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Are you a globaliser?

13 Feb

My friend Jai recently forwarded me an email containing an article that I feel I have to share.
It’s a long-ish story, but it’s worth the read.
According to the publishing date, it’s an oldie. To me, it’s a newbie. And it’s definitely a goodie.


My family and other globalisers

Apr 2, 2005
Published in the Times of India

Are you a globaliser?In 1992, I wrote a book titled Towards Globalisation. I did not realise at the time that this was going to be the history of my family.

Last week, we celebrated the wedding of my daughter, Pallavi. A brilliant student, she had won scholarships to Oxford University and the London School of Economics. In London, she met Julio, a young man from Spain. The two decided to take up jobs in Beijing, China. Last week, they came over from Beijing to Delhi to get married. The wedding guests included 70 friends from North America, Europe and China.

That may sound totally global, but arguably my elder son Shekhar has gone further. He too won a scholarship to Oxford University, and then taught for a year at a school in Colombo. Next he went to Toronto, Canada, for higher studies. There he met a German girl, Franziska.

They both got jobs with the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, USA. This meant that they constantly travelled on IMF business to disparate countries. Shekhar advised and went on missions to Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Kyrgyzstan and Laos. Franziska went to Rwanda, Tajikistan, and Russia. They interrupted these perambulations to get married in late 2003.

My younger son, Rustam, is only 15. Presumably he will study in Australia, marry a Nigerian girl, and settle in Peru.

Readers might think that my family was born and bred in a jet plane. The truth is more prosaic. Our ancestral home is Kargudi, a humble, obscure village in Tanjore district, Tamil Nadu. My earliest memories of it are as a house with no toilets, running water, or pukka road.

When we visited, we disembarked from the train at Tanjore, and then travelled 45 minutes by bullock cart to reach the ancestral home. My father was one of six children, all of whom produced many children (I myself had three siblings). So, two generations later, the size of the Kargudi extended family (including spouses) is over 200. Of these, only three still live in the village. The rest have moved across India and across the whole world, from China to Arabia to Europe to America.

This one Kargudi house has already produced 50 American citizens. So, dismiss the mutterings of those who claim that globalisation means westernisation. It looks more like Aiyarisation, viewed from Kargudi.

What does this imply for our sense of identity? I cannot speak for the whole Kargudi clan, which ranges from rigid Tamil Brahmins to beef-eating, pizza-guzzling, hip-hop dancers. But for me, the Aiyarisation of the world does not mean Aiyar domination. Nor does it mean Aiyar submergence in a global sea. It means acquiring multiple identities, and moving closer to the ideal of a brotherhood of all humanity. I remain quite at home sitting on the floor of the Kargudi house on a mat of reeds, eating from a banana leaf with my hands. I feel just as much at home eating noodles in China, steak in Spain, teriyaki in Japan and cous-cous in Morocco. I am a Kargudi villager, a Tamilian, a Delhi-wallah, an Indian, a Washington Redskins fan, and a citizen of the world, all at the same time and with no sense of tension or contradiction.

When I see the Brihadeeswara Temple in Tanjore, my heart swells and I say to myself “This is mine.” I feel exactly the same way when I see the Church of Bom Jesus in Goa, or the Jewish synagogue in Cochin, or the Siddi Sayed mosque in Ahmedabad: these too are mine. I have strolled so often through the Parks at Oxford University and along the canal in Washington, DC, that they feel part of me. As my family multiplies and intermarries, I hope one day to look at the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona and Rhine river in Germany and think, “These too are mine.”

We Aiyars have a taken a step toward the vision of John Lennon. Imagine there’s no country, It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too.

My father’s generation was the first to leave the village, and loosen its regional shackles. My father became a chartered accountant in Lahore, an uncle became a hotel manager in Karachi, and we had an aunt in Rangoon.

My generation loosened the shackles of religion. My elder brother married a Sikh, my younger brother married a Christian, and I married a Parsi. The next generation has gone a step further, marrying across the globe. Globalisation for me is not just the movement of goods and capital, or even of Aiyars. It is a step towards Lennon’s vision of no country.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope one day you’ll join us. And the world will be one.

Original link: My family and other globalisers (Times of India)

Hello Guyana, Goodbye Canada (soon!)

26 Jan

Okay, so I haven’t updated this blog in awhile; and it’s not because I haven’t had spectacular things happen to me. It’s because I’m a bit busy and lazy. So here’s a quick recap:

  1. In the dead of winter (Feb 2011), I changed jobs. It was an exciting and much needed change and I met some great people and learned a lot because of it (I am no longer at this position).
  2. In the summer, I travelled to London for an amazing Indian wedding with people I’d consider family. I went to Paris to explore and hang out with a girl-friend. I fell in love with Copenhagen and their bike lanes while visiting a family-friend studying there.
  3. In the fall, I got to help plan and execute the TEDxToronto After Party. I met some inspiring artists and performers and had a lot of fun doing it.
  4. Around the end of 2011, I got together with two brilliant girl-friends and launched helloberry bracelets. Through the stresses of brainstorming, set-up, long meetings, and many late nights, we always had fun. I never thought I could do anything entrepreneurial, but I can’t say that any more. We’ve been well-received and our fans are fan-tastic! (see what I did there?)

And now….

I am moving to Guyana.

I will be there starting on February 9, 2012 for a one year placement in Shulinab, Guyana (located about 1-2 hours south of Lethem in the Interior) as a Women’s Enterprise Development Advisor. I applied to Cuso International and was selected by them along with VSO Guyana to work with the South Central People Development Association (SCPDA) .

I will be dedicated to working with and among various communities in the Rupununi region to assist with finance, accounting, and a bit of marketing and product development. I will mostly be working with Amerindian women who have enterprises in agriculture and craft-making. Although it seems that I will be teaching them business skills, I know I will learn lots from them as well.

A big question is


The simple answer: Why not?
The detailed explanation: I’ve always been an advocate of volunteering. I’ve always wanted to work for a non-profit organization; volunteering with one is the first step to working for one.
Many of you know that I love to travel. My travel has always been short-term because of time constraints. Now that I have the opportunity and freedom to do something long-term, I don’t want to just walk about the earth and see things. I want to do things – meaningful things.
And that’s why I’m doing this.

Now to answer the “Where exactly…?” questions, here’s a map to help you visualize where I’ll be located (click to enlarge):

By clicking that map I bet some of you just learned that Guyana isn’t an island (although it’s associated with the West Indies which include island nations), and that it’s situated in South America, above Brazil and to the east of Venezuela.

Guyana was colonized by the Brits (so they speak English). To the east, there is Suriname (colonized by the Dutch) and French Guiana (colonized by the French). These three countries are the only ones in South America that don’t speak either Spanish or Portuguese as first languages.

Okay, that’s enough geography and history for now.

Here’s where I ask you to support me and Cuso International.
Cuso International sends volunteers abroad to work on collaborative development projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. They are one of North America’s largest international development non-profits that works through volunteers like me.

Here’s the great thing about donating – every dollar you donate is multiplied by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to help fund Cuso International’s efforts to support global development, environmental sustainability and social justice.


Donate now!

Thank you in advance for your donations; without your generosity, Cuso International wouldn’t be able to send volunteers overseas to pass on their knowledge and expertise.

madMade (with love)

5 Feb

My friend Madeline made me this awesome bag.

It’s a Swedish word horse with ultra cool yellow sunglasses.
He wears his sunglasses at night too.

It’s hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind, and madMade with love.

madMade products are NEVER duplicated.
Like it? Want it? Ask me and I’ll let you know where to find them.

A madMade bag

Words of an Egyptian-Canadian in Cairo…

3 Feb

…in a time of Revolution (#Jan25)

My Egyptian-Canadian friend, Maged, lives in Cairo, Egypt. With the internet back on, I finally received an email from him assuring me that he is safe. Thank God.

With his permission, I am posting his email so that you can read it and have a feel for what it’s like for some of those on the ground. He is not near Tahrir. He is living in one of many neighbourhoods in Cairo. He is protecting his family, friends, and neighbours the best way he knows how in a city of chaos.

The words below have been minimally edited to reflect one person’s opinion. Please do not take it as anything else.

We’re all living under marshal law with a curfew at 3pm and zero police presence – we just have each other to depend on for security.

We block off our streets and don’t let anyone in after 3pm, and everyone in the neighborhood comes downstairs and patrols the streets looking for outsiders, I’ve been freezing my ass off every night staying up all night guarding my home and my family’s home with makeshift road blocks, handguns and shotguns….we also pray every night that this nightmare ends.

There’s no petrol in the gas stations but the food and water supply seem to be holding up pretty well. I’ve gotten to know everyone in my building and on my street from this vigilante type of self protection that we’ve set up – our situation is not unique. Apparently every single street in Cairo is like this.

Whenever we catch anyone trying to infiltrate our neighbourhood we whistle to each other and fire warning shots in the air. Usually they get scared off.
We wear armbands to tell friends from foes and so far we haven’t had any problems.

We all watch TV or listen to the radio on the street and hope that this shit ends as soon as possible so we can go back to our normal lives. There are tanks and APC’s (armoured personnel carrier) in Korba and Salah Salem, it’s a strange and bewildering sight. There’s still zero police presence on the streets and whenever we see a police car we make the occupants get out of the car and search them. A lot of police cars have been stolen and used by criminals released from prison or those just trying to steal anything they can get their hands on.

We pass the time telling jokes and talk politics. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is divided on who and what should happen, but we all agree that we want this to end.

It’s been days of this chaos with no end in sight, and yet when I walk around my neighborhood seeing the streets filled with people with sticks, knives, and guns protecting their homes, I can’t help but look on in absolute disbelief that this is happening in Cairo, one of the safest cities in the world that changed overnight. I still think its very safe though because everyone is on the streets protecting their homes, but vigilante justice is no way to live.

Anyways, I can’t wait to be back in Toronto and not have to deal with gunshots every night.

Originally from my Tumblr blog


27 Jan


Sometimes, you just have to JUMP

13 Dec

and take the plunge!

Live for every moment.

Halong Bay, Vietnam (2010)

WATER – a privilege which should be a RIGHT

15 Oct

Clean water is a privilege.

We often forget this because most of us living in the “western world” are so lucky.
I’ll bet that 99.99% of the people reading this (with maybe a .01% margin of error) have access to clean, safe water right now.

But what about those who don’t have clean, safe water – or water at all?
How many miles did you walk to get that glass of water?
How much time did you sacrifice to buy a bottle of it?
Do you monitor your water consumption when you shower or wash your hands?
Do you ever have to think about whether your water is disease-infested?

Clean water is a privilege. But it should be a RIGHT.

So what can you do?

  • Educate yourself on water issues around the world – start by visiting and Charity: Water
  • Donate or make purchases which give a portion of profits to water charities
  • Sign a petition to bring clean, safe water to millions
  • Write a post about Water for Blog Action Day today!
  • Read some Blog Action Day posts – some suggestions:
      Sabrina Scott: It’s #BlogActionDay – Let’s talk about Water
      Justine Abigail: Chasing water(falls)
  • Tweet about Blog Action Day by using the hashtags #BAD2010 and #Water
  • “There will never be enough charity to bring safe water to everyone”, but there are sustainable solutions.

    Find out more at

    Want to help AND get something nice for yourself?

    There’s a way: Help build 3 new wells in Ethiopia!…and get a pair of seriously comfortable TOMS shoes while you’re at it.

    TOMS teams up with Charity: Water.

    Eggs-cellent Advice

    18 Sep

    Eggs are so delicious…and good for you too! You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. It’s an all-day kinda food. Love those!

    Eggspectations napkin advice:

    Grab the day by the eggs

    Grab the day by the eggs

    Life Manifesto

    17 Sep


    Biking and Wining in Niagara

    7 Sep

    To celebrate the end of summer, I decided to take a little trip out to the Niagara region to do some taste testing. In the past year, I’ve acquired a love and taste for wines – and what better way to toast the (almost) end of summer than with a wine tour on bikes?

    Seven of my friends and I chose to take the Private Vineyard Lunch and Cycle Wine Tour from Niagara World Wine Tours. We were provided with bikes and cycle guides to lead us on a leisurely ride to four wineries.

    As predicted (by me, before this tour even started), I purchased something from each winery.

    Vignoble Rancourt Winery – a French winery with delicious grapes we got to sample as a morning treat.
    Purchased: Reisling, VQA: $16.80
    Tasting notes: Slightly off dry. Delicate floral (white flowers) notes on the nose with fresh citrus, flashy lemon and touch of tangerine. Nicely balanced between bright acidity of the lemon with a little touch of sweetness, orange/ tangerine. Nice cleansing finish on mineral components.
    Personal notes: It was a crisp delicious wine with just a hint of fruit – I usually don’t like white wines, but I had to buy this one!

    Pillitteri Winery – an Italian family owned & operated winery with Sicilian roots. By far, the biggest winery we visited that day; it was definitely one of the more well-known ones in the Niagara region
    Purchased: 2006 Vidal Icewine: $25.10
    Tasting notes: A taste of this golden coloured Icewine fills the palate with an explosion of lush fruits of mango, passion-fruit, pineapple and lychees. Fantastic with exotic fruit salad, crème caramel, Roquefort cheese, blue cheese, or simply on its own.
    Personal notes: I’m generally a fan of sweet things and after one sip of this, I fell in love with Icewine (if you can believe it, I’ve never tasted one before Pillitteri!) The sweetness of the lychee sold me.

    Pondview Winery – a very new winery which opened in June 2010.
    Purchased: 2009 Cabernet Franc Icewine: $35.00
    Tasting notes: The characteristic red berries become super abundant on the nose and palate. Strawberries and raspberries combine with a sumptuous candied apple flavour. Crisp acidity is on hand to meet the rich sweetness of this decadent wine.
    Personal notes: You can definitely taste the strawberries and candied apple flavour – I just had to get a red icewine to go with the white icewine from Pillitteri.

    Caroline Cellars – family owned and operated winery with a farmhouse countryside feel.
    Purchased: Rosé: $11.50
    Tasting notes: This wine is a blend of wines from 2006 and 2007, but the exact blend is a winemaker’s secret. Strawberry and apricot jam on the nose give way to a palate bursting with sweet fruity notes. A great wine with turkey or pork dishes.
    Personal notes: Goes down smooth and the fruity notes help too!

    Things we learned that day:

    1. Dessert wine is meant to be tasted at the back of your mouth. This is done by pressing the tip of your tongue against the back of your front teeth. It’s less sweet and more tasty this way.
    2. How to detect wine faults (e.g. cork taint) by smelling and looking at the clarity of [white] wine.
    3. You never forget how to ride a bike – but getting on a bicycle after years of not having one as a form of transportation/fun makes you feel like you never knew how to ride a bike in the first place!
    4. Riding for a full day – even with breaks for wine and lunch – takes a toll on your derrière. Be ready to be sore the next day. Opt for half-day cycle-wine tours if you want to avoid the discomfort.
    5. Cars parked on the road shoulder for fruit stand shopping = hazards. Instability on a bike may or may not cause you to bail and throw your bike down to avoid going into a ditch. Not that this happened to me or anything… :)
    6. Watching friends ride while being tipsy on wine is hilarious and highly entertaining. It also leads to bets on who’s going to fall first.
    7. No matter how old we are, my friends and I will always have child-like tendencies; e.g. wanting to race each other on bikes, snickering at a wine bottle labelled “Too Easy”.