& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, January 06, 2019

A decade in Toronto - 21

After taking the oath as Canadian citizens

In 2014, I joined the preparatory classes for the mandatory test that all newcomers have to take to become Canadian citizen. I’d go to Scarborough once a week for three months in the coldest months of winter (January to March) just to prepare myself to answer 20 questions.

Mahrukh didn’t feel the need to join any classes that the Toronto Public library offers to all aspiring citizens. In the final test, she got all 20 right. I got one wrong. So much for my dedication to learn Canadian history.

However, I do think it’s important for all newcomers to familiarize themselves with Canada’s history, especially to understand the seriousness with which its contemporary leaders are willing to accept historical wrongs that were committed and offer public apology for the government’s past decisions and actions.  

I have often wished governments in India would do so, but the only example I can think of is when Dr. Manmohan Singh apologised in the Indian Parliament for the Sikh genocide of 1984.

But I digress. Let’s return to the citizenship test.

Of course, taking the citizenship test doesn’t really help newcomers understand the Canadian ethos better. It’s an effective way to start. Fortunately for me, even before I became a citizen, I’d become a part of Passages to Canada, a portal created by Historica Canada.

Passages Canada volunteers share their personal accounts of cultural identity and heritage online and in person with schools and community groups. I was invited to address students of grade 6 and then invited to two different community centres to talk to newcomers.

The theme of my sessions would be adjusting to the new work environment in Canada and taking in stride jobs that don’t necessarily challenge one’s abilities, expertise, skills and don’t match one’s capabilities.

During my tenure at the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce and especially when its offices were at Yonge and Sheppard, I frequented the North York branch of the Toronto Public Library. It was a grand library (I haven’t been there is years now, and it’s been through a major renovation).

Then, in January 2014, I’d to force the then leadership to move to the new office that the Chamber had acquired and we moved our offices to the East Mall on Toronto’s west end.

As luck would have it, the year began with one of the worst ice storms in Toronto’s history. The city and its suburbs were shut down for nearly a week. The storm took a severe toll on the people of Toronto – many of whom had to live in sub-zero temperatures for prolonged periods, without power. But it turned the city into a visual winter paradise. I’d never seen (before or since) such a beautiful envelope of ice over everything, especially trees.

The Chamber originally had an office which became two offices and then three as the operations expanded. With that move, I also lost touch with office workers with whom we shared space. The entire floor formed office suites and the company than rented out these suites had a manager and two assistants.

Leslie, Mary, and Phyllis (replaced by Beatrice) became dear friends for the four years that I was at the location. They organized unarguably the best Christmas parties for their tenants. I shared a great bond with them, and especially with Mary.

I often wonder what is it that makes us closer to someone and not to someone else. In my case, I guess, the only reason is when the person treats me as more than just a coworker. 
With Pawan and Tarun

My colleagues at the Chamber, Tarun and Pawan, were much younger than me but were, like me, newcomers, doing their first job in Canada. Tarun left soon after my services were ended. Pawan continues to serve the Chamber.

Both became fathers in those years. Before them, I’d briefly worked with a young woman, Rakhee, who was also a newcomer.

With my new job at Simmons da Silva, my commuting time became longer by about 30 minutes one way. I was now commuting to Brampton and it was an altogether new experience. Thanks to our decision to have a home on Lawrence Ave, TTC’s route 52 became an integral part of my commute (it is, even now, when I work in Oakville).

I know this blog post reads a bit jumpy and disjointed, but it’s the last post for 2014 and I’m making sure that everything that I missed out in the previous posts is covered here.

My exit from the ICCC marked the end of a phase in my life and the beginning of an important one at Simmons da Silva.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Belief in Marathi

Cover of Belief
Welcome to 2019.

This blog enters its second decade. It’s a bit disconcerting that I’ve continued to write here for a decade and want to continue doing so. 

Except for being married to Mahrukh for 23 years, I haven’t done anything for quite as long.

None of my jobs have lasted for a decade, and have always ended for good reasons. A former colleague compared me to dust, because, as he put it, “I take time to settle down.” 

He was wrong. I’m not like dust. Dust settles eventually. I don’t think I can ever settle down.

So, as I said, it’s a bit unsettling to realise that I’ve been at it on this blog, posting about all things that are of interest to me, over the last decade.

Here are some reasons why started blogging.

  • To let people (potential employers) in Canada know that I could write in English
  • To reacquaint myself with regular writing – something that I’d not done in many years, as I abandoned journalism as a vocation.
Back Cover

  • To create a platform to write about books, authors, and book events. I was quite clear in my mind about taking writing more seriously in Toronto than I’d ever done in Bombay.

Despite years of writing, I cannot claim to be a proficient writer, but despite that rather obvious shortcoming, blogging is a gratifying experience. 

One frees up time from the burdens of the world to engage with one’s thoughts and turn them into words. 

Blogging in Canada led to an opportunity to become a columnist with the Canadian Immigrant (between 2010 to 2014).

I also began writing my first fiction. I struggled with the manuscript for many years and am thankful to the guidance I got from many friends and well-wishers in my journey to become a published novelist.

Belief, my novel, was published in 2016 by Mawenzi House Publishers, the Toronto-based prestigious publishing house that MG Vassanji and Nurjehan Aziz launched nearly four decades ago to create a platform for Canadian multicultural writing.

My friend Kumar Ketkar (who is now a Member of the Indian Parliament's Upper House) and Sharada Sathe were in the USA when the book was published. Kumar insisted that I send him a copy immediately. To my pleasant surprise, Sharada decided to translate Belief into Marathi.

Sharada (second from left) when Kumar and Sharada were in Toronto in 2015.
This photograph is of a get together of friends in their honour
Although diminutive in appearance, Sharada Sathe is a formidable woman. She is one of the founding members of the Stree Mukti Sanghatana and continues to serve as the organisation’s secretary.

Over the last decade or so, Sharada has begun to translate works from English into Marathi. Her translations include works by such eminent personalities as Amartya Sen, Somnath Chatterjee, Mohit Sen, Sam Pitroda. Her most recent translations include Ramchandra Guha’s India After Gandhi and Makers of Modern India.

Sharada completed the translation of Belief in a record time and the book was to be published in 2017 by Manovikas Prakashan in Pune. But, there was some hitch and the publishing was delayed. I'd given up hope of the book actually being published anytime soon.

And then suddenly last week, as 2018 was coming to a close, I got an email from Kumar and Sharada informing me that the book is ready and will be hitting bookstores in January 2019.

Having lived for 46 years in Bombay, Marathi is an integral part of my life. I cannot write in the language, but I read it and speak it with some degree of fluency. It is, indeed, my honour and a privilege that such an eminent personality as Sharada Sathe has translated my novel into Marathi.