Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blog Day

Today is Blog Day.

31/08 = 3 1 o 8 = Blog

Here's five of the many blogs that I frequently read, presented in no order whatsoever:

It's My Life, maintained by Aisha. She talks about various events in her life as well as raising interesting discussions on diverse issues.

Isheeta's dating/life experiences. She is a good writer and a Muslim chick to boot.

Abu Sinan on Muslim/Arab issues and his two kids.

Koonj, written by Shabana. An excellent read. I like the way she titles her posts.

Lightness of Being, a blog containing short stories and thoughts by Maliha.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

List of GTA Bengali Bloggers

On her blog the other day, Nowal asked me if I knew of any other Bengali bloggers in and around the Greater Toronto Area (the Center Of The Universe). I thought it would be a nice time to introduce some of the blog talent that I know of. Here, in no particular order, are a few Bengali-Canadian blogs. A few I know personally, others through their blogs.

First up, we have Akankhito. She is from the Toronto area and is a talented musician, trained in the sitar and the like. Has a great voice too.

Next we have Nowal of Baby Brown Tales. She is from K-town, as she calls Kingston (I would make the honourary Toronto diss about Kingston but the blogger is a nice lady so I won't).

Up next is the Bengali Fob. She keeps her identity secret, but did promise to laugh secretly if she ever ran into other bloggers at a party. It's always good to make girls laugh. Unless they are laughing at you, ofcourse.

Next up is Tasnuva of A Sunshine Two Brief. She was formerly of Hamilton formerly of Toronto and presently headed towards Vancouver. She is most famous for her Samosa for the Arranged Souls posts (for links visit her site).

Following on, we have S, who suffered from a toothache recently. My condolences. We also have the self-described 'antisocial hermit' at Insert Clever Title Here.

Turning to guys, we do have Arnab at A wave of Alternative Mandate. He was a fellow Libblogger who unfortunately hasn't updated his web page since June 10. Perhaps an Argentina supporter, still in shock?

If you are a GTA (or even Canadian) blogger of Bengali origin, and you do maintain a blog, comment below and I will update the post. As a reminder, Blog Day is coming up shortly. Here's my Blog Day post from last year, and I plan to do a similar one this year.


Monday, August 28, 2006

August Be Gone

August is always a depressing month for me.

I hate the fact that the summer is over. I hate the fact that everyone is going back to school, and even though they hate admitting it, they are looking forward to a change, a new beginning. I hate the fact I did not do much fishing this summer.

I ran into some desi guy on the tennis grounds a couple of weeks back. After Saturday's game a bunch of us went over to his place for some BBQ chicken and drinks (the non-alcoholic type). He was older, 33, and lived by himself. As I looked over at his various degrees framed on the wall of his study (he actually had a 'study room'), one thing struck me as I glanced over the MBA, the BBA, the BSc and the Project Management Certifications.

He was 33.

And single.

And the highlight of his day was tennis with a bunch of younger guys.

Yes, he was educated. Yes, he was making the big money, driving a BMW. But I did not want to be that guy. I could be him, that was depressing. But I would not want to be.

Rarely have I paused and taken stock of where I was heading. This was a sharp wakeup call. I have become used to coasting through the days.

The other thing that struck me over the weekend was one word. Family.

I know for me, family is paramount. These are people I take for granted, drop all pretense and they accept me for what I am. Even with close friends, if there are fights, disagreements or clashes, they can drift apart. Family is family. For me, family comes first.

How important is family in marriage? I have a few friends who married into families that were drastically different from their own. Some marriages have succeeded. Others have failed, or on the verge of failing. One thing I have noticed - if the families are too different (for example a conservative/modern clash, or rich/poor clash, or cultured/fobby) then the marriage has a (far) better chance of succeeding as long as the couple live by themselves.

That was the case with a friend of mine whose husband came from a far richer family. She had to live with the 'friendly' taunts, until she decided enough was enough and coaxed her husband to accept a job in a far away city. Their marriage is now far stronger and happy.

Growing up in a culture that has touted the values of arranged marriage with joint families, where family members strengthen each other through difficult times, this was indeed a troubling find.

Yet, there is no denying the fact that marriages are more often likely to succeed if the families are of similar stature, education or 'mindset' - the magic word. Does that mean that we throw out all those filmi stuff - such as love, honour and respect, along with all the religious stuff about moral values and religion being supreme, out of the window? Do people 'fall in love' anymore, or is it just a business? Tick some questions, answer some forms, and 'adjust'?

Looking forward to some answers. Cynicism, here I come.

Meanwhile, September, please be good.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Stop (Just) Reading The Quran

Another Ramadan is almost upon us (a month away). I have decided I am not going to strictly gun for a Quran Khatam any more.

Every Ramadan, I (and countless others in the world) will finish the Quran from Al Fatiha to An-Nas. If you were religious like my grandpa, finish it thrice. Maybe even more.

So last Ramadan, I was reading the Quran. I had been lazy during the first few days, so was catching up. All of a sudden, I just felt so frustrated. The words, the beautiful words, were not making any sense.

You see, I don't speak Arabic. People ask me why after having lived in the Middle East for 18 years I cannot speak Arabic. I tell them I can speak just enough to call a taxi but the thing is, you didn't need Arabic as a school kid. My Arabic classes were a joke (it's actually good blog fodder [word courtesy:Isheeta] but for another day). Most of the Arabic words I knew were swear words (courtesy my Arab 'friends' - the 'polite' words were to the tune of qalb, himmar ...).

So I am reading the Quran - I am just regurgitating the words. They make no sense to me. The Quran is a beautiful book - just listen to a good recitation and you will fall in love with the enchanting verses even if you don't know the meaning - but I have decided it has to make sense to me.

I told this to an uncle and he was like 'why? The Prophet said reading the Quran is reward itself'. I told him the Prophet was dealing with Arabs at first. Even then, when they didn't follow something, they would go to someone who did, right? Besides, the first page of the Quran tells you man is Khalifa or God's deputy on earth. How can we deputize for Someone if we don't understand what He told us? So last Ramadan, I decided come the next time, I am going to read the Quran with translation. It will go slow, so I might not finish the Book.

You would think this would be the sensible thing to do. I mean, it's not like I decided I am going to pray in Bengali from today.

But no - every friggin person is like -no way, you gotta finish the Book. It's not even an act of worship anymore - it's a ritual. For some people it has even become a badge of honour. 'I have finished it two times' 'oh really, my son just did his third khatam this week' and so on.

Well, here is another Ramadan. Once it starts, I decided the focus will not be so much as to finish the Book but to understand it. Atleast the first one-third. I have already discovered a word-for-word translation of Quran at After all, can't let the Saudis have the all the fun of being the 'interpreters' of the Book, eh? They sure made a mess of it so far.

A sign I once saw at a mosque made perfect sense. It read:

... like a parrot.
Read it with meaning at [name of institution here]

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The F Word

I was on the bus, on my way back from work. As I stood clutching the handrail, keeping my eyes sharp for any seated passenger making a motion to get up (and thus provide me a seat), one guy standing next to me took out his cellphone, punched a number in and started to talk.

Well, jovial yell would be more like it. What is it with people on buses on their cellphones? Do they think the guy on the other end has developed a sudden temporary hard-of-hearing disease?

However, rather than his volume, it was his conversation that was most interesting.

"Dude, it was f***ing awesome. We went to the f***ing place at f***ing 7 and it was f***ing packed!. The f***ing parking was near f***ing full. We had to f***ing on the f***ing roof. Ya man! But I tell you - the f***ing concert? F***ing awesome!"

I gather he was talking about some concert he had attended recently. But what's with the f-word?

Listening to this guy go on, using the f-word in between every other word, I got giddy. This guy took swearing to an art form.

The f-word as a verb 'I don't give a f*** to what she thought!', adverb 'that is so unf***ing believable!' to an interjection (I had to look that up) 'F***! That was my stop!'

He got my award for using the f-word in as many versatile ways in one conversation as possible. I just have one question for these types of guys though.

Why do you f***ing do it? Do you think it makes you more macho? Do you think it makes you more attractive to women [if your taste is drunk gothic biker chicks I can understand]? Or, do you think it makes you more 'Canadian'?

'Coz when South Asian guys do it [that's right, the guy was brown] it just looks wrong.


Monday, August 21, 2006

It Is A Matter Of Honour

It is a matter of honour.

Rarely does the materialistic world of the today understand what honour and pride means to those who originally hail from the east. Our intent to 'save face' at all costs has governed our behaviour and psyche for the last few millennia and it will not change. We have at times behaved irrationally, but yesterday's protest by the Pakistan cricket team and captain Inzamam was on the money. Had I been in Inzamam's shoes, I would have done the same.

To those who missed the action, here is what happened.

Around the 56th over of England's innings, umpire Darrell Hair of Australia accused the Pakistan team of tampering the ball [1435 BST]. Without any warning, he ordered the ball changed, and awarded 5 penalty runs to England. This was tantamount to accusing Pakistan of cheating, without giving them an option to appeal or present their case. Inzamam was furious, but the game continued - for a while.

During tea-break, commentators Nasser Hussain [source: Guardian] exclaimed that had he been in Inzamam's shoes, he would refuse to come out to resume the game in protest. And lo and behold, that's what transpired to occur.

Pakistan refused to take the field and chaos ensued. Botham and Hussain backed the visiting team's sit-in. Rameez Raja was furious at the umpire, and rightly so. None of the 26 cameras that Sky TV had trained on the ground showed any evidence to support the umpire. You cannot scratch an itch on the cricket ground without it being captured on some camera, so it is highly suspicious someone could lift the seam off the ball or scruff it up without being caught.

As the game descended into anarchy, what happened next is a matter of conjecture, but it appears that Hair subsequently behaved rudely in the Pakistan dressing room, and acted prematurely to conclude the match was forfeited. Even when the Pakistan team mollified their original stance and were ready to resume play, the umpires didn't take to the field. This was not the first time Hair had been involved with Asian teams [bbc], being accused of bias [cricinfo].

Now everyone from former cricketers [rashid, imran] to the media to the President of Pakistan has become involved.

Then we have people like Agnew suggesting other ways to protest [bbc]. He says 'to issue a strong denial at tea time, in which they also promised to appeal, and get on with the game'. I say bollocks.

At the end of the day, the official conducting the game accuses you of cheating. Do you still continue to play? No, you don't if you are a man. It is a matter of honour.

"This game is about more than winning and losing. It's about respect and countries come first. If someone says to me you are a cheat and Pakistan is doing wrong things, my first priority is to my country." [Inzamam]

What is Pakistan was guilty? If it turns out in the end a player was guilty and the captain, honestly believing his player's words, risked his career and the match for a liar and a cheat, I pity the poor fool. He will not be able to live in Pakistan.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Car That Wasn't

Went to play soccer and managed to twist my knee awkwardly. Now cannot go to the gym or play soccer for two weeks. Sucks - just like some character in a recent movie I saw.

The guy at work who's responsible for all our million dollar equipment and hardware (I am more of the software guy) went to Jamaica on vacation. Before he left, he went over all the various server, network and database configurations with me.

"Has any of this ever failed?" I asked him tentatively, as I took in all this megachunk of information.

"Well, ma'an!" He shrugged dismissively, "we've been running these for years and nothing's failed."

You know what's coming, don't you?

I had a list of scenarios with me. If this fails, do this. If that fails do that. Then he had outlined what he called the "Worst Case Scenario". This, he claimed, would NEVER occur.

Well, the first day some glitch occured and I had to reboot one server. This produced a groan from the tech guys. Apparently the server had been running continuously for 5 years 3 months and 21 days. Apparently, that is important.

The second day I got to work the "Worst Case Scenario" nearly occured. I would badger that Tueday was my most religious day at work, ever. I don't think anyone has ever programmed a configuration file in hex to the sound of 'Bismillah' before. Thankfully it worked. One more day.

To take my mind off the computer glitches I went to Kensington Market. There, right in the back of the market, was this.

It seemed to grow weeds - and I don't mean the one you pull out of your lawn. Given that this was Kensington Market I wouldn't be surprised.

I asked one of the guys nearby and he said they take old cars and turn then into nurseries, after emptying it of parts that can be sold to the junkyard.

I think I know what I can do with some old servers from work ...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Why KANK Is Scary For Marriage

I continue my KANK hangover. This post may contain spoilers, the previous post didn't.

"KANK has messed up a lot of people man."

"When I get married, I am going to implant a GPS locator in my wife's body ..."

"This movie is so retarded. Why would anyone not like Aby baby?" [this from a girl, ofcourse]

Even after a couple of days from watching the movie, people are still discussing the topic of infidelity brought up by the movie. This movie is so scary in many ways.

I can empathise with Abhishek. For example that I could imagine myself to be a sweet romantic who will not hesitate to decorate a room with flowers to just surprise his wife. OK, maybe not that much flowers but I did watch a lot of Hindi movies. Atleast I am willing to try.

And then along comes a Shah Rukh Khan. Bitter, angry at the world and rude to his acquaintances. And suddenly, that is more than enough than diamonds and flowers. And love. Something about bad boys.

Then again, I can also see myself through Shah Rukh's eyes. As the typical desi dude, you grow up with 'family first' as your mantra. You make compromises in your dreams and ambitions for the sake of your family. You give up dreams of shacking it up with a gorgeous ex-supermodel to live life blissfully in an arranged marriage to a 'good' girl chosen by - who else - your family. And then, after a life full of adjustments, you meet a Rani. She is incapable of bearing a child, has numerous flaws, and yet, she captivates you. Do you break?

What about Preity? Girls are taught nowadays to be independent, to graduate from universities and hold a job, for then their husbands cannot abuse them as they are not financially dependent on them. Then, once they get married, should they tone down their ambitions? Desi guys, for all their open mindedness, still like their wives to greet them with a cup of tea when they come home [by the way I take two spoons of sugar, thank you].

Preity's character could easily belong to a guy who works hard to improve his life and give his wife the riches that she longs for - but when he can buy the luxuries his wife has grown distant as he wasn't there for her when she wanted just him.

I could dismiss the movie if I did not see examples of the characters in real life. Most marriages I see are happy, long term marriages. Yet, some marriages I know are facades. The couple seem happy, but it's a compromise. They have shut down their dreams, accepted the cards fate dealt them and kept all their emotions and broken ambitions bottled inside. The question is, for how long? There are marriages that have broken apart or where the couple are just living out their empty existence.

One line from KANK was telling. When Rani asks SRK about finding love after marriage - SRK replies "if you don't look for it, you won't find it." Is this true? Or is what Amitabh tells you that is true - "You never know when love or death will come for you."

What about the movie in light of Islamic practices?

For example, a religiously oriented dude I know (who still saw the movie) told me it cannot happen if you follow religion properly. For example, SRK and Rani would never have gotten close had they not met up regularly. You just don't meet up with another man's wife on a regular basis without her husband being present. Moreover, as a wife (Preity) you are supposed to take care of your family and put family first. As a husband (SRK) you are supposed to not be jealous of your wife's success, to spend time with your family and behave in a polite manner to your kids. As a wife (Rani) you are not to refuse your husband in bed.

The problem is - no one follows these laws religiously. Life is a compromise. You have to deal with other women. You have to meet with other men. You have to be able to know how to deal with them. You do get cranky, you may need to sacrifice time with family for more money as you have other financial obligations. You will get jealous if your wife earns more than you.

Moreover, all comparisons fall apart with Abhishek. He followed all the rules. He loved his wife, was willing to spend money and time on her and did not dwell on her flaws. And yet, he was the loser. So can one blame Rani for all the subsequent actions of everyone?

I guess in the end, life will always be full of temptations. You are not to curb them but control them. The question is - you need to find the other half that is willing to do the same. Otherwise, Sometimes Alvida Kehna.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

No spoilers (beyond what you should already know).

I saw Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (KANK) over the weekend. A quick verdict would be - good (4 out of 5). You should go see it - but not with your family - which is not typical for a Karan Johar movie. I don't even know if it's a date movie. Incredulous though it sounds, this could be a good guy movie minus the action. The film raises certain bold and controversial issues. Definitely avoid the movie as a peace offering to your wife if you two had a fight.

Yes, it's a Bollywood movie. There will be nonsense things (such as the NEW YORK station being empty of people except for our actors).

The lineups were huge. One of us went to buy our tickets at 10 in the morning for the 6.30 show. When we arrived for the show (at 5.30 @ Albion) most of the theatre was full. The whole day was sold out.

The last film that I saw which broke away from tradition was Salaam Namaste, which dealt with premarital sex and children out of wedlock. KANK looks at an adulterous extra-marital affair. It is also scary. Most girls would (I guess) love the attention and gifts showered by this dude:

Yet, just not his wife. And Rani made it feel so natural too.

This is not Shah Rukh Khan's best work. He hams a lot.

Priety Zinta and Abhishek Bachchan acted very, very well.

It has become fashionable amongst certain circles to scoff at any Bollywood movie, especially big ones. While that may work for a piece of trash such as Veer Zara, it does not hold water for KANK. It's a difficult, scary, funny and examining movie.

If you are into amateur photography, the cinematography will blow you away. The song "Tumhi Dekhona" was outstanding.

SRK and Rani in a sleek orange sari complementing the colours of the fall behind them.

On the whole, don't go with your family. Go with your friends. Don't wait for the DVD. Buy your tickets early.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

The "I Am Canadian" Lady

Yesterday at a tech conference I 'met' this lady. It was break time (in between speakers) and I grabbed a light snack from the cafeteria and sat down at a table. The place soon grew busy, and before long, someone approached my table, pointed to the empty chair opposite mine and asked, "Is this taken?"

I said "No" and looked up. She was a South Asian lady, quite older, clutching a few tech magazines in one hand and a muffin in the other. She mouthed 'thanks' and sat down. I went back to my sandwich.

"Are you Indian?" The relative silence of the table was suddenly broken.

"Bangladeshi", I replied.

"Oh I thought so," She gushed in Bengali. "I am from Bangladesh too! Hi!"

"Um, Hi." I politely replied to her in between mouthfuls. Atleast she wasn't going to start breastfeeding a toddler any time soon. Suddenly, she asked me what I thought about the last speaker.

"He was good," I answered, "though honestly I found his accent a bit too hard to follow."

"That's the problem with this country." She announced suddenly. "Too much diversity."

"I beg your pardon?" [yes I really said those words]

She continued, "This country's major problem is multiculturalism. You see, we have too much people here from too many places in the world. There's no Canada anymore, it's time we recognize multiculturalism is a dirty word. What is Canadian culture is now being demoted. What is a Canadian dress? What is Canadian cruisine?"

Oh boy. A brown female skinhead.

"When I came to this country in 1980," she continued, "you could count the number of immigrants on one hand. Now you can smell curry from across the street! The immigrants are taking over."

I told her, politely, that I disagree and wanted to finish my meal. She wasn't deterred.

"You see, if a black person wants to open a Black Cultural Association in a college he is welcome to do so. If a white person wants to open a White Students Association he will be termed a racist. The college won't allow him to do so."

I told her it depended on the person's intentions - besides there is a thing in North America called 'black culture' but there is no unified 'white culture' - white people came from many cultures - but she was not to be denied.

"I even wrote an essay on this." She told me. Oh great - I began to feel really pissed off - all I wanted was to eat my over-priced-tuna-coz-all-else-was-bacon sandwich in peace. And then I allow someone to sit at my table. Someone who is probably here in Canada due to multiculturalism denouncing that fact. And now she was giving me the url of where I could find her 'essay'.

"We should all promote Canadian culture. We shouldn't celebrate different clothes that people wear as if it's a good thing. If the school wants to stop me from wearing a turban or a hijab what's the harm. I am in Canada. Let's be Canadian."

I have heard enough.

"Maybe," I quietly replied, "being Canadian means being multicultural. When we celebrate multiculturalism, we celebrate being Canadian. When we are tolerant of other cultures, it's because tolerance is a Canadian value. And when we allow the person the freedom to wear a turban or a hijab, and the freedom not to, it's because that freedom is part of being a Canadian."

I finished my sandwich in silence.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Minebuster @ Wonderland

Along with some cousins and friends, went up the Minebuster ride on Canada's Wonderland with a handheld camera. After waiting what seemed like eons, we sat in the front seat.

Ride Operator [a 18-something girl]: You are not allowed to operate a camera like that on the ride.

Cousin [ever the flirt]: Why don't you take her video? She has a beautiful smile.

I turned the video camera to her. She did'nt notice that I was NOT recording yet. She gave the most dazzling smile and said "Ok but if you lose it, it's your fault."

Since it was my cousin's camera I just nodded ok. We went up.

The camera stored the movie into two parts. I wanted to upload part 2, which contained reactions of the various people on the ride as I turned the camera back to them, but I don't think the females in our group would be too pleased to see their 'ooooh', 'aaaah' and 'holy f*** that was awesome' broadcast all over the net. So if anyone can recommend an easy movie editor for 'asf' movies email me so I can edit out some parts and the ride can be seen to its conclusion.

Oh, the clouds decided to block the sun just as we went up. Aaagh!


Friday, August 04, 2006

Lameass Conversations of The Week

At a social:

Aunty: So, when are you getting married?

Me [with perfect straight face]: "October 7th. It should say on the card... oh!" Then pretended as if I suddenly remembered why we had not sent her a card, and slowly backed away. The mortified aunty took ten minutes to clarify from mother that I was a pathological liar.

Chatting with a friend's wife:

Me: So are you guys going for the new SRK movie, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna?

Her: Yes, but I am so conflicted, it has Rani Mukherjee in it. I hate Rani.

Me: Why?

Her: Well, she kept SRK away from Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

Me: You are so gay.

At the park:

I go to the tennis courts near my house. A sole Pakistani dude, slightly older looking, was practicing his serves there and soon we are engaged in a friendly match. After sometime, I decide to take a break.

I am sitting on a bench, catching my breath. A white woman comes near the bench with a stroller. The baby is one of the most beautiful, most cute, babies I have seen. I tell her so.

"Thanks," she replies, sitting down on the bench, taking out the baby and placing it on her lap. My opponent comes to fetch me for the next game.

While I am talking to her, she starts to breastfeed her little toddler - just as I am in the middle of a sentence, and the other player is just about to tell me to get back to the court. He ofcourse, without solicitation from my part, begins to tell me (in Urdu) why women who breastfeed in public should go to hell.

'dekh kitna besharmi se yeh ...blah blah blah' [all the while looking, ofcourse]

After debating whether I should tell him to clam up, or quote the law that says what she is doing is legal, or just point out that we are in Canada and it's no business of ours, I just get up and tell the lady, 'Nice to have met you, better get back to my game now'.

Without missing a beat the woman replies, in chaste Urdu: 'Aapse milker khushi huiyee. Allah Hafez'. (nice to have met you, God bless).

Regardless to say, the depth to which my tennis friend's jaw fell was a sight to behold.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Of "Islamic" Bikinis And World Peace ...

She is Miss Australia.

She is of Lebanese-Indian descent.

She is a contestant for Miss World in September.

She is Muslim.

As usual, certain people decided to protest that a Muslim should not participate in these 'degrading competitions' [link now broken], while others have held her as an example for all Muslim women to emulate (really!).

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote " ... 20-year-old Miss Houssami's achievement of becoming Australia's first contestant of Islamic and mixed cultural background - her mother is Indian and her father Lebanese."

Miss Houssami also hopes to dispel myths about Islam by competing. "Religion is something that is interpreted by the individual and I try to focus on the moral values of religion," she said. "I will wear a bikini but not a string bikini, so as long as it is not skimpy."

OK, now I have heard everything. Wearing bikini is OK but string bikini not OK because you are Muslim. Second by participating in the competition she single-handedly will dispel myths about Islam. I have heard of Miss World bringing world peace but this is quite something else.

Sabrina Houssami is free to parade in front of millions in a skimpy bra for all I care. Just leave the whole religion thing out of it.

PS. BTW here is Miss Canada.