The Follower Effect

The technological advancements we have seen over the past few decades have not only revolutionized the manner in which we communicate but have also been largely influential on our thought processes as well. It seems as though people are no longer living for the moment but rather the social image. We are all in a constant state of a need for validation. We have created a persona of ourselves in which we are constantly behaving and portraying ourselves in the manner in which we will appear most favourable to others. Surely this is not a new tendency as society has always valued the opinions of others. However, when does the need to be “liked” both virtually and literally become clinical?  One must stop and wonder how much of what they do in their day to day lives is for the sole purpose of gaining popularity and deriving confidence from their social networks.

It seems as though we have reached a point in our technologically advanced world in which our basic emotions can be determined based on the reaction one receives to what they are putting out there on the virtual global sphere. We take several of pictures of ourselves with slight variations in the angle to find that perfect shot that will gain us the most praise. We share every detail of what we are currently eating, wearing, doing, with whom, why, and for how long. What is the purpose of all of this? To impress others? What of ones opinion of his or herself? How could one be truly enjoying the moment if they are constantly wrapped up with how to best capture that moment so that they can share it to hundreds of their “closest friends.”

It could be argued that this may be a primitive competitive instinct seeping through our touch screens – to appear superior, to be more desirable to the opposite sex, and appear as a threat to our own gender. One could strip it down to being as basic as this. Or it could simply be that we are all just that insecure that we must place precedence of ones false adoration for us over pride in ourselves.

This phenomenon has become fairly prevalent amongst the youth of today. However, it can be seen across various age ranges. Anyone technologically savvy must have at least one or two forms of social networking – to which they are constantly “plugged” in to.

All of this seems fairly harmless – I mean after all it is just pictures and words. There is no problem with utilizing these time occupying tools as a form of expression. However, what irks me about all of this is the danger it poses to our ability to be critical thinkers. Living in this world of explosive internet information from unaccredited sources is a real danger. We are all becoming passive recipients of information. Never applying critical thought, never second guessing the plethora of information we are consuming with every click or scroll.

I wonder what is to come in the near future, if we all become followers – whose the one taking the lead?

A Soul-less City

I live in a fairy violent city. Not Compton in California violent but threatening enough to make you think twice before going somewhere alone at night. Every other day various local news outlets spew the names of victims and the related incidents from the prior day. Occasionally, a familiar name is announced. Surely enough, nearly as quick as the incident has occurred, that same name has already been plastered all over my social media newsfeed. The condolescences, the RIP messages, the pictures with dates marking the beginning and end of the individual’s life written under them – and I get that horribly familiar knot in my stomach that another young (and usually completely preventable) death has occurred.

Death is a hard fact of life which the majority of people struggle to understand. The finality of it, the loss, and the pain felt by those left behind. However, young death is a completely different sort of evil. One that I will just never be able to wrap my head around.

The unfortunate thing about Surrey residents is that in many cases these lives are lost for completely astonishing reasons. People are killed because of a commitment of “beef” or mutual dislike shared between two or more people. This can be triggered by something as trivial as a bad glance, a few drunken encounters, or simply because somebody just doesn’t like another person for whatever other pointless reason. This infamous city seems to be filled with individuals who have relatively easy going lives with unjustifiably hard knock mentalities.

The factors which lead to placing oneself in the wrong situation at the wrong time are countless. Once one brings his or herself into the “Surrey loop” or way of life, the threat of violence is common and expected. Many youth become sucked into this mentality and become passive victims to it. However, what of the culprits of violent acts of crime? What goes through the minds of those who are the ones with the upper hand in situations which end with a life being lost. They may have been in a more compromising situation on other occasions but this time they are the ones in control, and with their actions in that very moment they determine the fate of their target.

It is commonly known that our justice system does not adequately act as a deterrent from such behaviour. Amongst our youth it seems to be a well known fact that even if involved in serious criminal activity – there’s a high likelihood that individual will not even have any real consequences to face. However, many questions arise even if the wrong-doers do get off “scott-free.” I wonder what of their morals and ethics? Do they engage in the thought process that they single handedly broke the tie between a mother and her son, created a brother-less sister, and cut a life short of so many more experiences and relationships to fulfill. They are the root cause of the countless tears and agonizing screams of loved ones. They are the reason a family will have to eternally say goodbye to someone for a typically petty reason. Surely they must feel some sort of remorse and if they don’t..where is your soul Surrey?

Upon examining the common factors amongst those who engage in seemingly heartless behaviour it seems one characteristic that is commonly found is impulsivity. This tendency to act without the consideration of consequences is expressed in many facets of their life. For example, one who engages in violent behaviour most likely also takes drugs, doesn’t have a lot going on career-wise, and is genuinely just someone who does not contribute anything of substance to society. They are ignorant to the depth of their actions. It is a sad but true reality that at any moment another life could be lost solely due to the fact that someone prioritizes his or her desire to protect their ego and social stature rather than the value of a person’s life.

The future of this city seems to be headed more and more towards the likeness of other historically dangerous and impoverished cities around the world. However, the general population of Surrey is at a fairly good economic standpoint and come from families of proud backgrounds, but still continue to act shamefully. One can only hope Surrey’s youth stops struggling with such unnecessary hardships and can rise above this current collectively destructive psyche.

Wow, YOU wrote that?

It started about midway through high school, when I actually started caring about academic achievement. The entire class would be eagerly waiting to receive their test scores of our last exam. Everyone would be saying how they’re sure they failed, expressing regret over not studying more, and promising to do so for the next one. I too would sit there anxiously, but pretty confident I most certainly did not flunk the whole thing. Pretty much as soon as the teacher would slide the papers into our hands everyone would start questioning one another – “what did you get?”  I never really had much interest in sharing marks but one day one of my friends flipped over my test which I had tucked away under a binder and her eyes shot wide open – “YOU got 90%?! YOU’RE SMART?!” She shouted it as more of an accusation rather than a statement. This gathered a whole lot of attention and pretty soon I was dubbed as the surprisingly smart girl of the school.

This reaction followed me all the way to University where low and behold someone would catch a glimpse of one of the marks on my papers or exams and have pretty much that same standard reaction. I initially responded to this by brushing it off and rationalizing it as a fluke. But then something strange started to happen, I started to receive grief for getting good grades. It seemed like it actually ticked people off that I would study just as much as them, but receive A’s and A+’s. This is when I decided to change tactics and start getting defensive.  Whenever someone would raise their eyebrow and give me that snarky remark about “well, you don’t even need to study, you’re going to get a perfect mark anyway” or “why are you even stressed about the test – you know you’re going to ace it” I felt genuinely offended. I began to wonder what exactly was it about me that gave people the initial impression that I just couldn’t possibly be “one of the smart ones” and that if I somehow did sneak into this classification of people – that I didn’t really deserve to be there?

I graduated with a BA in Psychology – but still was never able to solve this mystery. Now, as I have tentatively stepped into the blogosphere – I find myself facing these same questions once again. Except now, it is not just my barely acquainted classmates questioning me; it is my friends and family who are shell-shocked by my ability to string words together in a semi-decent fashion to convey some sort of meaningful message. My blog is by no means where I want it to be readership wise and my writing is far from perfect – I am completely aware of that. However, I am fairly proud of the response I have gotten thus far. The views and comments I have been receiving  has even given me the confidence I needed to begin submitting articles to my local South Asian Newspaper. Needless to say, finally stepping out of my shell and being comfortable enough with myself to put my very personal thoughts out there in this form of expression has had a pretty fantastic outcome. The only thing that irks me – is the people in my personal social circle – cannot seem to comprehend how little ol’ me could possibly be the person behind the screen.

“I had no idea you were smart!” “What’s your education?” “So like, does someone edit it for you?” “Wow, you wrote that all by yourself?!” These are just some of the things I heard from people after I hesitantly began sharing my posts to my personal Facebook page.

Perhaps it is my miniature sized appearance or my quiet demeanor, regardless of what makes people determine these snap judgements I’ve learned to realize it really does not matter. The truth is we all do it – we all mentally categorize people into the groupings of where we think they belong based on our biased opinions of them.

For my fellow bloggers – how do you feel about sharing posts with your immediate social circle? Were you apprehensive about doing so at first? Have any of you ever experienced this feigned shock in reaction to your writing abilities?

Comment below and feel free to share if you can relate!

Losing our “Kaur”

Being an ethnic minority in the Western world can be a real struggle. This holds especially true for individuals who have immigrated here. However, what about the second generation immigrants? There is a near tangible mental stress related to this challenging duality of life. Perhaps this comes with the territory of being a foreigner of two countries to which one supposedly belongs. One country is the home of our roots, and the other is from where we have gained our wings.

Oftentimes an individual is forced to make choices which indirectly reinforce exactly how “Indian” or how “Canadian” he or she is. Depending on what stage of life one is in, his or her tendency to choose either way may vary.

The time of one’s life in which feeling torn between worlds can be especially troublesome is during adolescence. This is typically a period of life in which people try to assert their independence and carve out an identity for themselves. Well, one can just imagine how challenging this could be if the individual is constantly battling between two ways of life.

More specifically, the majority of the Indo-Canadian youth of today are born to parents who have immigrated here. No matter how many years ago this may have been – many of them still carry with them the values which have been ingrained in them from their “motherland.”

Parents often have certain expectations of their child to fall in line with these more “Indian” ways of life. This could cause the teen to be forced to create two personas for themselves.

This may be a generalization, and it could be argued that teens from various backgrounds have a “social self” and a “family self.” However, this divide is much more accentuated in the case of having two major influential cultures a part of one’s daily life. One must question – when does that divide become damaging to the formation of a clearly defined identity?

This issue becomes even further so magnified when the individual struggling with this balance of life at such a vulnerable age is an adolescent female. There is no doubt that females experience differential treatment in comparison to their male counterparts in Indian culture. There may be various justifications for this tendency. However, it makes it all that much harder to develop an identity which falls in line of what is expected of them.

Looking back to my adolescent years I think back to the manner in which I portrayed myself as an Indo-Canadian female. I think back to all the times I was forced to choose between what I wanted to do and what I knew I should do. I was so wrapped up in making sure my parents did not ever discover what my “social self” was up to. Before I knew it, many years had passed, and I realized the only person I was fooling was myself. I am sure many would agree that it is not a good feeling to realize you have abandoned your roots for a vision of a version of yourself that turns out to be someone you are not exactly proud of.

All of these factors could be the reason for which so much of our youth are engaging in shameful behaviour. Parents must move with the times and just accept the fact that chances are it is not the neighbours kids and it is not their kids friends. It is their kids who are perhaps behaving promiscuously, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and yes – in a potentially intimate relationship much before the thoughts of marriage cross their minds.

The only word of advice that can be given to parents struggling with a seemingly distant teen is to understand that if their child is growing up in a Western culture – they must be prepared for and accept westernized behaviours. They must anticipate and educate themselves about them. There is no need to wait for that shocking moment when his or her child shows up at their front door with a police officer, comes home belligerently intoxicated, or is spotted by an extended family member engaging in some sort of other “shameful” activity.

Perhaps if the youth were to feel accepted for the representation of the blend of two nations that they are – they will be more capable of forming an identity for themselves. This would be a version of themselves who they could be proud of. They will no longer feel the need to behave a certain way to fit in with their peers or to please their parents.  Perhaps this will allow our children to develop into well-rounded and self-assured individuals.

Although many parents current tactic for dealing with disgruntled youth is greater restriction and biased treatment towards their daughters – this is not the answer. We must raise these children higher and empower them with trust. Allow them to make their own decisions even if they falter along the way. At least it will prevent them from becoming lost in a version of themselves which does not do them justice. It will bring back the importance of being individuals of substance with strong values.

The Children of a Male-Dominated Culture

Today I saw something unnerving. Something that made me uncomfortable to the point of where I wanted to intervene but I just could not gain the courage to do so. After all, this is Surrey, and no matter what your intentions are, you never quite know what reaction you will receive.

I was in the parking of a local supermarket when I saw a toddler in the seat of a grocery cart wide-eyed and afraid as he watched his father roughly pull back his mother by her shirt and then aggressively moving her by her waist. This action flung her away from their vehicle, interrupting her while she was buckling their infant daughter into her car-seat.

On the way home I thought of all the things I should have said. I wondered if the man was aware that his son was watching his every move. His impressionable and innocent little mind was absorbing his mannerisms while taking in his seemingly misplaced anger. He was being influenced by the scene playing out before him. I wondered how many times this little boy had been a silent witness to this type of situation before.

I thought of the even younger child whom the mother was tending to when she was so rudely and aggressively halted. I thought of how she felt knowing her mother was being berated for failing to care for her quick enough. She supposedly “failed” at performing a task which she probably engages in several times a day – the tedious but crucially important task of buckling up your most prized possession. I wondered how the father would feel if one day his daughter grew up to be treated by a man in this same regard.

My next line of thought was about his physical appearance. He was a Sikh man. I deducted such to be true based on the turban he wore upon his head and his distinguished long beard. This was his mark of being Sikh. However, his behaviour was that of  a male who operates under the presumption that his wife and children are subordinates to his dominant self.

In the moment before we drove away I saw the embarrassment and a sliver of annoyance flicker in the woman’s eyes. I remembered what it felt like to be a child witnessing the occasional instance when one of the men in my own family lost their patience with their wives, daughters, or sisters.

Although this single brief interaction I witnessed was not enough to undoubtedly conclude that this man was physically abusive towards his wife, it was enough to receive the message that he thought himself to have the right to act in such an aggressive and belittling manner. It was evident that he believed it was acceptable for him to literally fling his wife in any which way he desired, in the presence of small impressionable eyes.

What is this male dominant mentality which runs through the historical veins of my culture? How much of it contributes to the issues that our youth face today? — Who were once those small confused and scared children aware that what they were watching was wrong but not old enough to speak on it. Is it safe to assume that this then becomes a endless cycle of poor values learnt by example?

No matter how forward-thinking we may think we are, surely some of us have grown up amongst frequent exhibits of this type of behaviour and were at some point subconsciously influenced by it. Most likely, the majority of us did not even question it to be anything out of the norm until we reached a certain age of knowing better. This is a generalization and surely there are many Indian men who do not act in such a manner. However, it is most definitely common enough to be something which seems to be a main aspect of Indian culture.

Last but most certainly not least: What does it really mean to wear a Turban? Do these individuals realize that when they are  wearing it they are a walking representation of Sikhism.It is not a fashion statement nor should it be worn out of obligation. It should be proudly displayed as a symbol of ones faith. It is meant to serve as a solidification that the individual agrees with the tenets by which the Gurus who wore them before us lived their lives in accordance with. If one is exhibiting small-minded behaviour and emotional immaturity, he should not bring himself into this world of such a prestigious class of people. These individuals should not only re-think their physical image, but question their inner moral fibre as well.

Readers, if you were to see something like this around you – how do you suppose it make you feel? Would you intervene? Would the ethnicity of the individual acting poorly have an effect on your willingness to act? Do you agree with my beliefs of the pre-requisites of wearing a turban? Feel free to comment below with your opinion about these unfortunate and all too common occurrences.

Saving the Past, Present, and Future of Punjab

Not too long ago the word Punjabi conjured images of a hardworking and determined person of integrity. These are the tenets upon which our generations past have built and solidified their futures. Somewhere along the lines, these characteristics were lost. Perhaps it was the result of the oblivious and all too forgiving nature of Indian parents towards their offspring. Or perhaps it was a more gradual subtle change in the psyche of Punjabi youth. The end result is that of a dying culture. A culture once so rich and proud – is now being likened to that of impoverished and drug stricken slums inhabiting an ethnic group in danger of extinction.

Regardless of the cause of this social epidemic, the solution is clear. We must unite together to save our youth. This may be easier said than done. However, the initial step to solving any social crisis is always to spread the word. Communicate, discuss, and deliberate what can be done to steer Punjabis around the world into the right direction. If those in our motherland have lost their way, what will become of those of us spread so wide and far from our roots?

We must return to the source, and bring back to life the religion and culture that brought us to the place we are at today. There are many people from Punjab who have reached admirable levels of success abroad. However, those youngsters pining at the dream of emigrating from India are killing any chance of a future they may have – in India or elsewhere.

They are doing so by turning to serious hard-core drugs such as heroin and other extremely harmful substances. Although there is a line between cultural norms and religious guidance we must keep in mind that this is not what is in our “dharm” (duty) and most definitely not what our Gurus envisioned for us as a people. The Sikh people are meant to be lifelong scholars on a quest for higher enlightenment while spreading goodwill along the way. Instead, we have somehow stooped so low as to become the ones we are meant to be providing aid to. What has become of our people? This is a serious issue that could have catastrophic effects if not attended to immediately. This is not just a social issue of India. It is an issue for humanity. It is the issue of every Indo-Canadian who cares about carrying their lineage forward. One should never expect to excel forward, if they forget to look back from where they have risen. We must aid those who have lost their way back to the true “Gursikhi” way. We must ensure the prevention of anymore individuals falling by the wayside.

Only a few short years ago Punjab was a prideful gem of India. Now – the downfall of not only the economy of this state but its social stature is shocking and undeniable. According to several Indian news outlets billions of dollars are involved in the drug trade annually – in this region alone. For nearly a decade, the frequency of drug use amongst Punjabi youth in India has increased dramatically. All the while the numbers of youth graduating from post-secondary institutions have been dwindling. A 2011 study conducted on drug use and alcoholism in Punjab revealed that 1.5 to 2 million of youth ages 15-25 are in the devastating cycle of drug abuse. These numbers are staggering and hard to conceptualize. However, we must not turn a blind eye to this. This issue has become so prevalent and threatening that several Western media outlets have reported on this growing battle. The Washington Post Newspaper wrote an article about premature death amongst Punjabi males leaving several hundred women widowed in certain villages. If Punjab’s current vulnerable state has caught global attention – it should also ignite our inner desire to do something about this as well.

The answer is clear – we must return to inhibiting the qualities that make us unique from any other cultural group. We must apply those characteristics from which we are historically differentiated to become something we can all be proud of once again. The manner in which this can be achieved is by promoting the importance of education. Naturally, if the youth are occupied in an educational system, to which they feel they belong on every level of their being – mind, body, and spirit, they will be salvaged. There will be no room in their hearts or desires for any mind altering substances. Their psyches will be fulfilled and equipped with knowledge to succeed in life.

There have been certain credible individuals taking initiative in India to aid in solving this problem. However, they cannot do so without our support. A particular example of a possible sanctuary for impressionable youth in which all they require can be provided is The Akal Academy of India. Their previous locations have had great successes in transforming lives. The new campus which is currently under construction will essentially be an academic community which would be the perfect vessel for keeping our youth off the streets and away from chasing dangerous highs. It is currently under construction in a Northern part of Punjab and being a part of the development of this post-secondary institute is one of the many things which need to be done as an antidote to this disease plaguing the villages of Punjab. Please promote awareness of this issue. Please save our roots and futures from destruction.

To read The Washington Post Newspaper article visit:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/drug-epidemic-grips-indias-punjab-state/2012/12/31/092719a2-48f6-11e2-b6f0-e851e741d196_story.html

To learn more about drug use in Punjab visit:

http://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/Attachments/PublisherAttachment/ISAS_Working_Paper_No__177_-_Factors_Driving_Drug_Abuse_in_India’s_Punjab_24092013171919.pdf

To learn more about Akal Academy visit:

Home

http://akalacademy.org/AA/

 

 

 

The Surrey Bubble

When I was fourteen and my parents told me we were moving to Surrey I did not speak to them for weeks. The reason for this was because I had an extremely negative image of the city. In my teenage opinion, it was a place full of people who I considered completely beneath me. They were people who did not know how to speak English correctly, and even worse, individuals who had poor taste in music, clothes, and television shows. I believed that these people just did not understand the “Western way of life” which I was so accustomed to. I grew up as a small town girl always being the token East-Indian in a group of friends. Often times I even forgot that I wasn’t one of them. I had pretty much convinced myself I was actually meant to be born Caucasian. In my eyes, to be anything else was inferior. My adolescent mind believed being Caucasian was the default setting of being human. I did not want to be a deviation. I did not want to be different. Whether this was a result of watching my parents be victims of blatant racism, or growing up with subtle stereotypes and prejudices surrounding me, I am not sure. However, what I am sure of is that none of that mattered anymore once I actually moved here.

Being Indo-Canadian and moving to Surrey is like being welcomed back into a society to which you never knew you belonged to in the first place. Very quickly, I learned that at school there was a “brown hallway” and a “white hallway.” Being accustomed to socializing with Caucasian females my entire life, I initially attempted to join their social circle, only to be guided down to the direction of where I was actually “meant to be.” Fast-forward a couple years and when I look back with 20/20 hindsight I realize that although there was indeed social segregation occurring between the two ethnicities – I pretty much forgot about it and took it to be the norm after a few short months. I soon learned that it actually felt pretty fantastic to no longer feel self-conscious about my “weird smelling” Indian food when friends came over. Or speaking Punjabi with my grandparents in front of them either. Everybody else was just like me, I was no longer pretending to be just like everybody else. It was amazing. All was well until I realized that a part of the younger generation of East-Indian culture there was also this strange phenomenon of rebellion. The majority of my peers skipped school, smoked marijuana, drank alcohol, and engaged in many promiscuous behaviours which probably need not be mentioned. So, being the diligent follower I was – I engaged in several of these activities as well without a second thought.

Now, this is when the “Surrey bubble” begins to form. You act in ways which in any other region of Canada would be considered extremely socially unacceptable. However, because everyone around you is the exact same way – it really does not matter. You are constantly exposed to a certain mentality of no requirement to excel, never being reprimanded for wrong-doings, and receiving everything on a “silver platter.” What I wish to do is pop this Surrey bubble. I urge parents to question why they are handing their seventeen year olds the keys to a brand new vehicle at no effort of their own. One must question why are their offspring not being taught the value of hard work and perseverance?

I do find it pertinent to state that it is understandable why our parents fell into this style of parenting without realizing the catastrophic dangers of it. They come from a generation of not only working to provide, but working to survive. All they wanted for their children was a better life than they had growing up. They came to Canada with the hopes and dreams of starting a new future, many with a completely blank slate. By being so afraid of having too little, they end up giving too much. This trend actually ends up socially handicapping their children rather raising them higher.

It is undeniable that there are many problems with adolescents and young adults in any region in the world. What makes the youth of Surrey differ from the rest of them, is that in this city there seems to be a misconception that problematic behaviours are the norm. This “Surrey bubble” can only be burst when one is exposed to different types of cultures and societies. We must make them aware that there is a whole world out there that is not covered with a puff of marijuana smoke. We must stress the dangers of behaviours like beginning to drink at a young age and taking recreational drugs. Being a part of this way of life may become a cycle which could ultimately end with amounting to be an individual who has a whole lot of nothing to offer society. It is our responsibility (the select few of us who broke away from this crippling psyche) to educate our youth that there are even places in the world where it is the norm to refrain from drinking or taking drugs all together. Eventually, this could spark a trend of it being socially acceptable to be someone who abstains from using any type of mind altering drug at all for his or her entire life.

It seems the youth of today all have something to prove.  Perhaps it is that they too fit in with the “ghetto” life. They wish to outshine one another with their trials and tribulations even though the majority of them are living in half a million dollar houses. One can blame social media, rap music, or glorification of this way of life through many other outlets – however we must realize that we too were at one point in this haze. We must utilize whatever critical thinking skills brought us out of it, and save the youth of Surrey. There is no ghetto here – only a youth that needs to be pulled away from the appeal of living without aspiration.

An Open Letter: For Those Concerned About Foreign Workers in Canada

A few weeks back we shared our story about the role foreign workers play in our company – and thanks to social media it exploded. A great deal of people responded with common themes in their reactions. Some offered thoughtful suggestions, while others spewed out “knee-jerk” responses which tend to be commonly triggered by anything having to do with the word ‘foreign.’ This letter addresses both those who are capable of unbiased critical thought and those who simply absorb information and only swim through life with the mainstream.

Many individuals expressed concern about foreigners replacing Canadians in the workforce. More specifically, people told us to simply hire locally accredited chefs in support of those who graduate from Canadian culinary schools. However, the only problem with this suggestion is that there is no Canadian training program which teaches the skills necessary to make high quality authentic Indian sweets and snacks. We are very much aware that this is a extremely simplistic solution for our conundrum. This is the exact reason that my sister in law thought it would be beneficial to enrol in a year long program at The Art Institute of Vancouver specializing in Bakery and Pastry Arts (the closest thing we could find to East Indian sweet making). It was upon graduating from this program that she quickly learned just how vastly different the procedures of cooking East Indian sweets are from Western or European confections and pastries. This is a family owned and operated business. Each of us contribute to handling everything from the kitchen work, customer service, to office work. If we could internally fulfill this position, wouldn’t that be our most optimal solution? Additionally, it takes years to reach the skill level of our sweet makers. As with any culturally related food which has gained popularity in the Western world – authenticity equals superiority. Is the thought of a cook straight from Italy preparing your pasta not more enticing than a “rookie” straight out of culinary school? There is a reason we are number one amongst hundreds of competitors. We offer a specialty item which can only be prepared by someone who is a true historical artisan. We are currently at the most vulnerable and vital time in the growth of our organization. This is our time to either flourish or falter in the international market – we can only accomplish this with the men who are the secret to our success. 

Next, I would like to explain a few key factors to those who made the suggestion that there are plenty of Indo-Canadians here who should be able to become sweet makers. There are indeed one million Indo-Canadians in Canada. This does sound like a rather large number until it is compared to the population of India – which is that of one BILLION people. Furthermore, the diaspora of Indo-Canadians is not a balanced representation of the population of India. India is an extremely diverse country with several different regions. Each region encompasses not only it’s own occupational sector but also many other differentiating factors such as; different languages and dialects, social status, cultural norms, religious beliefs, etc. The majority of people who immigrate to Canada from India are from areas in which they (or their ancestors) were either farmers, business owners, or industrial workers – NOT sweet makers. The reason for this being is the areas of India in which sweet makers reside are typically quite impoverished societies. Therefore, there are not a whole lot of people immigrating to Canada from there. Another crucial factor to consider is that in thirteen years of business we have not encountered a single individual who has approached us with the aspiration of becoming a master sweet maker, Indo-Canadian or not. We cannot create a training program without any potential trainees. 

To those saying this is a “back door” for permanently immigrating to Canada. Believe it or not, not everyone who comes to Canada actually desires to settle here permanently. Our sweet makers come here to provide a better future for their families back home. They apply their naturally gifted skill set to break out of the boundaries of their financial situations. Also, I find it pertinent to clarify that just because we are a ethnic minority, this does not mean that we must be looking for a way to bend immigration laws. We are a very “by the book” organization and do not encourage or condone any unlawful acts – immigration related or otherwise. In fact, this presumption is just flat out insulting. 

To the select few telling my family and I to go back to our country where we will surely find a vast abundance of sweet makers. I would like to say this IS my country. Although there are one million Indo-Canadians here, many of us are not foreigners. Surprisingly enough, we too are born and raised here – yet we still must be referred to as Indo-Canadians and not just as Canadians. I do not appreciate those who respond to this issue with such an air of superiority. Whether we became Canadian through birth or naturalization, we are all Canadians. We belong here just as much as anyone else does. Furthermore, even in India, these master pastry chefs are found few and far between and it is a very difficult and lengthy process to locate one who would be the perfect fit for our organization. If people can avidly tune in to television programs which revolve around becoming the “best chef” of a particular region then surely they can also understand the complexities involved in becoming a master of ones trade in this field as well.

Last but not least: To everyone who shared our story and took part in a national conversation about it. You all helped transform this from a one sided attempt to pit foreigners against Canadians into a critically thought out discussion. You helped reveal the fact that this issue is much more layered than it initially appeared. It is more than the consequences of companies abusing a system and effecting Canadian employment rates. Your huge response helped reveal the existence of many stereotypes and prejudices regarding not only foreigners but ethnic minorities as a whole. These underlying beliefs typically tend to be more subtle. They are usually only brought to the surface when emotionally charged issues (such as this one) are brought to the public’s attention. What I desire to be the “take home message” from this letter is my plea for people to always examine both sides of the coin. I urge you all to question each and every tidbit of knowledge or information you encounter – this letter included. 

Our Sweet Success Story in the Huffington Post BC

Our Sweet Success Story in the Huffington Post BC

Here’s a blog I wrote for Huffington Post BC outlining how my father in law’s company utilized the foreign worker program to rise to the top of the East Indian sweet industry. There was only so much I could write in the article so I will be writing a open letter as an addendum to address some of the commonly outlined concerns which were fired at me through various outlets in reaction to our conundrum. Although it exploded in social media and lead to many more public relation opportunities for our company, it received a whole lot of backlash as well. Friends, strangers, and family members all had an opinion. Interested to know, what’s yours?