Friday, June 27, 2008

Fantastic Friday

So many things to be super excited about right now.

For starters.... it's Friday! AND a Friday before a long weekend. AND an extra long in this case with the Tuesday off as well.

Last night, was cleaning out my closet and putting away clothes to give away to charities, when I realized that I can now fit into clothes I haven't been able to wear in 2 years! Super thrilled about this new turn of events and tres excited to get back into some cute tees and tops.

Got handed a very unexpected raise this morning!!!!!!!! New pay retroactive to April 1 which means that I can go ahead and buy my much wanted (and much needed) new dance shoes.

Plans for weekend in NYC seem to rolling along. Have secured tickets for the Yankee's game on Monday night AND (amazingly) for the Sunday afternoon subway series as well - Mets vs. Yankees. Excited to be meeting old school buddy as well. Haven't seen each other in 12 years - and I'm sure we'll have LOTS to talk about!

A tad bit worried about the weather forecast for NYC; Lots of scheduled rain which MAY result in one/both games getting postponed. Bother and Damnation. BUT, this is a happy post, so will set aside fears re weather right now and concentrate on Good Karma.

Dancing scheduled for this evening. Been a while since I saw my West Coast Swing buddies and looking forward to shaking my *thang* on the dance floor tonight! Pre dancing movie and cocktails also scheduled. With the temperatures rising up up up..... I'm so in the mood for a ice cold mojito!

AND, my new headset for my work phone was just delivered. Hurrah! No more uncomfortable achy neck from trying to hold the phone up between my neck and ear! Better still, no more dropping the receiver mid conversation with important client and then scrambling under the desk to try and retrieve it while still pretending to know what he/she is saying.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tales of this City

One of my mini resolutions for 2008 was to read, explore and learn more about Toronto - my new home city. This July will make it 7 years since I moved here and although I feel that I have done my fair share of exploring and discovering, there's so much more for me to see and do. I have always loved reading fictional stories set in real places. That way, when the characters are walking down a certain street, or looking at a particular landmark or speaking of a certain well known location I can draw on my own picture and memories of that spot and to me, it gives new dept and meaning to the story and almost makes the characters that much more real. Over the past 7 years I have tried to get to know about more Canadian authors and read more of their works. Before I moved here, my knowledge of Canadian literature/fiction was limited to the works of L M Montgomery. Although brilliant in their own right, her stories are hardly representative of Canadian society as a whole and I was thirsty for more.

I first came across the brilliant and award winning author, poet and activist Austin Clarke at back in 2005 at a conference at York University. Struck by his presentation, I wanted to know more about his work. Browsing through the library I found The Toronto Trilogy the books that first launched him into the North American literary spotlight. The books follow the stories of a group of West Indian immigrants as they struggle to come to terms with the city and their new lives away from the comfort (and the warmth) of the Caribbean world.

Eager to read more his works, I next picked up The Origin of Waves - a story about a chance meeting of old friends on a cold winter's day in downtown Toronto. Although I didn't enjoy it as much as the books of the trilogy, it was still a fairly good read.

Margaret Atwood is one of Canada's most well know author in recent times who has won countless awards - both local and international - for her novels, short stories and poetry. She is quite partial to setting her characters and story lines firmly in the streets and alleyways of downtown Toronto and in one book in particular - The Edible Woman - I was thrilled when she mentions a particular bus route that I often frequent myself! Cat's Eye is another of Atwood's books also set in Toronto.

More recently, one of my colleagues loaned me her copy of Richard B. Wright's award winning novel Clara Callan. Set primarily in a small town a couple hours of Toronto, with occasional jaunts over to the city, the book is about two sisters who made very different life and career choices, but who continued to be bound by ties of blood, family and a shared past. Told through a series of letters between characters, as well as diary entries by Clara the protagonist, this book would have been almost ordinary until you stop to think that the author is male, and yet he has managed to write from the perspective of a woman with a clarity and insight into the female mind that makes me wish he could transfer that power to many more of his species! Like with The Edible Woman, there is a particular scene in the book where one of characters is describing a hotel in the downtown area and commenting on its popensity for being a "by the hour" sort of establishment. As I read those lines, I realised that I actually knew of said hotel and commented how it is has only very recently gone through some much needed renovations and is now one of the hippest spots in Queen West, much sought after for art shows and such.

Saving the best for last, my all time favourite books set in Toronto are the Vinyl Cafe Series by Stuart McLean.

The books are a series of short stories featuring the zany adventures of fictional characters Dave and his wife Morley and their children Stephanie and Sam as they amble through life in Toronto. Taken from his widely popular Sunday morning variety radio show of the same name, McLean has woven this family so much into popular Canadian culture that many find it hard to believe that the characters are not real! The timbre of the tales move from the outright hilarious laugh out loud kind, to the quiet and sombre tales of lost love, growing older and experiencing hard life lessons. Through it all, McLean manages to maintain a real connection with his audience - be it through the spoken or the written word - and to date his tales continue to delight audiences across the county.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Just finished confirming details for my upcoming trip to NYC this weekend. Here's what I have planned:

Sunday, June 29:
- Arrive into EWR via Porter Airlines (cheepie cheepie seats, yey). ETA 10:30 am
- Proceed to Penn Station and rendezvous with friend - NJ Daddy and his 8 month old son, NJ baby.
- Head over to Shea Stadium to catch the 1:07 game - Mets vs. Yankees
- Back to NJ Family's place where hopefully NJ Mummy will be done with work and we can all spend a nice evening catching up.

Monday, June 30:
Head back into NYC.
The Exploration of Central Park will include; ride on carousel, row boat in lake (try not to fall in), tea (or pint) at the boathouse, check out Alice in Wonderland exhibit, listen as the Delacorte Music Clock chimes out the hour, at some point promenade along the Mall and tip my hat to that master storyteller Hans Christian Anderson, pause for thought at Strawberry Fields before going on to relive my childhood at the Victorian Gardens.

Make my way to Grand Central Station to meet old school friend and her husband and then the 3 of us will head up to the Bronx to "The House that Babe Built" to watch the Yankees play the Texas Rangers.

Tuesday, July 1:
Happy Canada Day! And the reason I'm on this mini break to begin with!
- Explore Greenwich Village and Soho stopping at the Guggenheim Museum Soho to check out Andy Warhol's version of The Last Supper. You know, just to compare it to old Leo's that I saw when I was in Rome!
- Indulge in a little bit of shopping perhaps? Used books? Vintage clothing stores? Sidewalk steals?
- Head back to Penn Station to catch the bus back to the T Dot. Make sure to purchase ear plugs in case the guy in the seat besides me is trying out for a place in the tuba section of the local band!

So, those are my tentative plans. Of course there's always the scores of museums and art galleries to go explore in case the weather is shite - and lately, its been all that. If you, gentle reader have any comments, suggestions or stories to share about NYC, please do - I'm all ears!

Friday, June 20, 2008


For me, summer is all about..............

Delicious cherries from the neighbour's tree


Fresh, tasty salads that are filled with all sorts of things-that-are-good-for-you,


Ice cold blended fruit drinks (with a splash of rum)


Angel food cakes (light and fluffy) topped with whipped cream (light) and garden berries.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


My Very Best Friend is getting married this September. It has been 22 years, but I remember the day we met like it was just yesterday. It was the first day of school in Grade One and my mum was ushering me into the classroom and asking me where I’d like to sit. As I looked around the classroom at all the little girls bawling their eyes out, I recall feeling rather alarmed. Not because I was afraid to be at school – I had been looking forward to this all summer – rather because I’d never seen so many girls crying all at once! I scanned the classroom and decided to sit besides the only other little girl who wasn’t crying. The rest as they say is history.

Very Best Friend met her soon-to-be husband when she was studying in Glasgow and now she needs to apply for a spousal visa to be able to get back into the country so that she marry The Man of her Dreams and live happily ever after. The church has been booked and the minister has been notified; the deposit on the reception room has been paid, the invites have been printed and the bride and groom have their wedding gear on a hanger ready to go. All that stands between Very Best Friend and her wedding is one of the immigration officers at the British High Commission in Bombay.

To prove that this is not a marriage of convenience and that they are not out to pull a fast one on Her Majesty’s Government, Very Best Friend and Man of Her Dreams have to provide various pieces of evidence that support the existence of their 2 year relationship. And since I met husband to be (her’s not mine) when I was there in December 2006, VBF asked me to write a letter of personal recommendation.

As I struggled with this particular request, I couldn’t but help laugh at the irony of someone like me – who is the farthest away from being able to sustain a healthy and viable relationship – as the one being asked to testify to love.

The first draft of the letter looked something like this:

Dear Mr. /Ms. Immigration Officer,
The first boy who ever paid an iota of interest in me was (as I later discovered) cozying up to me only to get closer to a good friend of mine who was the actual object of his affections. Although I wasn’t particularly bowled over by him and his attentions, when the truth came out I still felt the sting. My last boyfriend broke up with me OVER THE PHONE 3 days after I came back from a 4 month vacation. Talk about a kill joy. Over the 3 days since my return he repeatedly dodged my phone calls and emails. All 14 of them. Did I mention that we had been dating for 4 years? And oh yeah, I also later found out that one of the primary reasons he wasn’t taking my calls was because he was out dating someone else.
Suffice to say, I have not been lucky with love. Lying Cheating Self Centered Bast*rds seem to be my lot in life. I wouldn’t say that I am done with love (there’s the eternal optimist in me) but at this point in my life, I’m not about strongly advocating it either. In my opinion it is a whole lot of work for very little results – that too not guaranteed.
So you should particularly note when I now write to you to vouch for the validity of this couple. Being around them makes me want to believe in love again. Makes me want to give it another try. Can I say any more?

Now, please give my Very Best Friend her visa so that at least one of us can live Happily Ever After.
Sincerely etc.

After MANY MANY rewrites, this is what I came up with:

Dear Sir/Madam,
I have had the pleasure of knowing Ms. Very Best Friend for the past 22 years. We met in Grade school and developed our friendship over the 10 years in Elementary and High School and then later at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai.

The Very Best Friend family happened to live just down the road and it was a common practice for VBF and myself to be popping into each others houses. Even after her family moved away from the neighbourhood our two families remained close, meeting often for birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and other occasions. For as long as I can remember, VBF has been an integral part of all my family celebrations and is well acquainted with my extended family as well. Although my family immigrated to Canada in July of 2001, we have maintained close relations in spite of the geographical separation.

I was very pleased to hear of her acquaintance with Man of Her Dreams (MoHD) back in late 2005 when they met while working at the XXX in Glasgow. I gathered from her emails and our conversations that he had soon become an important part of her life. They began dating in May and I had the pleasure of meeting him in person in December 2006 when I visited VBF for a week. During that stay, I got well acquainted with MoHD as he took time to show me around Glasgow. We met several times over the duration of my holiday and I found him to be a kind and generous individual and it was evident that together they made a good team.

VBF returned to Mumbai in January of 2007 and in April that year, MoHD made a visit to India to meet her family. It was on that trip that they became formally engaged – an event that was witnessed and celebrated by her family and close friends.

VBF asked me to be maid of honour at the wedding and I accepted with great pleasure. The wedding was supposed to be this April, but sadly her paternal grandmother passed away last November and both MoHD and she thought that it was only fitting to push back the wedding so that the family could pay proper respects to the deceased.

Like any couple in love, they are not enjoying their current separation, but planning out the details for their September wedding makes the time fly by, and thankfully they have all the conveniences of modern communication to make the separation bearable! MoHD even made a quick visit to Mumbai this January as a surprise for VBF’s birthday and they spent a happy two weeks together before he had to return back to his PhD studies at the University of Paisley. Still, I know that they are looking forward to the time when they can be together again, and this time for the rest of their lives.

I am extremely happy for my friend right now as I see that she had found someone who loves respects and truly cares for her and who I am certain will make a great compliment as a life partner. I am very much looking forward to being at the wedding this September and see them take the step into married life as their love and commitment to each other continues to grow and develop.

Jaded, but Happy Maid of Honour.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Poetry

I did find a picture of a Toronto sunset that Shutterbug sent me some months ago. Penguin Pal, this one's for you!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Breakfast with the Banker

It was a privilege and honour to be part of an inspirational and illuminating session this morning that featured as the key note speaker, Dr. Muhammad Yunus – Economist, creator Mico-crdit Loans and winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace. 

At first glance, Dr. Muhammad Yunus does not look like a Noble Prize winning economist. He doesn’t look like an economist at all – rather like someone’s Uncle or Gandpa who wandered into the conference in error. He is a small man, almost diminutive in comparison with the typical North American male. Dressed in traditional Bangladeshi clothes that seem rather out of place in the setting for the Top Employers Summit, I watched as Dr. Yunus chatted with some of the top brass executives just before his key note address. When Dr. Yunus came up to the podium and started to speak, his voice and mannerisms matched his looks. After the booming tones of Mayor David Miller who gave the introductory speech, Dr. Yunus’ voice was almost soft in comparison. He was quick to point exactly what I had been thinking; that he’s no typical banker.

“When people hear about my work, and learn about the title of my book “Banker to the Poor”, they then to have this expectation of the tie wearing, briefcase wielding Corporate banker. The reality is I am no Banker. In fact, I don’t even know too much about the banking industry! Perhaps, that is what made my venture successful in the first place.”

In the tradition of the Bangladeshi people, Dr. Yunus proceeded to tell us about his work in the age old form of storytelling in a manner that captivated his audience as he lead us down the path of discovery over how a simple idea changed millions of lives.

In 1972 when the country of Bangladesh was formed, Dr. Yonus was a professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University. Wanting to help rebuild his country that had suffered so much during the war for independence, he moved back to his home town of Chittagong and was appointed into the economics department. Two years later, the country was hit with a devastating famine and hundreds of thousands were dying every day. Dr. Yunus recalls that “elegant theories of economics are but empty words when outside the classroom death, poverty and misery rein.” He wanted to do something more than theorize about change, and thought, “why not go outside the classroom and help? Not as an economist – but as a human being, reaching out to another human being.”

It was a visit to a village near his native town that proved to be the spark that fueled his now world famous concept of microcredit. The over 6.9 billion that the Grameen bank (that Dr. Yunus founded) has given out since its inception all started when Dr. Yunus handed out what basically amounted to $27 to a few women in the village who were weighed down with the burden of their loans.

Dr. Yunus says, “When I first wanted to start this process, I spent a lot of time talking to bankers. Each time, they listed to my idea and then showed me to the door. I was confident that my idea was viable, so the next time I went back I began to speak to them in their own language – banker talk – offering myself as a guarantor for the loans. This time, they listened and agreed to my plan even though they warned me that I was a fool and like the proverb would probably soon be parted from his money.

People often ask me how I came up with the principles and objectives by which the Grameen bank is run. As I mentioned before, I am no banker. So what I did was look at the lending patterns of traditional banks - and then do exactly the opposite! For example, traditional banks assess you on how much you have before they decide how much to give. With us, the less you have, the more you qualified for a loan. The poorest people who had nothing at all were considered the best candidates! So also, traditional banks typically lend to men; with Grameen bank about 97% of the loans are taken out by women.”

Dr. Yunus firmly believes that poverty exists not in the person, but in the circumstance. He gives the example of Bonsai trees. They are grown and cultivated from the very same seed as a regular tree. But because they are constantly manipulated by external sources, and given a very specific growth space, they never achieve the full height or potential as a normal tree. “There is nothing wrong with the seeds,” he says. “There’s just not enough space for them to grow.”

Not content to sit by and rest on the laurels of the success of the Grameen bank, Dr. Yonus was always thinking about the next battle in the war on poverty. He was the mastermind behind a radical plan to turn the beggars of Bangladesh into a new breed of sales force. And slowly, but surely, his plan worked. From about the 9,000 beggars who had first signed up for this plan, many have since stopped begging altogether. When one of the Grameen bank’s administrators said that it was a shame that not all the beggars had gotten self reliant, Dr. Yunus asked to give them time. “After all,” he quipped to the audience, “they are in the process of a major restructuring of their business!”

Although Dr. Yunus has created a business model in which social good, not profit, is the objective, in 2003 alone Grameen Bank made more than $11 million, proving that the two goals are hardly mutually exclusive. “Business and Charity need not be at odds,” Yunus states. “In fact, marry the two and you’ll have a match made in heaven”. Yunus then went on to briefly mentioned other "social business entrepreneurship" ideas, such as the creation of a "social stock market" in which the primary goal of the shareholder is not to obtain greater dividends but rather to support organizations that are helping reduce poverty, clean up the environment, improve health, and accomplish other worthy goals. Yunus explains that most people are already in tune with social responsibility – a fact cemented by the abundance of funds raise through charitable donations each year. “People already are willing to give away money, so why wouldn’t they continue to give in the same amount if we ask that they “invest” it instead?” Dr. Yunus explains that this is what lies at the core of Social Banking. He goes on to state that in fact money invested – not donated – under the norms of Social Banking give back ten fold than that of a regular donation. The same amount of money can be recycled on multiple occasions as a new loan each time.

Dr. Yunus concluded his remarks with these sentiments. “The pundits propose that the concept of Micro-credit is great, but that it will work only in poor countries. I disagree. People everywhere are the same. They all need help, and they would like to live in dignity. We have seen that this system works, and more like it will also work if taken up and championed by leaders in the community such as yourselves. The only place where poverty belongs – is in a museum.” 

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Thought for the Month

The Beer Baron gave me a Happy Bunny calender for Christmas that I put up at my desk at work. On days when I am particularly frustrated by the apparently complete lack of intelligence in the rest of humanity, I look over to my calender and from it I draw strenght and comfort. Past "thoughts" for the month have been:
Nobody's Perfect. I'm as close as it gets.
I'm happy. Don't wreck it by talking.
You go girl. And don't come back.
On days when I am particularly frustrated by the apparently complete lack of intelligence in the rest of humanity, I look over to my calender and from it I draw strenght and comfort. Because really........

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