Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I Dream of CSI

So I had one of those ‘movie dreams’. I call them that because that’s what they are essentially. It’s a dream that’s also like a movie. Sometimes it’s interactive and I am in the ‘movie’, sometimes I am watching it from a distance, but either way, it’s highly entertaining and I certainly don’t want the dream to end quickly. Occasionally even in the dream I will know it’s just a dream and realize I must be smiling in my sleep because it’s just so super amusing (is this getting wierd yet?).

Ok, so in my dream, I was a police officer of Toronto. Along with my partner, we had just busted some kids doing drugs in a park. The punk kids tried to hide the evidence somewhere underneath the car but we had this amazing UV torch that when lit made all the drugs show up as blue, so we could instantly pinpoint where they were hiding the stash (CSI Toronto?). After booking and arresting the kids, we had a meeting to discuss where these drugs were coming into Canada from. One lady officer then said it must be Mumbai, India. According to her, Mumbai is an exotic city where the clean entertainment of the movie world meets lots of shady characters, and drug smugglers use their drug money to finance a movie. So I land up in Mumbai to investigate.

And not just anywhere in Mumbai. Right in the middle of a drug cartel warehouse with lots of drums, and some creepy guys playing cards. It’s just like an old 80s Amitabh movie. After some good old dhishum-dhishum fighting, I realize they left a bomb ticking. I have to defuse it. It’s ticking really loudly. Then, as I step closer to the bomb, I realize it has a clock. So I figure the way to defuse the bomb would be to wake up and shut off my alarm clock. And I wake up!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the ticking of my alarm clock was the bomb in the movie dream that had to be defused. And yes, it was ringing loudly in real life.

I read somewhere that you dream only for a few seconds (like 3-8 seconds) when you are in your REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. External stimuli, such as someone tickling your foot or an alarm clock, can dictate your dreams. So my whole dream, which to me seemed to happen over days, was only a few seconds in real time, and all of it conjured by my brain when the alarm clock started to ring, to lead me gently to a ticking bomb that’s an alarm clock. SubhanAllah, the human brain is an amazing thing!


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Someone Stole Our Bin

Green Bin

I cannot imagine what drives some people. Someone stole our Green Bin! It was garbage day this morning, and I kept ours out last night before going to bed. This morning, as I left for work, I saw the Green Bin missing. I thought, oh, the garbage men are here already! It was raining, and I didn't pay much attention that garbage men take only the garbage, and not the bin. I mean, you are leaving for work in the morning, you are usually thinking about the traffic, your work, the weather, you know - other crap. Not garbage bins. I come home in the evening, and then it hits me.

No Green Bin. After enquiring with the rest of the household, we find out no one has seen it since morning. From experience, I know the garbage truck comes around noon. So someone came last night, after I left the garbage out, dragged the Green Bin somewhere, filled with rotten food remains, dumped the garbage and then stole it!

There's really lot of pathetic people out there. Who steals garbage? In Canada! This can only happen in Scarborough.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Canada's Government Falls

Canada's Government Falls.

Well, that's a marginally better title than what BBC had - Canada's Government Thrown Out.

For my American friends, in Canada, the government is a parliamentary system. There are 308 MPs (Members of Parliament) in the House of Commons. If the government has the support of less than 50% of them on a No-Confidence vote, it falls and it's time for an election. Unlike USA, power is not concentrated in the hands of one man (see comments below).

Currently, prior to the No-Confidence Vote, the Liberals had 133 elected MPs, so they had to rely on other parties for support. Well, that didn't happen today.

The mudslinging has already begun. The leader of the Liberal Party (our Democrats equivalent), Paul Martin, has already labelled the Opposition party, the Conservatives, as the "neo-con alliance". The Conservatives (our Republicans) have called the Liberals the thief who cried fire so everyone would leave the store and then he would rob the cash register. This is of course a reference to the sponsorship scandal that provoked the crisis in the first place. It's like two kids insulting each other "my daddy strongest". Then again, it's Christmas, time for good cheer and all that. And who to provide the laughs better than our elected representatives?

The small leftist party, the NDP (our Ralph Nader but with actual power), basically said how good it has been for the last year and no one paid any attention. The separatist Bloc Quebecois said some crap in French. We will not talk about them in my blog unless I want to insult that French separatist party. A party that wants to break up Canada is a bunch of traitors in my book.

As I looked at the Liberal caucus, one thing struck me immediately was the presence of so many minorities. We have a Sikh young woman MP, Ruby Dhalla, who some was voted one of the Hottest MPs in Canada. We have Muslims, Chinese, Asians, Greek, black MPs and so on. It's a diverse bunch.

Maybe that's why when Stephen Harper (Bush Jr and leader of Conservatives) spoke to his caucus, he made some prominent minority members of his party stand behind him on the podium (brown guy, Chinese woman, smart blonde woman (Rona) - all rare breeds I'm told in that party, especially after Belinda Stronach left the Conservatives to join the Liberals). What makes it more ironic was the fact that Belinda's boyfriend was Peter McKay, deputy leader of the Conservatives.

PS. The by-election that I blogged about here and here and here, was won by Liberal candidate Bas Balkissoon by a landslide (over 50%). However the voter turnout was only 19%. The weather was very bad on the day, it was snowing, windy and whiteout conditions at the time. Probably played a factor in the elections, with many people deciding the Liberals have this in the bag (it's considered a safe riding) and thus staying at home. I wish Mr Balkissoon all the best, hope he can hold the provincial Liberals to the same standards he had at City Council, when he uncovered the MFP scandal.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Random Acts Of Kindness

We bloggers usually tend to write about events and issues that bother us, after all blogging is a type of activism. However it also pays to realize there's lots of good people in this world, and a lot of kind acts that go unreported.

The Toronto Star runs a regular issue of Random Acts of Kindness (registration may be required). I make it a point to read the submissions on a daily basis. It makes me feel good that such great people live in this city I call home.

Some of the incidents described are totally out-of-character with the supposedly materialistic world we live in today, such as strangers helping you out if you don't have enough cash at the checkout. Others are cute, for example:
This story goes back to the days when I was a university student in Toronto. I lived in a dormitory and preparing for my first job interview, scrambling to have my suit washed and my shirt and pants ironed, just get everything in order.

It turned into a big mess, because I didn't know how to iron anything. I fumbled around with the iron in the TV lounge, making a fool of myself and then one of my floormates came in and asked if I needed help.

We had rarely spoken except for the occasional nod and smile. She quickly took care of the ironing. Her kindness really helped me out and that day I was given the job through that interview. In May of this year I will be celebrating my 30th year with the engineering firm. And Phyllis and I will be celebrating our 28th anniversary. That girl who helped me out became my wife - and yes, I did learn to do my own ironing.

Others are about strangers helping out strangers during a sudden winter snowstorm. On a sidenote, I find people here very cheerful and helpful to others in the winter more than summer. Perhaps the realization that everyone is at the sudden mercy of the cruel weather has something to do with that. There are also stories about people returning lost items, helping blind people, and so on.

Here I would like to share my own Random Act of Kindness story in this Thanksgiving (US) Weekend. It's not a big event, nor is it profound, but it still remains with me.

It was just a few days after I got my first car. It was during my third year at the university, it was February, and I was desperately looking for a meaningful job for the summer ahead. I had my license for sometime, but had avoided driving the highways. However, one day I was really late for an interview, and had no choice but to get on the freeway.

I was on the DVP northbound, when I took the ramp to 401 eastbound. It was snowing, and visibility was very poor. Unfortunately the lane on the ramp I was on was closed off at the end - I didn't know. I came to a shuddering halt, and remained stuck on that lane. Cars whizzed by on the lane beside me, however I had neither the courage nor the skills to cut in and enter the lane.

It was then another car on that lane slowed down, tooted the horn and flashed his headlights. I cut in and drove off.

It was a small gesture, a driver pausing to let another cut in. To this date, however, that gesture has remained with me. Whenever I drive, and I see a driver waiting to cut in, I remember that fellow and let the driver in. If some driver rudely cuts me off or goes extra slow on the fast lane, I remember that not all drivers are jerks and remind myself of that fellow.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Less Costly To Be A Guy

The fact that my sister's birthday is so close to Christmas has never failed to vex me. Add that to the fact that I tend to leave gift buying for the last minute, and you have a very freaked out Mezba who remembers on the day that he has to get something for her on the way home from work. In the past I could get away by giving her cash (which I tought was a good strategy for both of us) but in recent years I have decided to actually put an effort into buying the gift. You know, be sensitive.

Oh boy! If you want to know how many people (specifically brown people) there are in Toronto, come to Scarborough Town Center during the Christmas season. Every guy and his wife and kids and grandparents are there. After 20 minutes I found a parking spot and headed first for Walmart.

Buying a gift for guys like my brother is easy. I just head for the toys section and buy one of a)gun b)car c)Goosebumps d) anything with Spiderman on it. Buying a gift for a girl is a little tougher. Fortunately I ran into Shireen and her husband in the mall, and she suggested to me that perfumes are always good gifts for girls (perhaps a hint for her husband?). Checking out the perfumesEau de Toilettes sold at Walmart, I headed for Sears.

It was after browsing the women's section for perfumes and cosmetics (and getting weird looks from the salesladies there) that a sudden thought struck me - women pay much more for the same stuff than we men do.

A set of Calvin Klein perfumes (3 small bottles) for women - $95. The men get a set of 5 for $59. Elizabeth Arden perfumes, one small bottle was $86 (ouch!). The men had a perfume and aftershave for $63. I am quoting the prices roughly from memory, and observed the same phenomenon for Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Tommy, Adidas.

Moving on to the cosmetics section, I was surprised to see there were some cosmetics for men (the Beckham effect I guess). Anyways, you could buy a whole gift set of moisturizing lotion, cream, skin cleaner (whatever that is), hair gel and some other crap for about $50. For the women some lipstick sets alone were over $100.

Clothes. I was thinking of getting my sister a new funky coat. I looked at a leather jacket that I always fancied for myself. It was $140. Then I picked up a women's long coat, made of cheaper material than the leather jacket. $199. As I walked back towards Walmart, I saw they had men's underwear in a 3-pack for $5. And no, I didn't go over to the corresponding women's section to check out their prices.

Conclusion? It's far less costly to be a guy than a girl. Unless you have to buy gifts, ofcourse.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Imperialism of Imperial College

Even though I do not see what is there to see in Sania Mirza, I fully support her right to play tennis wearing short mini skirts. She is free to practice her religion as she sees fit. Women should be allowed to wear whatever clothing they are comfortable with.

Apparently Imperial College does not think so.

The Guardian: College security ban on hijabs and hoodies

Daily Mail: Students' fury at ban on hoodies and Islam veils
Imperial College Declares War on TerrorismHijab
"Clothing that obscures an individual's face is not allowed on any of the college's campuses. Employees and students should refrain from wearing clothing which obscures the face, such as a full or half veil, or hooded tops or scarves worn across the face."

It does not start with something big to lose the freedoms that we enjoy. The powers-that-be try to ban something small first. They wait and gauge the peoples' reactions. Then they move on to bigger and bigger freedoms. We had ASBOs in Britain for sometime now, where local councils can ban a person from listening to rock music on a certain bus. Then they moved on.

The Prime Minister Tony LiarBlair tried to pass the law that could imprison you for 90 days without charge. Imagine, you are dating a real hot Muslim guy and suddenly he does not return your calls for three months. What effect would this have had on interracial relations in Britain? Seriously speaking, a British citizen could be in jail for 3 months for not having committed a crime. The powers-that-be thankfully failed.

They say we don't want people putting silly pieces of cloth in front of their faces. Remind me to tell that to the Queen next time she wears a net on her face at one of those races.

Now they moved on to a much smaller scheme. First they tried to ban people in hoods, then people in jilbabs and finally now the war has come to the hijab. It's time to make a stand.

Students are the voice of the democracy of the future. If they will not stand up when their own rights are being taken away, then something is wrong with democracy in that country.

It's not just some moz people who wear the hijab you know, some Christians do it as well. They are only following what the Bible told them, in First Epistle to Corinthions, chapter 11, verse 3-10. I searched for 'Mary Mother of Jesus' in Google images. After 10 pages I gave up. I was looking for a picture of Mary with her hair shown. Couldn't find it. There were some sites, but those open a lot of popups.

Mary and Mary in Passion Of The Christ

Mary and child

I was speaking with my friend Rashed this morning. He studies (too much in my opinion) at Imperial College. He told me students there were lining up to protest against this impediment of freedom. There was a non-Muslim guy standing in the freezing cold of London last evening, he said, trying to get people to sign the petition against this silly rule. He said it was really touching. And sad, because most other Muslims don't care. They don't wear hijab, it doesn't effect them.
They took the guy down the street away. I didn't care, I didn't know him. Then they took my class mate away, I didn't care as I didn't like him. Then they took my neighbour away, I didn't speak because I was afraid. Then they came to take me away, there was no one left to care. - on poster outside UofT Scarborough SAC office

This is not a pro-or-against hijab issue. This is an issue of rights.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bengali Players - 1

Is it just me or is there a bhaiyya (Big Brother) in every Bong clique? There is one in ours, and I have noted his characteristics here.

Let me explain.

The Bhaiyya is always studying for some degree or other and rarely has time for parties (girls). He is forever the 'Bhodro chele' (guy with good values).

To the other Bengali dudes, however, the Bhaiyya wants to be known as the Player (pronounced Plaaaeeeyaah!). Even though he is of their age, he is always hob knobbing with all the aunties. At every party he will somehow walk up to an aunty and the aunty will turn to him and smile and say, "So how are you beta, how's your studies going?" If that aunty spends 5 minutes talking to all the boys combined she will spend 10 minutes talking with the Bhaiyya. He will boast to the other dudes about how he was in that aunty's house the other day or some other aunty's house the day before.

The picture becomes clearer when you notice all the aunties he has talked with have one (eligible) daughter (or more).


The Bhaiyya is eternally the helpful one. Some aunty needs her computer fixed and the uncle is a clueless engineer from Solimullah Institute of Technology? Call the Bhaiyya. You need food picked up from the restaurant 20 kms out of town for the Baishaki party? Call the Bhaiyya with his 10 year old Honda Accord. All the girls are going out for the latest Shah Rukh Khan movie and some of the guys are coming as well? Call the Bhaiyya to act as the chaperone.

Ever watched Everybody Loves Raymond? Remember the beginning when Ray goes "Hi, I am Ray Barone and I live in Long Island ..."? Well, the Bhaiyya has a similar theme.
Hi, I am Bhaiyya and I live in Toronto with my computer MSHOME.
My computer, oh she looks after everything,
My emails, my work, my social life, oh I don't know how she does it.
My parents, they live right across the corridor,
That's right, across the corridor.
And my brother lives right with them.
Now not every aunty would trust their daughters with you,
But all of mine would, coz ....

The Bhaiyya's biggest fantasy ofcourse is that one day some aunty would wake up to this fact and start pummelling her daughter(s) with Bhaiyya's facts (and conveniently downloaded Bio-Data from Bhaiyya's website).

"See this guy. He is perrrrfect for you. He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, has no girlfriends, studying hard, comes from a good family, and is suchhh-a helpful boy. I want you to consider him."

If a way to a man's heart is through his stomach, the way to a Bong girl's heart is through her ... mom?

And then comes his reality cheque.

"But mom [insert disgusted face emoticon here], he's ... a Bhaiyya!"

Ouch! Such is the tragic reality of the helpful and hopeful Bhaiyya.


Harry Potter's Date Is Bangladeshi

Apparently the 'Indian' girls in the new Harry Potter movie are not Indian at all, they are Bangladeshi. Just like most of the 'Indian' restaurants in London, UK, are not Indian at all, they are owned and operated by Bangladeshis.

Sources: The 3rd World View (from Me Myself And Bangladesh and Sepia Mutiny)


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The 'Immoral' West - 2

While it is true that we who live abroad may at times arrive in Bangladesh with an attitude, turn up our noses at the crowds and dirtiness, and exclaim shock that people are still not *gasp* stopping at red lights, the trend also flows both ways. I have met many Bangladeshis who have quite a condescending attitude towards their cousins from the West, and Canada (or USA/UK) in general.

Continuing this theme, they will come to this country and never stop criticizing it.

"Oh look at these people in July, walking around half-naked." (and then keep looking).

"Oh, these Canadians are so vain. They are buying these expensive cars when people in Asia cannot eat." (over a $3.50 cup of Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks).

"These Canadians just want us to come and work as labourers and storekeepers. Racists." All this while his 'labourer's salary' is supporting his family here, back home in Bangladesh, and putting his sons through university when after they graduate they will be engineers, doctors, etc.

"Me, this country will lead my children astray. I'm returning to Bangladesh as soon as possible." (On his 10th year).

Now, everyone's situation is different and there is some valid criticism, but on the whole immigrants have it pretty good here. You get a passport after 3 years only which is pretty good compared to others. And this blue Canuck passport gets more respect in Bangladesh than a green Bangladeshi passport does there - trust me, I've been at Dhaka airport and the officials are so courteous to the 'foreigners' and so rude to the locals its unbelievably sick (that's another whole post).

We also practice our religious freedom in many ways. On Good Friday, the day most Canadians believe Christ the God was crucified and killed for their sins, we in our Jummahs on the same day never fail to drive home the point that we believe that's bogus, Christ was a holy messenger of God (in Islam he is called the Word of God) but a man like any other man, and he wasn't crucified at all. True secularism. In Bangladesh the Hindus are not allowed to have loud pujas on Muslim holidays. That's not secularism.

In fact, these western nations are in many ways more Islamic than our so-called Islamic nations. They have minimum wage, which was first implemented by Hazrat Omar (R) but now seems to have disappeared from the muslim world. They have dignity of labour. Here a plumber, labourer, construction worker and street cleaner (called sanitation worker) have equal respect in the eyes of the law and society. Muhammad (peace be upon him) worked as a labourer, shepherd, merchant, farmer and so on. Yet today in Bangladesh we look down on choukidaars (guards), rakhals (shepherds), coolies (porters), rickshaw-wallahs and so on. In Canada we follow the Doctrine of Multiculturalism (sure there's some discrimination but can you argue a black man will not be discriminated against in Bangladesh?) which was practiced in Muslim Spain a long, long, time ago.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cousin Marriage

Labour MP Ann Cryer has called for British Pakistanis to stop marrying their first cousins after a study suggested that they were more likely to have children with recessive disorders than the general population (Guardian link).

This is always going to be a controversial topic to discuss, as proponents of discussion could be labelled as racists, xenophobes etc. What I find comforting is the tone of Cryer's speech.
I'm not calling for a ban or a change in the law because that would mean changing the law for everyone. I'm simply calling for an enlightened debate. We've avoided discussions on this subject.

It is encouraging that he is calling for an 'enlightened debate'. Too many times people in power tend to take extreme measures to combat a problem and it results in overkill.

Firstly, is it true that most Pakistanis tend to marry their cousins? On a personal level, I find it very true.

I was meeting a few high school friends for lunch. Given it's Canada, ours is quite an international bunch. We were catching up, when all of a sudden my Pakistani buddy turns to me and asks, "So Mezba, what about marriage?"

I was like, "man, et tu Brutus? My whole extended family's been on that one note nag for some time."

"Well, what about family? Any cousins?"

There was a stunned moment of silence for almost a minute, before I slowly murmured, "Well, cousin marriages are not common at all amongst Bengalis. It happens, but very rarely."

"Well," my friend continued, obviously not understanding why our Chinese friend was looking at him as if he'd just grown a horn. "Islam has nothing against cousin marriages."

Sure, Islam has nothing against marrying your cousin. Islam also has nothing against a 20-year-old guy marrying an 80-year-old woman, but that's not happening. Islam also has nothing against eating brocolli three times a day, but again - not happening.

Even Christians have debated over this issue. Leviticus 18 lists the forbidden relationships. Cousins are not forbidden nor is cousin marriage forbidden anywhere else in the Holy Bible (source). The restrictions given are very similar to ones mentioned in the Holy Quran, 4:22-25.

On another note, the main difference between Springfield and Shelvyville was - you guessed it - cousin marriage.

Back to the British MP. Like the Shariah debate sometime back, people who raise minority issues sometimes raise tham as they can be a convenient excuse to bash the community. In this case, one should take into account whether there is a hidden agenda behind this issue regarding British Pakistanis. However, regardless what one thinks of the MP's request to the British Parliament to ask Pakistanis not to marry cousins, there can be no doubt marriage amongst cousins, especially when recursively done for generations, have extreme negative effects.

It has been narrated that Caliph Omar Bin Khattab (R) saw an Arabian tribe called Banu Al-Sayeb (or As-Saib) whose bodies were very weak and emaciated because they used to marry their kins. Caliph Omar advised them "Marry outside your close of kin".

From the BBC,

But the statistics for recessive genetic illness in cousin marriages make sobering reading.

British Pakistanis are 13 times more likely to have children with genetic disorders than the general population - they account for just over 3% of all births but have just under a third of all British children with such illnesses.

Indeed, Birmingham Primary Care Trust estimates that one in ten of all children born to first cousins in the city either dies in infancy or goes on to develop serious disability as a result of a recessive genetic disorder.
We all have two copies of every gene. If you inherit one variant gene you will not fall ill. If, however, a child inherits a copy of the same variant gene from each of its parents it will develop one of these illnesses.

The BBC deals with the issue in detail here.

Centre for Arab Genomic Studies research data here.

Regarding cousin marriages, ManiacMuslim has this quote (himself a child of first cousins):
I personally prefer it if people marry OUTSIDE their family. Too many cousin-marriages will lead into quite the amplification of hereditary diseases and I’m sure the kids from the cousin-marriage will be scarred for life when they have to make a complete family tree for a school project. "But Abdullah," said Mrs. Elffab, "why does your family tree have interconnecting branches? It looks more like a family bush. Hey... waita minute." Poor Abdullah wasn’t the same again...

Marriage amongst cousins are practised in other cultures as well. Rural Pakistanis tend to be more conservative than other South Asians, unlike Indians and Bengalis who tend to have a more relaxed approach to religion, as influenced by Sufi-ism. In this regard, rural Pakistanis are culturally more similar to Iranians and tribal Arabs. We find that cousin marriages are practiced there as well. Albert Einstein married his first cousin (and he was a bright guy too). The royals of Europe are another example of interbreeding for generations. As I said, it's not a religious phenomenon, but a cultural one.

However, it is a topic that needs to be discussed within the British Pakistani community, in that, the Labour MP is absolutely right. We need to address why it's too popular, when Islam has repeatedly encouraged us to seek people for marriage outside of kinship. We need to discuss why many people claim marriage to a cousin (a known factor) is better than marrying a stranger. And we should not label those calling for discussion as racists. Debate is healthy, orthodoxy tends to promote stagnation.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

From A Muggle To A Pothead

I was listening to the news on the drive to work, and the news reader announced, "Potterheads all over the country are gearing up with the release of the new movie." Except that he said "Potheads" not "Potterheads". He corrected himself immediately, but I heard snickering in the back.

My kid brother planned an evening with his friends on the night of the release of the movie, with me dropping them off at the cinema and picking them up later. Unfortunately his school decided to release report cards the day before. This meant none of his friends got parental permission for the movie. You have to understand for Bengali parents if you get 98% they will ask you where the other 2% went. Therefore movie night after report card night is a strict a no-no.

Taking mercy on my brother, I told him he could accompany my friends as we went for the movie. Of course there were strict ground rules.

  • Don't talk to any of my friends unless spoken to.
  • If possible don't talk at all.
  • Be invisible.

I'm such a good brother. I remember the last time I went with him for the Chamber of Secrets. The movie was so boring I kept falling asleep. Once I woke up and Harry had just gotten his hand pierced by the teeth of the giant snake.

"Oh my God," I uttered, "It's poison. He's going to die."

"No," my brother turned to me and kindly explained, "Phoenix tears are magic tears. That bird will save him."

Two girls seating in front of us turned and muttered, with a lot of attitude, "thank you VERY much. Hmmph!"

Like me, they hadn't read the books either. Muggles.

So this time, I made preparations. I borrowed all the three previous movies and watched them one by one. I was now a PotheadPotterhead. The Philosopher's Stone was OK, it laid down the story. The Chamber of Secrets was booooring. The Prisoner of Azkaban, on the other hand, was really good. It was fast and thrilling. And mercifully short. I therefore approached the Goblet of Fire with high expectations.

What a disappointment. There was no mystery, unlike the others. The whole movie was a series of connected adventures, like a kind of amusement park ride which is not really thrilling as you have ridden it thousands of times before. You never get involved with the characters (who seem to have sprouted into adulthood). The only good part was the school prom and the scenes before that. Yawn.

The only reason I didn't fall asleep near the end was because some girl seated beside us had an anxiety attack just as Harry Potter got into trouble. As she walked away from the seat towards the exit, with her boyfriend in tow, I distinctly heard him swearing under his breath. This was during the climax too. I guess they were both PotheadsPotterheads.

That's the only way to enjoy the movie. Watch the others, for then you can follow this one. In other words, this is not for Muggles.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Silence Is Golden

I am normally a friendly person. If someone talks to me I respond. There are two places though, that I wish I could be left alone.

One is the office washroom. To me, I approach the washroom just like I approach shopping groceries. It's there for a purpose. Enter, finish your business, leave. There are other places to have a spiritual conversation.

Unfortunately there was someone from our department who was the anti-thesis of this theory. As soon as he sees you in the washroom, you knew five minutes of your life was going to be wasted.

"Mezba, did you download that funny clip I emailed you? It's hilarious eh?"

Buddy I gotta do some downloading here of my own - leave me alone.

"Hey Mezba, have you seen the latest economy projection reports? Strange eh?"

Jeez. Who talks about projection reports when you are waving your hand in front of the hot blower, cursing whoever decided to make the washroom environment friendly by getting rid of paper towels.

He doesn't take the hint. Fortunately he is now haunting the washrooms of another department.

The other place is the sauna.

There I would be, trying in vain to convince myself I really did lose 10 lb over Ramadan, and generally thinking lazy thoughts through the haze of steam, when along will come the most gregarious fat person with a towel loosely wrapped around his body, sit splat down not too far from you and then boom: "hot, eh?"

Buddy, you are in the sauna, what did you expect?

This would be followed by "oh it's so hard to lose weight".

After making sure the comment wasn't directed at me personally I do badly want to tell him about the new South Beach diet. But he has moved on to discussing his pretty young trainer.

I am almost there in beating my last record time spent at the sauna, so I decide to engage in his small talk. But when he starts standing up and starts performing calisthenics in the steam that does it. I head for the shower.

At last, solitude.


PS. I know these people are mostly nice people who are very friendly. And I may be considered rude for not wanting to talk back. But at least not in the washroom, yaar.


Sheila White Wins Debate

I have blogged about the byelection in our riding here and here. There was an all-candidate debate today at the Islamic Foundation, attended by the representatives of the Liberals, Tories, NDP and Greens.

It was moderated by some bearded muslim guy who also works for the CBC (I regret not taking my digital camera with me - people who know me will know this is sacrilege on my part). The four panelists had collected the questions submitted via the Foundation website for the past week, selected some of them and fired away. The questions covered a lot of the community issues and I felt were well assorted.

Sheila White of the NDP stood out. Every question placed to her had a well thought out answer. She really knew the community and its issues, and seems a well placed candidate for our riding. She was also the one who got the loudest claps.

Prior to the debate Howard Hampton, the leader of NDP, went around the room shaking hands. I can tell you he looks you in the eye when you ask questions. He didn't shy away from any tough answers too.

Cynthia Lai of the Tories was OK. I like her, she seems a nice lady. I didn't like the fact that she read out a prepared speech as her opening remark. Even I know that's not good public speaking policy. Over all she provided some nice shots at the government. However Sheila outshone her by quite a margin.

The Green Party candidate (forgot his name) was exciting. He was really amusing. There is no way in hell he has a shot of winning this. So he could afford to make promises. One thing though, he was consistent throughout. Whatever positions he took, there was no hudging and fudging and political double-speak, most evident with Liberals and Conservatives. He was so consistent, I started to predict what he was going to say.

And lastly, Mr Bas of the Liberals. I like Mr Bas personally. He was one of the few men who had the guts to stop the MFP computer purchase scandal at City Hall. Too bad he is running for the liarMc Guinty's party. Since I don't like liars provincial Liberals I won't talk any more about Mr Bas. One must however mention the fact when he was asked about why he opposed a Muslim/Chinese seniors' home, and asked by a Muslim/Chinese guy in a mosque attended by a diverse community, Mr Bas negotiated the question with admirable ease. None of the others matched him. The Liberals are good politicians.

Over all, I have still not decided who I am going to vote for. But I did pick up the NDP flier on my way out.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Cricket, Islam and women

There are religious nutcases and then there are cricket nutcases. Sometimes they can be found at one spot.

England's cricket team is on a tour to Pakistan. They (England) are on their way to being the No. 1 team in the world, while Pakistan is as usual the unpredictable team, capable of defeating the best one day and going down to the worst the next.

BBC's correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones, visiting with the cricket team, writes in Pakistan's passion for cricket:

I've only met one Pakistani who did not like cricket.

He was a 25-year-old talib, or religious student, called Ali.

He came from Peshawar and had been educated in one of Pakistan's madrassas, or Islamic seminaries, since he was six years old.

With his wispy beard and serious face he had a pretty austere, puritanical view of life.

Dancing, listening to music and watching television were all wrong, he said.

I tried to find a chink in the armour and said: "Ah well, as a Pakistani you must at least love cricket?"

"Cricket?" He raised his eyes to the heavens.

"Why all this cricket, cricket, cricket? Don't people realise they are wasting their time? People should think of Allah, not cricket."

This is pretty serious stuff. The cricket blog, Corridor of Uncertainty, discusses the case here. I like Zainub's take on the issue:

Funny though that he should call cricket or sport a waste of time, some of Holy Prophet's closest companions were known to be very keen on sports played in their times (including wrestling and horse riding and fencing). Some records have it that even the Prophet of God Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself enjoyed such sports.

This is an example of our literate and enlightened Muslim woman. The fundamentalist mullahs and imams will shout "we should go back to our true Islam" but then forbid women's education because if their women really learnt the true Islam, they would realize how beautiful and liberal Islam is, and what a fake the so-called religious leaders and their faulty interpretations are.

Afghanitan's Taliban used to forbid women from working. The Messenger of God's own sister-in-law, Asmaa bint Abu Bakr, used to work, that too in the fields picking dates. She even used to talk with men who were not her husband **mock horror**!

Asmaa relates: "When az-Zubayr married me, he had neither land nor wealth nor slave”". So Asmaa had to work very hard kneading dough, going far off to get water.

"And I used to carry on my head," she continues, "“the date stones from the land of az-Zubair which Allah's Messenger had endowed him and it was a distance of two miles from Madeenah. One day, as I was carrying the date-stones upon my head, I happened to meet Allah's Messenger, along with a group of his Companions. He called me and told the camel to sit down so that he could make me ride behind him. I felt shy to go with men and I remembered az-Zubair and his Gheerah (modesty) and he was a man having the most Gheerah. The Messenger of Allah understood my shyness and left."

"I came to az-Zubair and said: “The Messenger of Allah met me as I was carrying date-stones upon my head and there was with him a group of his Companions. He told the camel to kneel so that I could mount it, but I felt shy and I remembered your Gheerah."

So Asmaa declined the offer made by the Prophet. Upon this az-Zubair said: "By Allah, the thought of you carrying date-stones upon your head is more severe a burden on me than you riding with him."” (related in Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Look at the sense of dignity and modesty of Asmaa! See how she felt shy in front of men? See how careful she was about her husband's feelings? She knew her husband's feelings so she didn't want to upset him by accepting the Prophet'’s help even though the Prophet was the purest of men (and her own brother-in-law) and even though it meant bringing hardship on herself! And look at Az-Zubair, he didn't want to inconvenience his wife, his wife's hardships were acutely painful to him! What a beautiful relationship they had!

I wonder what Peshawar's Ali would have made of Asmaa, had they learnt about her. She worked. She went outside the house. She talked with men. She was educated. She had her own income. There are many more stories such as these that deserved to be told.

PS. Incidentally this is my 100th post. A century.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

So Are You Gay?

"So, you didn't tell me you were gay?"

I looked at Ivan* in surprise.

I was at the gym, on my way to my locker, having just emerged from the sauna. Ivan was at the locker besides mine. I had known him (not too well) for sometime, having seen him around the club where we played badminton.

Now, when the guy charged me for being gay (never happened before), all it took was a second before a reflexive, instinctive, and forceful "NO!"

"Oh, sorry." He looked relieved. And a bit sheepish. "I was gonna change later then, after you left."

I shook my head. "What the hell - I mean why - why would you even ... THINK ... that I might be gay?"

"Towel." He replied.

In a flash it became clear to me. You see, I have two white towels for the gym that I rotate. This weekend they were both in the washing machine, so I grabbed the largest towel I could find in the cupboard. It was a made in Bangladesh towel, mostly blue. Like many desi towels, however, it had designs on it. My towel depicted a dinner table. Sweets. Dates. Mangoes. Lichus. All traditional fruits of Bangladesh.


"Word of advice," Ivan grinned. "Never wear a non-white towel at the gym."

"It's BLUE!" I protested.

Mark shook his head. "Colorful. But I should have not worried. South Asian guys are never gay."

Things were much simpler when I was a kid in the Middle East. Blue lunch boxes were for guys, pink for girls. That was it. Nothing else was demarcated so strictly as masculine or feminine.

I was taught in an English medium school by the British. 'Gay' used to mean happiness. First week I was in Canada, I went to Paramount Wonderland. It's a roller coaster theme park in Toronto, kind of like Six Flags, but only better. The day we went, they had a banner at the park entrance stating Gay Day in Wonderland. And I thought wow, they want everyone to be happy. And no, we didn't know about the day from beforehand - we went as the tickets were half-priced (true desi-ness).

The sight of guys holding hands inside didn't unnerve me that much. After all, common in the Middle East. It was only when I saw two grown men kissing did my Canadian cousins let me on in the meaning of the word 'gay' in North America.

It used to be the colour pink. Now it's all colours of the rainbow, as a comedian commented the other day. What's more, people here seem to find out new signs of gayness every day.

  • Don't wear your wrist watch on the right hand. Half of Bengali 'uncles' must be gay then.
  • Don't wear colourful shirts.
  • Don't carry your cell phone in your right chest pocket.
  • Talking in a high pitched voice. Ok scratch that, that's definitely gay.
  • If you carry a bag with a sash wear it on your left, not on the right.
  • Don't tie your cardigan at the waist. Wrap it around your neck. You may strangle yourself, but atleast hey - the guy down the street will not mistake you for being gay.

I don't understand how a guy can look at Angelina Jolie or Sushmita Sen and tell me it does nothing for them. But what I don't understand even more is how using a certain coloured towel proves that fact (as long as it's non-pink). Jocks should just grow up.

On another note, I saw the movies Zathura (4/5 - really good fun, had low expectations, thought it would be a kid's movie, but very pleasantly surprised), Legend of Zorro (2.5/5 - had read bad reviews, so had low expectations, but suitably entertaining for the most), and the Indian movies Chocolate (4/5 - excellent, given that it's a rip off), No Entry (5/5 - funniest movie I have seen in quite a while - a laugh riot) and Aashique Banaya Aapne (2/5 - low expectations, cheesy moments, but suitable for renting).

* Not his real name.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Usual Suspects

It took a bit longer with PhotoShop that I thought it would, but here it is.

The Usual Suspects

The catalyst for the picture was Spring Rolls, a Thai restaurant where we had our class of '02 reunion this week. The wall outside the restaurant was painted white with horizontal red lines, much like a police lineup photo. At that time I got everyone to pose for the picture, with the Usual Suspects theme in mind. I did not know how well it would look in the final composure.


It's amazing how comfortable one can be with old friends. Some of us had not seen each other for more than three to four years, but we seemed to pick up where we left off. For a few minutes, it was not some programmers, database analysts, or security designers who sat down for dinner, it was a bunch of guys from UTSC taking a temporary break from an all-nighter in the S-Wing, the day before an assignment was due. We reminisced about our dorm rooms, the professors, the trips to the Dean's office, and the ever unforgettable 'Pink Room'.

There are times I miss my university days. If not for the forever lacking of ready cash or those pesky classes, university life was the best lifestyle.

Inside Spring Rolls

Taxation vs Poverty

M., the only one of us who left Canada for USA, told us about life, and a career, there. Apparently a single young person at a reputable company can save a lot of money. He should know, having bought a house recently, while the rest of us think twice before buying a new car.

The problem with Canada is our high rate of taxation. It is hard to make a lot of money with just a decent 9 to 5 job, whereas in USA it is not unheard of. They take a lot of our income (as much as 33% in our tax bracket) from the pay cheque, and we pay taxes on the top of that when we purchase other goods and services. The flip side is we have free health care, and a huge dosage of social programs. This was admitted to me by a social sciences professor cousin of mine from Nebraska - the class gap in Canada is not a big one. Even the child of an unemployed single mother can expect an education and health care, while OSAP and other grants cover university education. If you have the will, it's not hard to pull out of the social rut.

However in USA, many companies sponsor health care. Then you enjoy the same facilities as in Canada, except you keep a lot more of your money. Will the absence of social programs bother you? There will be a lot more poor and deprived in the society who have no hope of ever climbing the social ladder, as no help is possible for them. As a consequence, there will be more crime in society. Witness the murder rates in New York and Toronto, or the crime rate between any comparative cities in Canada and the US.

According to M., however, you can just live in a posh area and the 'problems' will not reach you.

It's a proposal I find more appetizing each day.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What People Talk About

I hate having a cold.

This very dependable body suddenly starts to dread the simplest activity, like getting up from bed. And all food tastes like paper. Here am I, Ramadan over, waiting to delve into the culinary delights that is Chinese food, and I can't tell the difference between Kung Pao Chicken and water.

Speaking of cold, which thankfully came after the Eid celebrations were over, I realized something. Visiting many people and friends over Eid, it struck me that the topics of conversations amongst elders are very different for Bengalis in Canada and back in Bangladesh.

Here the weather is a favourite topic of conversation. I was waiting in a checkout line at Walmart, and the cashier, who just got in, was rubbing her hands. She turned to me and grinned.

"Cold, eh?"

"Yup." I replied. "Quite nippy today."

"Sure." She was scanning my purchases. "But not as cold as last year though. Last November was worse."

"But definitely colder than the year before that." I recalled helpfully.

An old gent behind me cut in on our conversation. "This is nothing. In '75 it was so cold the cows had frozen milk in their udders."

It took me five minutes to get the image out of my mind.

For some reason whenever I talk about weather old gents keep bumping into the conversation with animal talk. During this summer through a heat wave I was waiting at a mechanic's place getting an oil change and talking about how hot it was. Another gent butted in, "Oh in '69 it was so hot chickens were laying boiled eggs."

Bangladeshis, on the other hand, talk about everything else other than the weather. This is how it will go if you run into an old friend of your father's on the bus.

"So son, how are you? How's your dad? Your mom? Your sister? She is doing her exams, right? How did she do? So did you get a job yet? Oh you did. So what do you do? How's your boss? What about your dad? Is he looking for a Canadian job? What courses is he interested in? So your uncle got a cataract operation, right? How is he doing? Which hospital is he in? So you got a cold. Is your nose running? ... "

And so on.

It is considered a sign of politeness and affection to ask about each and every personal detail of the other person. They say it brings people closer as they know of each other and their problems.

However, transport the same Bangladeshi people to Canada, and a couple of years later if they meet again they will talk about a) how hot/cold the weather is or b) how good/bad our sports teams are doing.

Why? It's not that we have suddenly become ruder by Bangladeshi standards.

In Canada people like their privacy, but other issues with immigrants could be - you don't ask about the other guy's job because he may be working odd jobs or is unemployed. You don't ask about his kids as they may not be doing so well at school. You cannot tell him about your promotion lest he thinks you are showing him up. And you cannot tell him about your health problems as you don't want that spread across the community.

We have adapted to this lifestyle. We don't like to talk about our personal life anymore. So we talk about the weather instead. Has it made us more impersonal, colder? I don't know.

I hate having a cold.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Fall At University of Toronto

The Photo Police

Some people, obviously given too much power with too little minds, start to act pompously and become full of air. Hot air. Once such person was the Photo Police.

There I was, enjoying my lunch break by engaging in a hobby - photography. The fall colours at UofT are brilliant, and I needed some wallpapers for my desktop.

"Excuse me, you are not allowed to take pictures."

I turned. It was a tiny little lady in the official UofT parking police uniform.

"You will need a license to take pictures here. I will have to ask you to stop."

I looked at her as if she was talking in Greek.

"No pictures. Shut off your camera."

Now I took a step towards her. When dealing with pompous figures of authority I have found it pays to be polite. Very polite. You cannot get angry or they can cause hassles.

But if you know your rights and you know you are in the right, you can be firm. Polite, but firm. And having dealt with web developers here I knew perfectly well I wasn't committing a federal crime. And it pays to use big words - a trick I learnt from The Three Investigators' Jupiter Jones.

"I am taking pictures of a public property from my personal camera for my personal usage. I am neither engaging in a monetarily beneficial action nor taking any matrimonial photographs. There are no actual physical manifestation of any person in these pictures except myself. I don't see how you can ask me to stop engaging in what is purely a tourist activity."

She looked at me as if I was from Mars.

Then she impatiently waved her hand and said, "Ok, but wrap it up quickly." Then she left.

They should really give these Photo Police something useful to do.

Front Lawn At ARC

Rez Center

Knox College

Knox College Residence Outer Wall

Colors of St. George

Lovely yellow at Sanford Fleming

University College


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Tea, Languages And Me

The local news channel recently showed the profile of a 9-year-old kid who spoke three languages - English, French, and German. I felt like shouting at the TV. That's news?

Canadians have an issue with bilingualism. The politicians have to be bilingual, to speak in both English and French. Almost all government positions require bilingualism, even if you are going to be a computer programmer and the only languages you need to know are Java, C and so on.

So I always manage to drop jaws when asked the number of languages I can speak.


Ok, let's do the recount.

Bengali. One. That's a no-brainer.

English. Two. I live in English Canada.

Hindi. Three. Ok, now the white Canadians in my office are already impressed. One replies he had a hard time learning two (English, his native, and French, forced at school). He speaks only one (English).

All except the guy from Bratislava. He said he also knows three languages. English. His mother tongue from Slovakia. And Serbian. But I am not done.

Urdu. Four. None of these guys needs to know how similar Urdu and Hindi are. If you watch Bollywood movies you know two languages. Hindi and Urdu.

Now, if I am feeling slightly adventurous, I will add ...

Punjabi. Five. Yup. The language spoken in Punjab, India. Never mind that many words of the Punjabi I know are very similar to Hindi or sound like Tusi, maar jawe gur khaken.

And now you are already into wow territory. And you can then add ...

Arabic. Six. We're Muslims. We need to know a little Arabic. No one needs to know how little. That's it. The ball has been hit out of the park. Six languages.

And then you add the clincher.

"Um.. most Bengalis I know are similarly qualified. English, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu most know, and then Arabic too." [and it's true]. The other guys are already shaking their heads.

Maybe I should call the news. They have been reporting on mediocricity for some time.

CBC: Centilingual Canadians

* * *

Remember the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who said any English word can be traced to Greek? Well, I recently asked a Greek gent who serves tea at our office what the Greek word for tea was. He said "Chai".

The guy from Bratislava then said, "That's what we call tea."

Greek guy [joking]: "You must have taken it from Greek then."

Me: "We must have taken it too, cause that's what we call tea - cha."

I did some research (google) and came up with the astounding fact that tea is known by only two words in almost all languages.

"Two pronunciations have made their way into languages around the world. One is 'te' which comes from the Min Nan dialect spoken around the port of Xiamen (Amoy). The other is 'cha', used by the Cantonese dialect spoken around the ports of Guangzhou (Canton) and Hong Kong, as well as in the Mandarin dialect of northern China. Yet another different pronunciation is 'zoo', used in the Wu dialect spoken around Shanghai.

Languages that have Te derivatives include Armenian, Danish, Dutch ('thee'), English ('tea'), Finnish, Estonian ('Tee'), Faroese, French, German ('Tee'), Hebrew, Hungarian ('tea'), Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian ('tè'), Latvian, Malay, Norwegian, Polish (herbata from Latin herba the), Singhalese, Spanish, Swedish ('te'), Tamil ('thè'), Yiddish, and scientific Latin.

Those that use Cha or "Chai" derivatives include Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian,Bangla, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hindi,Urdu Japanese ('cha'), Korean, Nepali ('chia'), Persian, Portuguese ('chá'), Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak Slovene, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai, Tibetan, Turkish (çay), Malayalam,and Vietnamese ('trà ' and 'chè' are both direct derivatives of the Chinese, the latter term is treated as indigenous)."

The other word, or sound, to enjoy such universal commonality is 'mother'. All languages have the 'mm' sound in their word for mother. A coworker replied it's because the first word sound a baby makes is 'mmmm' and the first caveman, who was probably a smart fellow, looked at the baby, heard the 'mmm' sound, looked at the mother, and said, "Oh he wants you."

From then on the 'mmm' sound is associated with mothers.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

'Twas The Night Before Eid ...

... or it might not be.

One of the great mysteries of Eid-ul-Fitr, atleast to the non-Muslims, is why can't you say which day it will be, until the last possible hour of the night?

So tomorrow, Thursday, or the day after, Friday, will be Eid, depending on the sighting of the new moon tonight. Our mosque is on record saying Eid will most likely be on Friday, based on the astronomical predictions provided by the mysterious Hilal (moon-sighting) committee. I am hoping it's a Friday, I have already taken the day off from work and planning for a long weekend of Eid partying.

The girls are going to have a henna party. This implies I have to get out of the house. I am going to do no such thing.

The male elders (the uncles) are planning a strategy the military would be proud of. At this moment a street map is spread on the floor, and the four heads of the neighbouring households are looking over it.

"Hmm.. we cannot go north on Markham Rd, there's a left turn and it takes 10 minutes to clear."

"What about coming from the North?"

"No good. That entrance will be blocked by the rush hour crowd on Friday."

[A pause as the uncles chuckle at the poor fools who are going to work on Friday while we take off for Eid]

"How about McLevin?"

"Yes, you are right Mobin bhai. McLevin it is."

The 'uncles' were determining the best way to get to the mosque, avoiding the traffic rush of the thousands of others who will also try to get to the mosque, get the best parking (closest to the mosque), all the while leaving as late as possible (for the mosque) and yet making it on time. Very precise planning, this.

We-of-the-youth are making our plans too.

"See if you sit in that corner of the mosque you can relax as you will have a wall behind you to lean on. And sitting there means sitting under the fan, while also close to the door. That way as soon as the service is over we can leave and-"

At this moment the uncles come in so we switch to some other topic with knowing smirks.

"Beta (son)," The eldest of the elders announces. "Here is the Eid Schedule."

The Eid Schedule is the Planned Itinery. At so-and-so time we are going to leave for the mosque. So many cars will meet at Rendezvous A, after which we will leave. And such-and-such time the service finishes. On the way back first we stop at Mr A's house. Mrs A is making parathas. Then we move over to Mr B's place. Mrs B is in charge of the sweets. Then we return to our place where we will have tehari. Following on to the next house for who-knows-what.

Then there are relatives. That means minor adjustments to Planned Itinery. People visit friends, relatives, and have a feast on Eid. And that's just the morning.

Come the Eid morning, however, all that planning is aptly forgotten and things are taken on the fly. After all, Eid is a time for fun, and fun means being spontaneous. So we will visit houses out of order. We will give the wrong Eidi amount as gifts to the wrong person. We will eat the wrong food at the wrong place. And no one minds.

The first time I had Eid candy (we called everything toffee back home), I looked at my father and clarified, "So wait a minute. I am allowed to eat as much candy as I like?"

He was also in a clarification mood. "Of course. It's Eid." Then he added, "As long as it's no more than six." He knew I wouldn't count, and neither would he.

I pity those poor Moz who do not want to celebrate Eid.

"What's the use," these Muslims would say, "it's not the same here."

So what? The beauty of holidays around the world is it's never the same everywhere. Each place has its own variety. Rather than compare, just relax and enjoy the moment.

Eid Mubarak everybody.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Gomery, Corruption, Immigrants And Conservatives

I cannot be a Canadian blogger with a passive interest in politics and not comment on the Gomery report.

A brief summary would be: the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien (called JC) started a public project. People in charge of the project diverted tax payers' money into their own pockets or those of their friends rather than the project. JC retired and Paul Martin took over as Prime Minister, and then the scandal broke. Today Judge Gomery, who was incharge of the investigation into the mess, released his report (it's a 1000 pages BTW).

I admit my first reaction when I heard the scandal was:

Um.. ok... moving on...

I cannot speak for all immigrants, but can bet you that a significant percentage of the immigrants from the so-called third world would have a similar reaction. Do we have a lower standard for our politicians than the rest of Canada?

After all, many of us come from places where corruption is the rule, not the exception (see Bangladesh). We are used to it. We expect it. And when it happens we compare it to situation back home and say, "it's not so bad".

This is why the governing Liberal Party can stay on in power despite broken promises, corruption and scandals. Our Opposition scares us. The man (oh please get rid of Stephen Harper) leading the Conservatives and his minions always make comments that are portrayed as racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-French, anti-minority, anti-women (you get the idea). They have no new alternative policies to offer to Canadians other than bitch and moan. Whenever they open their mouth they want to shove their religious values on the rest of Canada (we are very secular and very liberal, in case they didn't notice). They supported the Iraq war (which the rest of Canada opposed) and now have a collective amnesia as to that chapter. And we, the immigrants, have a fear that they would make Canada the 51st state.

Looks like we are stuck with the present bunch in Ottawa for some time.