& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A decade in Toronto - 33

Mahrukh
Che

 Che’s mental health struggles continued and yet he steadily made progress. He completed his high school but had to drop out of the college program in broadcast journalism. 

Much to his parents’ surprise, he began working at Blue Jays on 8 April 2017. He was still a few months short of 20; and he found this job without anyone's assistance, applied for it and got it. It was a minimum wage job, but it was a proud moment for his mom and dad.


Our house was slowly become a home. Mahrukh single-handedly transformed it by adding bits and pieces of furniture, house plants, home appliances and a million other things that gave it a distinct identity that was a reflection of her personality.

By 2017, three years into my second job in Canada, I was in a dilemma – whether to continue in a steady employment or look for something that better fitted my abilities and aptitude.

My colleagues at a baseball game
in a playing field behind our office
What kept me in the job was the company of my many colleagues. I enjoyed my daily interactions with all of them, especially with those with whom I could talk about issues of contemporary relevance. 

In particular, I cherish the memory of debating with one colleague who read my novel with interest and eagerly discussed critical aspects of the story; she gave me a memoir of a pious Muslim’s decision to convert to Christianity.

I continued to supplement my income by doing freelance for Anand Raj Giri, a publisher based in the Middle East, and content writing for the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce.

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In 2017 Jagmeet Singh was elected leader of the National Democratic Party. He is the first non-white person to lead a political party in Canada. It is unlikely he will ever be the Prime Minister because there is a glass ceiling that non-whites will not be able to breach for a long time to occupy the Prime Minister’s post in Canada.

Jagmeet Singh’s ascension opened old wounds and created new ones. Singh is a vociferous critic of India’s record on human rights, especially of India’s treatment of its minorities. On this issue, Singh finds broad acceptance from different segments of Canadian and Indian voices. 

However, his refusal to unequivocally condemn the terrorists responsible for the 1985 Air India bombing continues to rile the political establishment in both the countries.

In 1984, I was in the Punjab for all summer, living with the family of my friend Rajinder Singh Bhelley, a Sikh, in Mandi Gobindgarh; that visit and prolonged stay changed forever my perception about the Punjab situation and gave me an insight to understand the incidents that changed India’s history in 1984.

There is no denying the significant impact the anti-Sikh riots in India in 1984 have had on the Sikh psyche globally, including and especially in Canada. Surprisingly, the impact is palpably noticeable even on a generation that was born in Canada and after 1984 and did not have any firsthand experience of the crisis that engulfed the Punjab in the 1970s and the 1980s.

The Indian state imploded politically, allowing the Pakistan-backed extremists to take control of the state, leading to an unimaginable carnage of both the Hindus and the Sikhs. India’s Indian National Congress party is to be held responsible for fomenting the problem, if not creating it.

But a lot of water has flowed down the five rivers of the Punjab, and the separatist sentiments that were ingrained in the Sikh psyche have all but evaporated. At present, and for at least two-and-a-half decades, the demand for a separate country for Sikhs – Khalistan – is only heard outside India.

Over the last decade in Canada, I’ve often been surprised to see some prominent Sikhs identify themselves on the basis of their faith, and distinct from Indo-Canadians. Canada gives right to its citizens to hold an opinion and express it freely even if it is at variance with that of the majority.

This freedom is politicised. In the name of free speech, a vocal section of the Sikh population has turned the legitimate campaign for human rights of the religious and caste minorities in India into a political weapon to influence the outcome of Canadian elections.

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The Harvey Weinstein’s case exploded in 2017 and unleashed the #MeToo movement globally. This is a political movement that has changed the power equation in favour of women, especially in the workplace.

Nearly all men are guilty of impropriety in their interaction with women colleagues in the workplace.  And for men to behave properly is the least that a constantly changing work environment requires, especially when women are constantly proving themselves better at everything that men do.

As in any revolution, the changes that the #MeToo movement will bring about will unfold over the next decade or so. The first and the much-needed change will be the end of discriminatory pay structure and implementation for equal pay for women. But for the revolution to make any meaningful change, it will have to become truly universal, and not be limited to the socially developed western democracies.

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At the Toronto International Film Festival, I saw Anurag Kshyap’s Mukkabaaz and Hansal Mehta’s Omerta, and I saw Sachin – a billion dreams on a newly-installed Android box at home, a technology that welcomingly subverts the stranglehold of cable television on home entertainment. Shabana Azmi came to Mississauga to perform Broken Images (written by Girish Karnad), and SWATRI group staged GRAMMA.

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