Saturday, March 21, 2009

MG Vassanji - A Place Within: Rediscovering India- Review

Zee's Notes: MG Vassanji has written more than 10 novels and won numerous literary awards for his work. In life, if we can somehow hook up to waking up every morning and doing what we love to do then it probably is the closest thing to it being heaven on earth. Imagine that ! - getting paid to do what you are the most passionate about and in MG Vassanji's world it is to write and indeed to write well.

So the story is that Allah in his infinite wisdom has given each one of us a unique gift of what we can do in this world. The lucky ones 'get it' early in their life and achieve that nirvana of wanting to jump out of bed every morning and many continue to live each day hoping to have a better tomorrow and I've learnt that hope is not a good strategy to hang your hat on if you want that 'zest' for living. Hope is waiting for your dreams to fall into your lap - not good ! Faith, however, is a different animal in that it's there residing in our inner self waiting to be called to do it's magic. It is that critical ingredient for you to realize that you are destined and moreso capable of achieving great things in life. Anyway i'm getting ahead of myself here as this post is to review the book.

A Place Within - MG Vassanji

What I love about MG Vassanji's work is that all his work relates to something within himself and who he is. His earlier novels took him back to his birthplace in Africa and the stories revolved around his childhood and subsequent experiences of being an immigrant in a new land - Canada - through his various characters. Also noted was that he hardly wrote of his faith and indeed he has spoken out on his inability to accept religous dogma. For someone like me who's life experience mirrors his characters in many ways I found it hard to put down any of his novels as they flooded my imagination of the years that have passed and passed so quickly. In A Place Within he goes back to the land of his ancestors and connects to the history not so much of his family but, to me, to his people. An interesting anecdote that I caught was that whenever he went to the villages and towns of his ancestors the first place he was directed to was the Ismaili Jamatkhana - there he would find a snippet of an answer of his search. Vassanji takes us into the main cities and to the villages and we get a sense of this amazing country which now is seen as one of the two, China being the main one, major drivers of ecenomic growth in the century ahead. In understanding the dynamic that is occuring in India now, one wonders how the heck can such progress be achieved in the midst of challenges such as abject poverty, communalism, corruption and the list goes on. But at the end of the day India works and it is moving at a pace where it may just be the number two economy in the universe once it sorts out it's problems though it may take a generation or two.

So yes if you get a chance MG Vassanji's A Place Within is a great read and be careful if may be a while before you can put it down.

MG Vassanji was recently in India to promote his book - here are some news items:

Home Pages
Mumbai Newsline - ‎Mar 22, 2009‎
If MG Vassanji has to search for his past, his own provenance, he would need to sit beside an unrolled map and then trace backward - from Canada where he ...

'Anything is possible in India' Daily News & Analysis

"India hits you like a tidal wave"
Financial Express - ‎Mar 21, 2009‎
But for MG Vassanji, it has taken him over 15 years and 10 visits to India to come up with a book. “I had thought I could be like Naipaul, come to India and ...


MG Vassanji turns to India in book
Spicezee - ‎Mar 13, 2009‎
New Delhi, Mar 13: Internationally renowned writer and two-time winner of the prestigious Giller Prize, MG Vassanji, turns his eyes towards India with new ...

Always the writer in exile - ‎Mar 12, 2009‎
MG Vassanji, one of Canada’s pre-eminent novelists, experienced his first moment of kinship with the late, great Mordecai Richler at a writer’s festival in ...

Calcutta Telegraph

Calcutta Telegraph - ‎Mar 20, 2009‎
In this category, my latest addition is MG Vassanji. I first read his novel, The Gunny Sack, and was charmed by it. Next, I read his latest novel, ...

Canadian Ismaili teen genius wants to be...a politician !!!

March 19, 2009 11:06 AM

By Kim Zarzour

At 12, the future is an open book: you can do anything, be anything - actor, doctor, astronaut or NHL player.
Tariq Haji is that promising age, and his dream for the future is very clear.

Some day, he hopes to be elected as a Member of Provincial Parliament.

And the first thing he'll do? story here

Ismaili Businessman caught in Stanford Investment scheme.

Zee's Notes: The last 7-8 years have been, in most accounts, a great time for individuals to make significant economic gains due to one of the greatest economic expansion periods witnessed. Investors took advantage of low interest rates and easy credit to leverage themselves to untold riches. I know of many, many Ismaili's who rode that wave and attained financial success not only in the Western World but also in Asia and Africa. But sadly as we see in the media today that fast moving party has smacked into a wall and now we are starting to see the carnage in the financial markets and in our own individual lives. Falling stock markets and real estate declines are hurting people like I've never witnessed in my lifetime and I remember my father paying 17% mortgage rates in 1982. When times are good a lot of frauds like the Stanford and Madoff ponzi scheme can be hidden but sooner or later the 'fat lady sings' to reveal the fraudsters for what they are - crooks taking advantage of the greed in people.

The Madoff ponzi scheme, which took in the elite Jewish Community, hit home to many Ismailis who got caught in the Salim Damji Colgate fiasco almost 10 years ago. Damji's Instant White fraud (see story here...)soaked $75 million from the Ismaili Community and most of the the money was never recovered. The sad part was that a lot of middle income families and seniors got taken in whilst Madoff was more content to only take down the very richest Jewish elite. Worse is that many of Damji's bag men, those in various cities who solicited (or conned) their friends out of their money are still out there walking though they have lost their reputations in the community.

So we will hear of many stories on these type of frauds in the days ahead and here is one of them...

In the lawsuit, filed on Feb. 25 in Alberta Court of Queen's Bench in Calgary, Dynasty Furniture Manufacturing Ltd., one of Canada's largest manufacturers of upholstered furniture, started in 1979 by East African immigrant Jim Sunderji, seeks damages for misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, conversion, fraudulent conveyance and breach of trust for what it claims is an investment scheme that is "untruthful and complete story here

Here is another story of an Edmonton Ismaili entrepreneur who is very active in the Vancouver real estate market which, in the last few years, had the greatest uplift in home values in comparison to any large city throughout the globe - yes it was that story here

Aga Khan to visit Winnipeg in 2010 ?

UWinnipeg To Host G8 Religious Leaders In 2010

WINNIPEG, MB – Up to 100 religious leaders from diverse faiths including Christianity, Judaism, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Islam, Indigenous Spirituality and Shinto traditions will gather in Winnipeg in late June, 2010 at the invitation of Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, President & Vice-Chancellor, University of Winnipeg and the Canadian Council of Churches. It is the first time Canada will host the G8 Religious Leaders Summit which, for the past five years, has been organized to complement the meeting of G8 political leaders (in 2010, G8 leaders meet in Huntsville, Ontario.)
Participants will travel to Winnipeg from France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia (G8) as well as Africa for three days of dialogue devoted to advancing the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the G8 countries in 2000. The goals encompass pressing global concerns ranging from eradicating extreme poverty to combating HIV and malaria to ensuring environmental sustainability

Religious heads to hold own summit during G8 - Toronto Star Mar 19,2009

Nadir Mohammed to be named CEO of Rogers Communications - Ismailis in the News

Zee`s Notes: Vancouver`s Nadir Mohamed is soon to be announced as CEO of Canada`s largest media and wireless conglomerate Rogers Communications.

Nadir will become the first Ismaili to be a CEO of a major global public company - Rogers has a market cap of USD $19 billion - with interests in Cable, Telecom, Wireless, Radio, Television, Print and off course the Toronto Blue Jays professional baseball team. I first met Nadir in the early seventies as teammates of the Vancouver Aga Khan Cricket Club. I remember him vividly as at the time he was one of the only ones on the team with a car and he would, every Saturday, make the rounds and drive all over the city giving the young players rides to the game`s. A fine all-rounder who stopped playing the game to concentrate on his studies eventually becoming a Chartered Accountant. He went on to major success at BC Tel`s wireless division as President and then to Rogers in Toronto.
I saw him and wife Shabin, also a CA by profession, again in 2005 at the U. of Toronto at the commencement ceremony where MHI received an Honorary Degree. I spoke to him and Shabin for some time and both had not changed in 20 years - Nadir was the same gracious personality and he even asked me if I needed a ride to the airport. I could not be more happier for Nadir and look forward to reading on his success at Rogers in the years ahead.

Nadir Mohammed eyed as new Rogers chief Company founder, CEO Ted Rogers died last year By Etan Vlessing March 16, 2009, 12:37 PM ET TORONTO -- Rogers Communications wireless division head Nadir Mohammed has emerged as the company's next CEO. The Globe and Mail newspaper on Monday cited sources close to the executive hunt that indicated the announcement of Mohammed's promotion to the CEO post is imminent. Toronto-based Rogers, Canada's largest cable and wireless operator, has been in executive search mode since the death of company founder Ted Rogers in December. One of the few remaining obstacles to Mohammed's appointment is establishing a key management role for Edward Rogers, son of the late Ted Rogers and head of the company's cable division.

See this excellent video of the Business Community`s reaction to the news...

Financial Post profile on Nadir in 2005

Profile of Nadir by CA Magazine in 2001

Navroz Mubarak to our global Morningchai family !!!

Zee's Notes: Amazing 12 months have gone by since, at this time last year, the Ismaili's were preparing to head off to the four cities in the US for the Golden Jubilee Darbars. A lot has happened since then - most notably the entire global economy blew up in front of our eyes - yes times have changed and indeed in most Ismaili centers there will be no central 'Khushiali' celebrations. So thanks to the people who recorded some past Navroz celebrations here is a taste...

But first...I absolutely love the new rendition of the Ismaili Anthem...yes you can guess I love being an Ismaili !!!

While we are in the Khushiali mood - I need to give you this incredible story of one man who, to me, is the absolute soul of every Khushiali celebration in Vancouver. When we first moved to Vancouver in the early seventies there was this gent - his name is Mamlo Dhanji - who started the Vancouver Ismaili Band you are listening to in the video above. Mamlo has kept the Ismaili Band tradition alive for the past 30 years and he really epitomizes the celebration of our 'Khushiali. So the story is this - I am sitting here at 2:40am at my computer and looking in my hard drive if I have a picture of Mamlo - no luck - I could get it tomorrow but I want it right now - and by chance I surf over to Flickr - the photo sharing site - and type in Ismaili and lo and behold - there is a photo of Mamlo taken by an amateur lady photographer who happens to be at the Punjabi Market on Main Street - how cool is that !!!

Here is the post from Flickr - hats off to my friend Mamlo - seventy and getting younger....

Click here for comments by visitors to this lady`s site on Mamlo...

Speaking of Khushiali - there is no tradition as old and universal to Ismailis from the Indian Sub-Continent and Africa as Dandiya. I dandiyad at 12 and 3 decades later I still dandiya - though a few times I ended up at the end of the line and don`t you hate that when you turn and no one on the right to catch your dandia stick - well here is what you can do if there is just the two of you and you don`t want to go into the line...just brilliant...have a great Navroz with your loved ones...

Canadian Minister sends Navroz Greetings to the Aga Khan and the Ismaili's

Obama sends Navroz Message to Iran

Zee's Notes: Clearly the new President in the US is a different breed in that he has done in 60 days what we haven't seen from an American leader in generations or maybe centuries. Last night I caught him on Jay Leno's Tonight Show and this leader of the most powerful nation on the earth is as humble as they come...I pray that he succeeds beyond our wildest dreams as finally there is someone in the Oval office who may lead us toward world peace - if there is such a thing...maybe I'm hoping too much !!!

Here is another example yesterday in this message of hope to the people of Iran.

Here is a snippet...

Can you believe the number of people he has to travel with daily...