& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A decade in Toronto - 24

With Sonal, Karpur and Anu
Religion has always divided the world. Throughout history, the most abominable atrocities on humans have been perpetrated in the name of religion. All religions profess peace and brotherhood, but it takes little to arouse the hatred of believers who resort to extreme violence against non-believers and doubters.

Civilisation has had an uneasy relationship with religion and that unease continues to worsen regardless of any material progress that humans have made since the dawn of history. In fact, it’d be right to state that development – in terms of material well being, which is a direct result of better education, has done next to nothing to reduce global intolerance.

In the last three decades we have seen the twin rise of globalisation resulting in an integration of the world economies and paradoxically the rise of ethnic identities that tend to disintegrate into amoeba-like ever-shrinking groups.

In 2014, I stopped doing my monthly column ‘Mayank’s Immigrant Adventures’ for the Canadian Immigrant magazine. But the uncertainty that arose after my ouster from the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, made me take up freelance assignments for the magazine. Canadian Immigrant’s editor Margaret Jetelina suggested that I do a feature on the status of religion in Canada.

Divine Diversity became the cover story of the magazine. The feature explored the subterranean tensions that the Canadian society experiences but conceals by projecting tolerance and acceptance of its multicultural ethos. Tahir Gora, who’d just launched his TAG TV, spoke passionately about how immigrants who’d lived their life in secular ethos, took to strict adherence to religious dogmas after immigration.

If you wish to read the feature, here’s the link: Divine Diversity – Is it time to talk about religion in Canada; and here’s a link to a related post on this blog: Intolerance. Spur Festival also organised a panel discussion on religion in Canada, which expectedly turned out to be immensely engaging. Here’s a link to the post on that panel discussion: The role of religion in contemporary society.

In 2015, Mawenzi House Publishers, published The Relevance of Islamic Identity in Canada – Culture, Politics and Self, which is an invaluable volume on understanding the deep-rooted prejudice that seemingly tolerant societies such as the Canadian societies harbour against minority religions.

Describing the Muslim situation in Canada (circa 2015), Nurjehan Aziz, who edited the volume, noted about the essays, “…one observation was almost universal: recently in Canada Muslims have found themselves the objects of vilification and discrimination. Being a Muslim then means being a victim.”

Here’s the link to the post on the book: A book all non-Muslims in Canada must read.
I was invited to contribute an essay to this collection, and I wrote about my life with Mahrukh – Married to a Believer. All marriages are a maze of complexities, ours (Mahrukh’s and mine) has been especially so because of our distinct cultural moorings. Even in the face of often insurmountable differences over the last two decades, we have been steadfast in our commitment to our marriage and to creating a better future for our son.

The essay was subsequently reproduced in two online publications, both edited by my senior colleagues during my journalism days. Javed Anand, who along with Teesta Setalvad continues to fight the Hindutva regime of Narendra Modi, reproduced it in Sabrang, and Ashok Upadhyay reproduced it in the Beacon.

In December 2015, Mahrukh and Che went to India to visit Mahrukh’s family, and I went to meet my sister Sonal and her children. We met after more than a decade. Sonal and I share a relationship that has no filter. We share many traits and are always frank with each other about everything. 

It’s been a relationship that’s had its ups and downs. Both of us grew up in Teli Gali and share a lifetime of memories. We shared our family's affinity for Ganapati, something that I outgrew abruptly in my adolescence (except as an important component of Indian history), but she retains; Sonal has an exquisite collection of Ganapati idols.


I was especially thrilled to meet Karpur after so long. I’m particularly close to my nephew and share both an emotional and an intellectual bond with him. We spent a day together in New York, visiting the MOMA and other museums. My niece Anu was a mere child when she’d come to India, now she’d grown into a confident young woman who (just like her mom) believed in fearlessly voicing her views.

If you’re interested, read the posts about my New York museums tour:  New York art museums, and The Most Arrogant Man in France

A church in New York - the traditional
and the modern cheek by jowl

In 2015, Hasmukh – my aunt – managed to send me Harischandra’s (my granddad and Hasmukh’s dad) The Scarlet Muse, a book of Polish poems translated into English. Hasmukh was the matrilineal head of our extended family in many ways, and her influence on all of us, continues after she has passed away.

Here’s the link to the post: The Scarlet Muse

Devendra Joshi, a friend more than a relative, sent me a recording on the significance of Harischandra on Gujarati literature, and surprisingly, the podcast didn’t mention my father Meghnad, a poet, novelist, essayist and a man of letters in Gujarati literature. That provoked me to write about Meghnad’s relationship with his father (Harischandra committed suicide when Meghnad was just 15-years-old). I also translated Meghnad’s poem on his dad from Gujarati into English.

See the post here: Remembering a Family Man

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