to complete the novel?

Looking back, I can say that I did not work on the project for far too long. I did start the novel a few years ago, that’s true. It was when I was encountering obstacles in finding a publisher for my first book “Weather Permitting”, a collection of stories; I was being told time and again that short stories were difficult to sell. But when Guernica Editions picked up my book, I put my fledgeling novel on the back burner. I resumed work on the unfinished book only after my short story collection was published. The novel got completed in the very same year - 2016. Guernica Editions accepted my second book too, and it has come out in 2018. The interval between the publication of the two books is not unduly long. Even then, one must not lose sight of the fact that I have a full-time day job, and there’s only so much free time I can spare for writing.

You have also told me that Ramya’s Treasure is by far the most ambitious thing you’ve attempted. Please explain what exactly you mean by that.

This is a perfect example of a person’s comment made at an unguarded moment coming back to haunt him! First of all, I am not a writer of long standing – just two books old! It was ambitious insofar as it was longer than anything I had written until then. Secondly, the protagonist in the novel is a middle-aged woman, who has been dealt a bad hand by Fate. I wanted to chronicle her journey from a state of despondency and depression to finding a purpose in life. In hindsight, the subject was quite ambitious for a rookie author!

Although I am yet to read the book, I believe you have attempted parallel narratives that trace Ramya’s life in Canada and in India – that is an unusual and I dare say a difficult device to adapt to narrate a story. Why did you choose this form?

Being a first-generation immigrant, I am conscious of being part of two cultures, two nationalities, etc. So I wanted this to be very much a part of the narrative as well as my heroine’s psyche. Notwithstanding the challenges or the benefits of living in an adopted country offers, I believe that our past plays a part in defining our future. More so in the case of immigrants -- people who have transplanted themselves into another environment. I felt a compelling need to include the often untold backstory of an immigrant.

There are many stories about immigration and settlement, and nearly all of them depict a male perspective. You have chosen to narrate a story from a woman’s perspective. How difficult was that process? Are you satisfied with the result?

I am not fully acquainted with the entire landscape of diaspora literature, yet, it doesn’t surprise me that they are written predominantly from the standpoint of men.
As it happens so often in life, especially in old world countries, most of the major decisions are unilaterally taken by men, but it is left for their womenfolk to bear the brunt. Immigration is no exception.  After arriving in Canada, it is the women who need to adjust more, take on more responsibilities, besides going out to work so that the family can lead a more comfortable life. So, when I chose to write about the life of a vulnerable immigrant, my imagination of its own accord conjured up Ramya – a middle-aged down and out single woman who is attempting to take back control of her life.

Writing about a female character certainly posed a creative challenge; and, from my side, I tried to do my best to make her credible and convincing. But I leave it to the readers, the ultimate judges, to decide whether I have succeeded or not. Going by the initial reaction, especially from women-readers, it appears I have not made too bad a job of it.

Are you working on another book? Would you want to talk about it?

Yes, I have started work on another novel. It is about a young immigrant to Canada who returns to India and observes the changing social, political and economic landscape there. At least that is the basic premise of the novel, though I am not sure what shape it will finally take. Sometimes plots and characters have lives of their own, unrelated to the author’s intentions. I also have a small collection of stories in a slow cooker which needs to be increased to a book-length manuscript.

But, Mayank, I am not giving you any timelines! As an individual, I have many demands made on my time – professional, spousal, parental obligations. In the midst of it all (even while my head is teeming with plots and ideas) I must find the time to write…another book.


Buy Pratap's novel, click here: Ramya's Treasure  

Author's website: Pratap Reddy

Hotel Mumbai



Bombay (Mumbai) will not forget 26 November 2008. Ten jihadis from Pakistan launched an unprecedented attack on the city that lasted for four days. The Lakshar-e-Taiba trained jihadis attacked 12 places, killed 164 and wounded over 300 citizens of the city. Pakistan had once again exposed the utter vulnerability and gross inability of the Indian state to fight terrorism. The November 2008 attack was on a scale similar to the 1993 serial bomb blast masterminded by Bombay’s underworld and supported by Pakistan.

There were innumerable heroes in those four days in November 2008, some like police officers Vijay Salaskar and Hemant Karkare were acknowledged for their bravery (although controversies surround their deaths), many remain unknown, unsung, unremembered except by their families.  

Given its association with Bombay, the Pakistani men who masterminded and controlled the attack focused on the Taj Mahal hotel

The Taj is a popular Bombay landmark, facing the Arabian Sea, located beside the Gateway of India. Jamsetji Tata built it in 1903 because he was not allowed to enter the ‘Whites Only’ Watson’s Hotel. Another wing – the new Taj – as it’s called was built in 1973. Incidentally, the Gateway of India came up nearly a decade later in 1911 to commemorate the arrival of the King and Queen of England to India in 1912.

Four jihadis took charge of the hotel and systematically began to shoot the guests. The Indian and global media descended on Apollo Bunder and gave live coverage to the carnage as it happened. It took nearly two days for the lethargic Indian state to respond to the attack and it was only on the fourth day that it was able to restore order.

It’s nearly a decade since 26/11, and finally, there’s a feature film on the attack on the Taj. Anthony Maras directed Hotel Mumbai is a relentless film. It gives no respite to the viewer from the grim situation inside the hotel that gets progressively worse. Its depiction of the attack is graphic and adopts a documentary/television news format. 

Jointly written by John Collee and Maras, the film depicts the gallant efforts of the hotel’s staff to save the lives of the hotel’s guests. The story centres on a group of about 50 guests who are holed up in the Chambers Lounge of the hotel, where the members of the hotel’s staff try to save them from the four jihadis who have taken control of the hotel.

The four jihadis are Panjabi-speaking young men, sent on a suicide mission with the usual promise of eternal bliss in Paradise. They are constantly brainwashed over their cell phones by their masters in Pakistan into executing orders with coldblooded precision.

One of them, Imran (Amandeep Singh), who shoots all but one hostage, dies disillusioned because he discovers that his masters didn’t keep the promise of paying large sums of money to his family. He doesn’t kill one hostage because she starts reciting the Salah.  

Anupam Kher, who plays the role of the chief chef (Hemant Oberoi) of the hotel, leads the effort in which Dev Patel, who plays the role of a Sikh steward (Arjun), assists him. The other important characters include an interracial family American husband (David – Armie Hammer) and Iranian wife (Zahra – Nazanin Boniadi) with their nanny (Sally – Tilda Cobham-Hervey, who miraculously saves the couple’s baby in the attack. Jason Issacs plays Vasili, a debaucherous Russian intelligence official, who turns into a hero.  (See other credits here: Full Cast & Crew

There are innumerable scenes in the film that are memorable and heart wrenching. Hotel Mumbai is a taut thriller that retains the audience’s interest until it reaches its denouement, even though all that happens is now part of history.


For me, who can’t help but be a Bombayite (or Mumbaikar, if you will), the 2008 attack on Bombay was cathartic. I had left the city forever four months ago to make Toronto my home. My new home had yet to accept me; Mahrukh and I were struggling to make ends meet.

I remember that night in November when I was on m security guard duty at the condo on Heath Street when Howard Karel, a homeowner, came rushing from the gym and said, “Your home is under attack. It’s live on CNN, go see the news.” He offered to wait at the security desk as I rushed down to the gym to watch the news.

We didn’t have a TV at home then but had a discounted subscription to the Toronto Star, which reported the attack. Earlier in November, I’d bought a radio to get the news of the historic Obama election. But both the radio and the newspaper were inadequate. The lack of access to news of such an unprecedented event created a strange vacuum in our lives.  

The absence of steady and detailed news led me to spend hours on the internet, scrounging for information. The attack acquired such significance to our lives then that it found its way into my novel Belief.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Nandita Das’s Manto



Although Saʻādat asan Mano died in 1955, his works retain contemporary relevance because South Asian societies continue to be intolerant, filled with hatred and are as violent today as they were in 1946-47 during the Partition.


Manto has shaped the literary sensibilities of the subcontinent with his stark stories and a nihilistic worldview. He doesn't permit his readers the luxury to judge his characters. He is a humanist who never lets his readers forget that humanity, with all its foibles, is palpably alive, even in characters generally considered unworthy by the society. This is significant because most of his classic stories are about the traumatic period of the subcontinent's history – the Partition – when even the sane turned murderous.

Manto’s life was shortened because of acute depression that stemmed from his displacement and exile. He was a reluctant exile, and never forgot Bombay, the city that made him. His rejection by the Pakistani establishment – political but especially literary – caused resentment and despair and led to alcoholism. But, even while he battled imaginary inner demons and real-life adversaries, he produced literature of high quality that mesmerises and disturbs readers.

In 2012, when Manto’s centenary was celebrated, a surfeit of books and biographies were published. Unquestionably, the best biography was Ayesha Jalal’s The Pity of Partition - Manto's Life, Times and Work Across the India Pakistan Divide. Jalal is a scholar and Manto’s grandniece. I had the good fortune of participating in a talk she gave in Mississauga in 2012 (organised by a number of Urdu organisations) when she spoke about her Manto, her book and narrated stories about Manto’s time in Bombay. 

In an interview given to the Indian media about the biography, Jalal was asked among the contemporary authors who did she consider as good as Manto. Salman Rushdie, she said. I'm certain that many of Manto's and Jalal's admirers would've been displeased by that comparison. 

While Jalal revels in controversies, she is a great narrator. She’d regaled the audience with stories about Manto’s life and friends in Bombay. She narrated the incident of the ride Manto had with actor Ashok Kumar through a Muslim basti in Bombay during a particularly tense pre-partition rioting phase. Manto panicked, but Ashok Kumar reassured him that people loved movie stars; he was right and Manto wrong because the crowd helped them take a safer, shorter route.

Manto’s misunderstanding (it was nothing more) with his friend Shyam, a movie star, led to his leaving Bombay and settling in Lahore, but what is inexplicable is why he didn’t return to India, as Sahir Ludhianvi, Qurratulain Hyder, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, among others, did, when he didn’t find his new home suitable to his temperament. 

Perhaps it was his destiny to die unhappy, unaccepted and unfulfilled. 

The lack of acceptance by his contemporaries in Pakistan must have rankled Manto especially considering his bohemian circle of friends in Bombay. Gyan Prakash’s Mumbai Fables (HarperCollins, 2010) brings to life that grand era in the city’s history, and the life and times of Manto and his group (“By the 1930s, Bombay was the place to be if you were a writer, an artist, or a radical political activist…”).

Manto’s circle of friends included many Progressives, and he shared their sensibilities, but he remained deeply suspicious of their political ideology, to the extent that he parodied them in a short story Taraqquipasand (The Progressives). And while he was able to be sarcastic about them in India and still be friends, in Pakistan, the Progressives isolated him, calling him a reactionary, and the Pakistani state persecuted him for obscenity.

Alok Bhalla edited Stories about the Partition of India (HarperCollins, 1994) has some of Manto's best stories. Bhalla’s translation of Manto stories retains the sting of the original.

Here’s an example

Sorry

The knife
ripped through the stomach
reached down to the penis
The cord of the pyjama was cut.
The man with the knife
exclaimed
with surprise,
as if he was reading a kalma to ward off evil,
“Chi, chi, chi…I made a mistake.”

Katha published Translating Partition in 2001 which also has a great selection of Manto’s stories and essays (and includes the classic Pandit Manto’s First Letter to Pandit Nehru published on 27 August 1954, five months before his death).

The letter ends with a memorable anecdote.

“You may get the scent of burnt meat in this letter of mine. You know there was a poet in our Kashmir, Ghani, who was well known as “Ghani Kashmiri.” A poet from Iran had come to visit him. The doors of his home were always open. He used to say, “What is there in my house that I should keep the doors locked?


“Well, I keep the doors closed when I am inside the house because I am its only asset.” The poet from Iran left his poetry notebook in the vacant house. One couplet in that notebook was incomplete. He had composed the second line, but could not do the first one. The second line ran thus: “The smell of kebab is wafting from your clothes.” When the Iranian poet returned and looked in his notebook, he found the first line written there, “Has the hand of a blighted soul touched your daaman?”


Nandita Das’s Manto has everything that an average Manto fan knows about the author and has read his stories. By seamlessly fusing important incidents from the author’s life with his best stories, the film is a veritable feast for Manto fans.

This is Das’s second film. Das’s Firaaq was a timely reminder of the atrocities committed on the Muslim minority in Gujarat in 2002. Manto will add to the debate on the rapidly reducing space for free expression of ideas and opinions in India under the Hindutva dispensation.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s portrayal of Manto transforms an ordinary biopic of an important author into a classic film. The actor infuses his performance with such energy that the actor and the character become one. Nawazuddin breathes life and fire into Manto’s explosive anger at the injustice he faces, and his despondency at his inability to get a grip on his life. 

The actor doesn’t need to speak to convey Manto’s determination in battling injustice; his steely glare and his eyes convey that evocatively. In nearly all the scenes with the family, the actor adopts a mildly tremulous tone that depicts uncertainty.

A particularly memorable scene is when Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the doyen of Progressives, rejects the Pakistani establishment’s accusation in the court that Manto’s story is obscene, but adds that it doesn’t qualify as literature either. Manto seethes at this off-the-cuff judgement by a fellow writer, and Nawazuddin conveys this despair with just a flicker of eyes.

The supporting cast, especially Rasika Duggal, who plays Manto’s embittered wife Safia, and Rajshri Deshpande as Ismat Chugtai (Deshpande dazzled recently in Sacred Games) are powerful. There are many cameos by popular and well-known stars such as Rishi Kapoor, Gurdas Mann, Javed Akhtar.

Another remarkable aspect of the film is the authentic depiction of Bombay and Lahore of the mid-twentieth century. During the post-screening interview at Tiff, Das spoke of the hardships she had to face to bring her imagination to life on the screen.

Some scenes are memorable, such as when Shyam and Manto are arguing over the latter’s decision to go to Pakistan, Shyam exclaims, “But are you even a Muslim?” And Manto replies, “(I’m) Enough of a Muslim to be murdered.”

During his persecution by the Pakistani establishment, the police raid Manto’s home to seize all his stories and papers but find nothing. When they ask the author, he bends down to pick up his fallen papers and says, “Bambai mein” (in Bombay).

In another scene when rioting in Bombay has become a norm, Manto begins to don caps and explains to Safia, “When religion goes from the heart to the head, one has to wear caps.”

Manto, the film, as well as Manto’s life, have a special resonance in today’s India when the Indian state is preventing free expression of ideas and speech. Das spoke sharply against the atmosphere of fear that has engulfed India and criticized the recent arrests of human rights activists.  #Tiff18

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Meena Chopra's new creation “SHE! The Restless Streak - Poetry & Art”

Meena Chopra
In her new book of poetry & art “SHE! The Restless Streak” Meena Chopra reveals the vibrant female force in the human element. Usually, an abstract painter and a nature poet Meena’s works in this book are semi-figurative female forms which complement her thematic poems on abstract female energy. 

Her poetry has a unique ethereal quality and powerful story-like imagery which engages the reader to unfold the mystique hidden behind each and every work whether a poem or a painting. The book is both a visual and reader's delight.

The full-colour coffee table edition of the book is being released on Saturday, 22 September, 1:45 pm at Central Library Mississauga along with a thematic art show which started on 7September and will continue till the 29 September 2018. You may find details on the event on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/205179256836573/

New book out 22/09/18
SHE”, the life force, the moving fearless female energy, subconsciously and unknowingly, has always been a predominant part of my art depicting genesis, whether it is in abstract forms, figurative forms or in the forms of verse”, says Meena when asked that what was the reason of picking up this subject.

Lata Pada, with her lifelong in-depth experience on this subject of cosmic feminine energy which is deep-rooted in the Indian Classical dance forms, will extensively be shedding light on the content & theme of the book SHE: The Restless Streak, Poetry & Art by Meena Chopra on the Book Launch/Art Show "SHE! The Restless Streak" Poetry & Art
Lata Pada (The Order of Canada) is the iconic veteran Bharatnatyam dancer, choreographer, artistic director and founder of Sampradaya Dance Creations in Mississauga, Canada.
Lata will reveal and expand on the idea of the dynamic feminine energy prevailing in the universe in its intrinsic metaphorical gear, the very central theme of the “Poetry & Artbook SHE! The Restless Streak” along with its essential role into arts, dance, music, poetry, literature & life at large. She will be doing this both verbally as well as through the rhythm of the classic language of “Abhinaya” ( portrayal through dance gestures and expressions)"
Foreword of this book has been given by world-renowned Canadian Master Artist, Historian and Order of Canada honoree, Charles Pachter. He says “In “SHE! The Restless Streak” Meena Chopra reveals herself to be a true original who combines words and images with grace and dexterity. Her poetry reveals subtle and astute observations of natural phenomena, from microcosmic details to sweeping macrocosmic overviews of human existence. 
Pachter adds, "In her visual metaphors combining the human body with surreal depictions of the human eye, she beckons us to ponder the meaning of life. Through the vortex of space, she draws the eye upward through expressions of monumentality and tonality, the orchestration of colour, and positive and negative balance. The result is shape-shifting, alluring and metaphysically inspiring. Her words and images together are a gift”.
You can find more about the book on Facebook Page: @SheTheRestlessStreak , Book is available on Amazon.
Author and Artist Meena Chopra is an internationally known award-winning poet & visual artist with an unbridled passion for words, space, colours and forms. Born and brought up in Nainital, India now lives in Toronto, Canada. Meena graduated from Isabella Thoburn College Lucknow. Later qualified as a designer from Delhi and then as an Artist Educator from RCM Ontario. 
After having a career as a designer for seven years in the fashion and garment industry in India, later switched to fine arts & writing poetry. She simultaneously operated a business in advertising, marketing and media. She writes poetry both in English and her native language Hindi and has authored two poetry books. 'SHE! The Restless Streak' is her third collection which showcases both her poetry and art. Her poetry has been translated into German and Urdu as well.
Twitter handle: @meenachopra Facebook page:  @meena.chopra.artist Instagram: meena_artist_author_media

Monday, September 10, 2018

Canadian Author Gains a World Wide Audience

His books are being read in the UK, Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, India, Kenya, Brazil, and USA. In Canada, a few Indie bookstores like Ben McNally (Toronto) and A Different Drummer (Burlington) carry his books on consignment. “I hope to persuade Indigo Books to carry them at least in some stores,” Braz Menezes says, “because the stories are very relevant to Canada’s transition to a multicultural society.”

The latest of his Matata* Trilogy: “
Among the Jacaranda – Buds of Matata in Kenya” will be launched in Mississauga this week.  The guest list is closed because of seating capacity. 

At 79, Braz Menezes is a young man in a hurry.
Braz Menezes was born in British-ruled Kenya to parents from Goa, India (then Portuguese India). In 2007, while sitting on a beach in Cuba, he observed his then 9 year-old granddaughter, making notes as she was going to write a story about her holiday. He wished he had recorded some stories of his youth. He took a decision.

He decided to chronicle his experience of living through the last fifty years of Imperial power in the Portuguese and British Empires, in the Matata Series. (*Matata means trouble in Kiswahili).
Braz enrolled in Creative Writing at George Brown College and attended the mentorship program at Humber College in Toronto.

He and his family arrived as  Canadian Landed Immigrants into Canada in 1976. He was later recruited by the World Bank (Washington DC) to work in their Urban Sector.
He has travelled extensively in Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and South Korea, among other countries.

His debut novel Just Matata: Sin, Saints and Settlers (2011) was expanded and issued as a Second Edition titled Beyond the Cape – Sin, Saints, Slaves, and Settlers (2015). Book Two of the Matata Trilogy titled More Matata: Love after the Mau Mau followed in 2012. Both have received a dozen 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Braz Menezes credits his success in relating to his far-flung audience on the advent of social media and e-book platforms that make it possible to reach readers in the furthest corners, where the Kenyan diaspora have found refuge.

Braz can be reached at matatabooks@gmail.com  http://matatabooks.com

To buy the book on Amazon, click here: Jacaranda 

Monday, September 03, 2018

Interview with Anubha Mehta - author


Anubha Mehta
Peacockin the Snow is a debut novel by Anubha Mehta and is being launched by Inanna Publications and International Festival of Author’s Toronto Lit Up on 28 September 2018. It has been selected as the most anticipated books to read for Fall 2018 by the 49th Shelf.

Tell us about your journey that led you to write Peacock in the Snow

This is a journey of the girl who was healed by her story. This journey started some 18 years ago when my husband and I immigrated to Canada on a whim! We were as taken-aback at our foolishness of leaving a reasonably cushy life in Delhi for no dire necessity to move, as were our friends and family.

Taken-aback but not really surprised. While others suspected, we both knew about that deep restlessness and insatiable curiosity to explore and know more about the world. We also knew that these weren’t generally the typical or sensible reasons for leaving a country of birth. But here we were, snow beneath our slippery soles and icy draughts clawing our face while forcing every facial muscle to pose a brave smile.

Canada of 18 years ago was very different from today. Our immigrant struggles were not so much of getting our degrees converted or breaking into our own professions but more around the pain of isolation from a community that we left behind till we found another one, coping with a new reality as a young family, dealing with a more equalizing society and then learning to forgive and love this new land day by day with all its faults and disappointments as well as its contributions and gifts to us, not necessarily all material in nature.

Peacock in the Snow: Section III Forever, Life:

“It is in moments of hesitation, not clarity, that I find my answers, my resolve
It is in darkness, not light that I can see clearly, I understand the truth
And it is in truth that I grasp ingenuity and find strength to embrace life”.

~ Copyright © Anubha Mehta 2018

But at a more immediate level, my journey of writing Peacock in the Snow started some five years ago when I got a stomach ache that refused to go away. After a few agonizing weeks of contemplating, I finally found my answer.

I found that there were all these stories in me, stories that were not mine, but stories that I had internalized. They belonged to countless individuals that I had met, socialized with, confided-in, competed and confronted, learnt from, sought, empathized and helped; and from the countless places across the globe that I had visited.

These stories needed extracting, not through a painful medical procedure, but by the simple act of putting pen to paper. So, for the next few months that’s just what I did. I went into a frenzy and wrote them all down. When I emerged, I realized that in my madness to write, I had forgotten to take my medication. I didn’t need to anymore. I healed a little every time another story spread itself in front of me. Was there a story line here? Yes, there was!

Why did you write this book? Why is this book timely?

Peacock in the Snow lifts the veil on present life and times of Canada and characters within this transitional time.

The complexion of mainstream Canada is changing. This new class of newcomers who have immigrated in mass numbers (since 1990’s) and whose profile and tastes, motivations and needs, are very different from what this continent has seen before- originating from non-western countries, educated, socially connected, internationally mobile, professionally astute and affluent. They are less tolerant of structured racism, the chronic underemployment and lack of opportunity for newcomers. They strive for equal access on the basis of experience, qualification and merit. Peacock in the Snow is a story of one such family.

What are the main themes that you like the readers to remember after reading your book?

Peacock in the Snow is a contemporary story of a modern woman that amalgamates voice, adventure and magic. This book mixes conversations, habits, and conventions of parallel lives from a non-western to a western context.

Intrinsically, the reworking the concept of privilege has been very powerful for me throughout this novel. Privilege can only be decolonized when abstracted from wealth, gender and class and its associated expectations or subjugations. For our protagonist Maya, her courage and peace came, not from her advantageous social placement, but by the exact opposite, her renunciation of it. So, until Maya reworked her privilege it did not lead her to either freedom or happiness.

This book also talks about the ‘other side’ of issues and isms, that fall within the shadows or silences of the noise. For example, when women become gatekeepers of patriarchy from all shades of benevolent to hostile or when sexism also affects sons who are trapped within its expectations to live, act or behave in pre-ordained ways, at the cost of their own love or dreams. Issues and isms are not contained within geographical boundaries. They mutate and change colour, shape, form within the cultures and tolerance of different countries and their people.

This novel and its protagonist mirrors the mood of today’s woman readers in her various avatars. She is tired of handed-down definitions of perfection and is compelled to be assertive in unprecedented ways, ways that have not been taught. Her inadequacies are no longer seen as weaknesses but an opportunity to grow, and her fear is accompanied with courage to risk everything for her conviction. Our protagonist releases that hope for a better tomorrow while validating similar struggles that we face in today’s world conflicted with diverse beliefs, ethnicities, cultures, and expectations.

Describe your writing process - did you seek guidance, inputs; did you have a mentor?

Alas, I have not been lucky enough to have worked with a mentor till now. That would be one dream I would like to work towards. My writing process has been more instinctive and unplanned. At a high level all the multi-faceted experiences that I have been blessed with – in performing arts, as a classical dancer, an instrumentalist, a theatre artist, in literary arts- academic writing, journalism and fiction, poetry- went into the birth of Peacock in the Snow.



Here is what made me tick while transitioning from a writer to an author: https://www.anubhamehta.com/part-1-how-it-all-started/ 

Peacock in the Snow is being launched on 28 September at Ben McNally Books (366 Bay Street, Toronto) at 6 pm. 

Book Launch Invitation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxK7Jgx7dTI  (Please keep the volume on)