IFFSA-Toronto brings dozens of films and filmmakers

Well-known Hindi film actor Manoj Bajpayee was in Toronto for the 2019 IFFSA-Toronto.
Well-known Hindi film actor Manoj Bajpayee was in Toronto for the screening of his film Bhonsle which was part of the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) – Toronto. Bajpayee participated in a Q&A with Jake Dheer, a member of IFFSA-Toronto advisory board. Photo by Toronto Desi Diaries.

If you’re a serious film buff, not the Bollywood song-and-dance kind, but of cinema whose characters and storyline end up connecting with you on a personal level, albeit through subtitles, then, the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) — Toronto, may be just what you need. The festival running until May 20 at multiple venues across the Greater Toronto Area, kicked-off Thursday, May 9.

Well-known actor Manoj Bajpayee (Satya) was among those in Toronto for the screening of his acclaimed film Bhonsle. The film follows the unusual friendship between Ganpath Bhonsle, a retired cop (Bajpayee), and a pair of Bihari migrants; a young woman and her brother.

Bajpayee—who also co-produced the project— talked about how the movie almost didn’t happen.

Migrants and migration are hot potato issues in India (across the globe too). At least half a dozen producers passed it because they feared the film’s sympathetic premise would step on the toes of some stridently anti-migrant political leaders.

When the shooting was finally underway in 2017, the Devashish Makhija directed film, ran out of money on the 10th day, forcing a desperate, but determined Bajpayee to reach out to an old producer friend of his and ask for $50,000. The friend came through. The rest is, Bhonsle.

“My basic nature (since childhood) is that I am very stubborn,” Bajpayee told the crowd. “If I decide to do something, I go for it whether I fail or succeed. I was passionate about this film (Bhonsle).”

“An artist is nothing without the vision of a director,” Bajpayee continued. “The director can have 25-years of experience or five or no experience at all. There was this director (Devashish Makhija) who had talent, a great script and a story to tell. This story is about a burning topic (migrants). And what’s unique about this story is that we’re talking about people who’re immigrants in their own country. Producers were wary of the subject and no one wanted to produce it…it was then I decided, no matter what this film will be made.”

Wikipedia pages are not exactly literary sources, but Bhonsle’s Wikipedia page is surprisingly well-written and detailed. It offers some never-published facts including one that says the director shot several scenes “in closed narrow spaces as Makhija wanted to ‘create a sense of suffocation.’”

Poster of Bhonsle, a Hindi film showcasing the issue of migrants
Bhonsle, a Hindi film which tackles the issue of migrants and migration through sensitivity, was screened at IFFSA-Toronto, May 9. The film’s lead actor Manoj Bajpayee was on hand for a talk.

Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light wows the audience in Toronto

Gurinder Chadha is imminently likable.

Dressed in a fiery tangerine and cream coloured salwar-kameez and sporting a cheery smile, Gurinder talked about her yet-to-be-released film, Blinded by the Light in Toronto recently.

The film was Inspired by a true story, based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir, Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll.

Gurinder took on the helm as a director. The screenplay duties were shared by Manzoor, Gurinder and Paul Mayeda Berges (Gurinder’s husband). The film, set to the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, captures the racial climate of the ‘80s in Britain.

Blinded by the Light is about how Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British teen of Pakistani descent, discovers Springsteen’s music, and in the process finds his own voice.

Well-known filmmaker Gurinder Chadha (R) was in Toronto for the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA)-Toronto. Here she’s in conversation with Jake Dheer, member of IFFSA’s advisory council and senior manager, OMNI TV. Photo Toronto Desi Diaries.

Gurinder’s strength as a director is unmatched when it comes to telling stories of the South Asian diaspora. In Bend it like Beckham, she wove a rich and deft narrative using two large strands: culture and soccer, and in Light, she replaces soccer with music.

“It seemed as if presently there’s a common thread (of racism) and a lot of divisions around the world,” Gurinder observed. “This film will hopefully bring us together as humans and show there are more things that connect us than those that divide us.”

Gurinder’s face lights up when she talked about how Springsteen chuckled during the film. When it ended, he hugged and kissed her on her cheek.

“He loved it,” she said. “He loved it because he knew it wasn’t about him…”

Blinded by the Light is slated for release on August 14 and will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The stage production of Bend it like Beckham, a musical, will make its North American debut in Toronto at the Bluma Apple Theatre, in downtown Toronto, from December 7 to 24.

For information on films screening during IFFSA-Toronto, visit here.

The May ’19 events calendar for South Asians in Toronto is packed with music, spirituality and more

  • Gulzarish is a show that will showcase the poetry of well-known Bollywood lyricist and filmmaker Gulzar. The show is happening, May 16 at the Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr. Toronto. Photo: Gulzarish.
  • IN5: Experium is an interactive and immersive exhibition featuring the Golden Temple. It’s installed at the Bramalea City Centre, 70 Peel Centre Dr. until June 16. Photo courtesy of IN5: Experium
  • Rhythm Rewritten with Jason Samuels and Seema Mehta featuring Emmy Award-wining tap-dancing phenomenon Jason Samuels Smith and acclaimed classical Indian kathak dancer Seema Mehta will take place at the Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr. Toronto at 8 p.m.
  • A sketch of a South Asian man wearing an orange turban

Toronto Desi Diaries is back!

Thank you for your patience.
ICYMI: This blog will regularly feature news, stories, and events about the desis aka South Asians of Toronto. Sit back, relax, grab a cup of piping hot tea and allow us to take you down the alleys of the city.
Are you interested in guest-blogging for us? Do you have an event or concert coming up? Drop us a line or two at Toronto.desidiaries@gmail.com. Oh, it might be a good idea to subscribe to the blog.                                                            

Thursday, May 2-5

Event: Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD

Details: This event is for all things to do with books, authors, workshops and more. The Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) will kick-off in Brampton (across multiple venues). This event celebrates diversity in literature by shining the spotlight on authors of colour. There are more than 30 unique sessions happening at FOLD.
Contact: For tickets and schedule, visit here

Saturday, May 4

Event: Self-love & Self-care Conference

Details: Womxn Offering Wisdom (WOW) is inviting South Asian girls/women between the ages of 12 – 21 to join them for a day of workshops, discussions, activities, networking and more. The event will take place at Bill Hogarth Secondary School, 100 Donald Sim Ave. Markham, L6B 0R1 at 9 a.m.
Contact: wowyorkregion@gmail.com for tickets and information

May 9-20

Event: International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA)

Details: This 12-day film festival will showcase predominantly South Asian films and regional cinema including short films, documentaries, and music films. It takes place at multiple locations/cities across the GTA.
Contact: For itinerary/schedule, etc. visit here

Saturday, May 11

Event: Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega

Details: This charity musical concert benefitting Creating Hopes Canada will take place Century Gardens Recreation Centre, 340 Vodden St. E. in Brampton at 5:30 p.m. The evening will pay tribute to well-known music composers O.P. Nayyar and Shankar- Jaikishan. Cost of tickets is $20/person.
Contact: For tickets

Thursday, May 16

Event: Rhythm Rewritten with Jason Samuels and Seema Mehta

Details: This captivating new cross-art form, featuring Emmy Award-winning tap-dancing phenomenon Jason Samuels Smith and acclaimed classical Indian kathak dancer Seema Mehta will take place at the Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr. Toronto at 8 p.m.
Contact: For tickets and more visit here

Wednesday, May 22

Event: Firangi Rang Barangi with Artist Meera Sethi

Details: Meera Sethi, a contemporary artist, who works in a variety of mediums explores the relationship between identity, dress, and hybridity, especially in relation to South Asian-Canadian histories and communities. She will speak at the Richmond Hill Public Library, Room A (second floor), 1 Atkinson St. Richmond Hill, ON L4C 0H5, at 7 p.m.
Contact: For more information/register, visit here

Sunday, May 26

Event: SOCH

Details: SOCH, a grassroots mental health initiative aimed at empowering the community of Brampton with mental health knowledge and awareness, will be hosting its monthly workshop on mental health at the Cyril Clark Library Theatre, 20 Loafers Lake Ln. from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Contact: SOCH on Facebook

Friday, May 31

Event: Gulzarish

Details: Aga Khan Museum this May. Gulzarish, an artistic display of soulful poetry and captivating music of renowned lyricist and film director Gulzar is happening at the Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr. at 7 p.m.  The unique combination of music, drama, and dance will be accompanied by superb narration. The event has been organized by Indian Women In Canada (iWINC).
Contact: Mini (416-727-9550) or Taran (647-887-2533)

April 16 – June 16

Event: IN5 Experium: The Golden Temple

The Ek Onkar symbol. This symbol represents the core of Sikkism. An interactive exhibit of the Golden Temple is here in Brampton until June 16, 2019.
The IN5- Experium, an interactive, one-of-a-kind exhibit presently running at the Bramalea City Centre, 25 Peel Centre Dr., will take the viewer on a tour of the Golden Temple and introduce them to the core tenets of the Sikh philosophy. The exhibit will run until June 16. Photo courtesy INS: Experium

Details: This immersive, multi-media exhibit uses multiple projection screens and music to create a world of make-belief, giving the viewer an immersive experience on Amritsar-located Golden Temple and the core tenets of Sikh philosophy. It’s currently showing at the Bramalea City Centre, 70 Peel Centre Dr. in Brampton.
Contact: For more information, visit here

Merry Christmas Toronto Desis. Here’s a list of Dec. ’18 events happening in your city


Toronto Desi Diaries wishes you all a Merry Christmas and a dhamaka year ahead. Check out these Dec. 2018 events curated just for you.

A photo of a blue autorickshaw

Gerrard India Bazaar will be hosting a walking/food-tasting tour, Saturday, Dec. 22.

Saturday, Dec. 22


Event: Gerrard India Bazaar Walking and Food Tour

Details: This one-hour tour will start at 5:30 p.m. outside the Dollar Tree entrance doors near Coxwell and Gerrard Streets in the neighbourhood known as “Little India.” The walkers will get fascinating insights about the area’s history as they stroll down the lanes dotted with storefronts displaying colourful items such as clothing, jewelry, art, religious artifacts and more. The tour will also include a sampling of Indian and Pakistani food.
Contact: For more information visit here 

Monday, Dec. 24

Event: AR Rahman: A spiritual Music Experience

Details: Indian maestro AR Rahman’s name is synonymous with numerous chartbusters but what many people don’t know is that the legendary singer/composer has a spiritual side. This will be at the forefront at the Metro Convention Centre, 222 Bremner Blvd. at 5:3- p.m. The concert will also feature Javed Ali. The audience will be able to listen to Sufi compositions and Bollywood hits such as “Khwaja mere Khawaja, maula and others.
Contact: For tickets visit here

“The philosophy and teachings of Sufis brought a change in my life,” Note Rahman. “It has influenced my music. It has made me look at my inner self and meaning of my existence in more depth.”


Tuesday, Dec. 25

Event: My Jolly Bolly Christmas

Details: Once you have unwrapped the presents and tucked into a hearty lunch, afterward, why not head to 866 Bloor St. W. at 7 p.m. to celebrate, “My Jolly Bolly Christmas” with The MAD Band as they belt out some cheery Bollywood and Christmas classics, then laugh as Zain Ali, a standup comic performs his sketches, all this while enjoying delicious food and drinks.
Contact: For more details visit here.

Thursday, Dec.27

Event: One Mic Nights

Details: This event hosted by Broadening Horizons is happening at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. in Brampton at 7 p.m. It will feature Brampton’s dynamic artists, musicians, changemakers and trendsetters. The evening will feature hard rock, hip-hop, R&B and more.
Contact: For tickets and other information, visit here.

Monday, Dec. 31

Event: PGA International: NYE 2019

Details: You may want to head to Bovaird Banquet Hall, 190 Bovaird Dr. W. for this New Year bash by PGA International.
Contact: For tickets and other information here.

**There are several NYE happening in and around the GTA*** it wasn’t possible to list them all here.


This Toronto love story has Farah the Jatti yearning for her Jatt


This blog post has two stories of exceptional Toronto desis.

A snow-woman created to look like a South-Asian bride

This desi snow-woman created by Jassu Kingra, 19, Daljit Warraich, Navi, 15, and Bini, 9, created quite a stir on social media on account of the unorthodox take on Frosty the Snowman. Photo: Jassu Kingra (@jamsbyjassuk)

It’s winter and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has had some snow activity, including one a few weeks ago when Ma Nature dumped several centimetres of white stuff on unsuspecting folks, Remember that one? Creativity is when you take the raw ingredients nature throws at you and you turn it into a viral work of art.

Everyone, meet, Farah the Jatti aka Saddi Juliet, snowwoman extraordinaire.

Rotund Saddi Juliet was decked in wedding finery. She wore an eye-catching crimson dupatta, accessorized with heavy gold (fake, obviously) jewelry, including a necklace, earrings, and maang (forehead) tikka and even fake eyelashes.

Her creators? A couple of enterprising Brampton teens– Jassu Kingra, 19, Daljit Warraich Navi, 15, and Bini, 9.

It was Daljit’s first winter in Canada. She wanted to stack the packed snow into a winter-tradition—a snowman so that she could show off to her relatives in India. Except, the empowered girls decided Frosty the Snowman was passé.

There’s a hint of mystery to the whole exercise that will only likely be revealed when Brampton gets another substantial showering of snow (at least enough to build, I presume a desi “Jatti” a male counterpart). We can’t wait.

The desi snow-woman literally broke Twitter (84,000 tweeps “liked” her and hundreds of others showed love on Instagram and Reddit).

Art is art, even when it’s fleeting.

Here’s to the girls who warmed the hearts of everyone with their cool creation.


A Mother’s Love: This cookbook has South Asian recipes with a flavourful twist

Jasmine Dayal, Toronto lawyer and cookbook author

Jasmine Dayal, a Toronto lawyer’s recently published a cookbook, JD In the Kitchen: Indian Appetizers and Chutneys features several South Asian recipes with East African flavours.
Photo submitted by Jasmine Dayal

Jasmine Dayal, I imagine, is always happy to swap the black robes—she wears to court as a lawyer— for an apron.

In her book, JD In the Kitchen: Indian Appetizers and Chutneys, released some months ago, Jasmine shares Indian appetizers with East African influences.

There are several familiar and some unfamiliar starters and entrees such as samosas, spicy crepes, beet and arvi bhajias, and others.

“As an experienced home cook, I have always loved collaborating in the kitchen with my mother, Shan,” Jasmine admits. “My mother is a creative and inspiring cook
and I learned my way around the kitchen by looking over her shoulder. It was a no-brainer to join forces with her to produce my first cookbook that reveals many of our family recipes. I cannot wait for everyone to get a taste of all the flavourful and delectable meals I grew up eating.”

Jasmine is also the founder of a lifestyle website JD in the Kitchen. Here you can check out recipes, learn about the spices that make Indian cooking bold and flavourful, and browse through an online store where you can buy her three books, yes, she has three of them, and some of the fresh spices she uses in her recipes.

A photo of skewer of kababs.

Jasmine Dayal’s cookbook: JD In the Kitchen: Indian Appetizers and Chutneys, features several appetizers and starters with East African flavours. These skewers of Ismaili Bhajia made with chickpea flour, potatoes, and other spices are a true definition of comfort food. Photo supplied by Jasmine Dayal.

JD in the Kitchen: Indian Appetizers and Chutneys, is a slim 81-page cookbook with recipes that are not elaborate. They are ideal for both novices as well as aspiring cooks.

Jasmine started JD In the Kitchen website, as a portal to shares her love for cooking. Despite juggling a hectic schedule, it appears Jasmine carves time to make meals for her family. What’s more, she’s generous enough to share the recipes.

Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Jasmine’s career as an articling student started in 2005 at Fireman Wolfe LLP. She became an associate at the same firm and is now a partner in the firm that now carries her name – Jasmine Daya & Co., Impressive no?

JD In the Kitchen: Indian Appetizers and Chutneys is now available on Amazon and on her website.

A bowl of green chutney

This green chutney prepared with cilantro and green chilies is a perfect dance partner to almost all appetizers. Toronto lawyer, mom, and cooking enthusiast Jasmine Dayal creates several recipes in her just-published cookbook, JD In the Kitchen: Indian Appetizers and Chutneys. Photo supplied by Jasmine Dayal.

Here’s the recipe for the Ismaili Bhajia (featured above)


  • 1 cup gram flour (chickpea flour)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (coriander leaves)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2-3 teaspoons of green chili puree
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch round slices
  • Oil for deep frying


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the potatoes and oil to create a smooth batter.
  2. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Note: There should be enough oil for the potato slice to sink to the bottom and become submerged.
  3. Take one potato slice at a time, dip it into the chickpea batter, coat well and then place it gently into the oil. Cook for about a minute and then flip it to cook the other side.
  4. Remove, place the Bhajia on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
  5. Enjoy it with green chutney (recipe in Jasmine’s book).

Wishing you a very Happy Diwali, Toronto!


A copper idol of Goddess Lakshmi in midst of red flowers

Hindus worldwide will celebrate Diwali on Nov. 7. The festival is marked by prayers to Goddess Lakshmi.

Friday, Nov. 2

Event: Diwali Dhamaka

Details: Celebrate Diwali Dhamaka with the KC Group. Celebrations are happening at the Bombay Palace, 200 Advance Blvd. in Brampton at 6 p.m.
Contact: For tickets to Diwali Dhamaka visit here

Saturday, Nov. 3

Event: Diwali Dance Night

Details: Head to the party room at the Greenbriar Recreation Centre, 1100 Central Park Dr. at 7:45 p.m. Organizers are promising music, food, and fun to celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Contact: For more information visit here

Event: Hindu Heritage Month Celebrations

Details: November is Hindu Heritage Month. Commemorate the month at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd. on Saturday, Nov. 3.
Contact: For more details visit here

Event: Anokhi Media anniversary event

Details: Anokhi Media will celebrate its 15th anniversary in a two-day event taking place at the Sheraton Centre, Toronto Hotel at 123 Queen St. W. on Saturday, Nov. 3.
Contact: For more information visit here

Friday, Nov. 9

Event: Standup Comedy Live

Details: Indian comics Rahul Subramanian and Kunal Kamra will perform at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, John Bassett Theatre, 255 Front St. W. Toronto at 7 p.m.
Contact: For tickets visit here

Saturday, Nov. 17


Hindus and Sikhs in Toronto will celebrate the festival of lights, Diwali, Nov.7.

Event: Music Festival

Details: The Vraj Canada Intercultural Music Festival will celebrate Canada’s multiculturalism through performances by several artists. The event will take place at the Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr. Toronto at 6:30 p.m.
Contact: For tickets and more visit here

Sunday, Nov. 18

Event: The Kishore Kaka Show

Details: Kishore Kaka aka Smit Pandya is an actor, radio jockey, comic and YouTube sensation with more than 100,000 subscribers. The well-known standup will be performing at the SVBF, 80 Brydon Dr. Etobicoke at 6 p.m. Sanjay Raval is the special guest.
Contact: For tickets and more visit here

Event: SOCH workshop

Details: Supporting Our Community’s Health (SOCH) an initiative aimed at educating and creating awareness about mental health will be hosting its workshop, “Addictions- A Rising Concern in the South Asian Community,” at the Cyril Clark Library (20 Loafers Lake Ln.) in Brampton at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18
Contact: For more details visit here

Wednesday, Nov. 28

Event: Mental health conference

Details: Supporting the Mental Health of South Asian Youth and Families: Navigating Intergenerational Challenges within the South Asian Community, a one-day conference will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the YWCA, 87 Elm St.
Contact: For more information visit The Collaborative for South Asian Mental Health

All month-long

Event: Plays/workshops

Details: Under Artistic Director Ravi Jain, Managing Director Owais Lightwala and Executive Producer Kelly Read, Why Not Theatre presents a season of award-winning, pioneering, and thought-provoking theatre, created in Canada and around the world, for 2018/19.

In November, Mouthpiece will begin the final leg of its international tour. The award-winning play recently premiered as a feature film at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the 2018/19 theatre tour begins in Halifax and ends in Berkeley, CA!
November sees a new incarnation of Like Mother, Like Daughter, a funny and emotional show where real mothers and daughters create and perform it, using their own lives and stories in an improvised format. Originally conceived in Montreal by Why Not Theatre and Complicité London UK, Like Mother, Like Daughter is being produced all over the world with local mothers and daughters. There will be eight performances of Like Mother, Like Daughter at the 918 Bathurst Centre, each one culminating in a communal meal, presented by the Koffler Centre of the Arts.

For more information visit Whynot Theatre, visit here.



Thanks to SOCH, South Asians in Toronto, are now talking about their mental health


First off, apologies to Toronto Desi Diaries readers, for my inconsistent posts lately.

I was juggling at least half-a-dozen projects and these blurred my priorities and tested my resilience. Suffice to say, I did not emerge from it all unscathed. I am emotionally exhausted.

Which brings me to the conversation I had with a remarkable woman a few months ago.

Photo of Jasmeet Chagger and Maneet Chahal, two Brampton nurses who co-founded SOCH, a mental health initiative for South Asians in Toronto.

Maneet Chahal, 28, (L) seen here with her best friend Jasmeet Chagger, 28. The two nurses co-founded SOCH (Supporting our Community’s Health), an initiative to educate South Asians in the GTA about the resources and mental health system. Photo courtesy SOCH.

Jasmeet Chagger, 28, is a nurse working with the Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin’s Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team.

In 2015, Jasmeet and Maneet Chahal, 28, a nurse as well, started SOCH (Supporting our Community’s Health), an initiative to educate the South Asian community in the GTA about mental health.

Jasmeet and I talked about self-care, and how it was important for folks— caught in the frenzy of life—to take time to recharge, refuel and reset their emotional wellbeing.

“SOCH has a lot to do with our passion for mental health,” Jasmeet told Toronto Desi Diaries. “When Maneet and I work on SOCH stuff, it doesn’t feel like we are working. It’s something that we really want to do. What SOCH has taught us was; we preach self-care but we need to practice it ourselves. So, in a sense, it has been a learning curve for both of us…”

Let’s rewind this story and start from the beginning, shall we?

SOCH: Two nurses/BFFS wearing many hats

“Soch” in Hindi and Punjabi means, “thought.” An apt name for a mental health initiative that has strived to tirelessly untangle complex layers about mental wellbeing to the South Asians in Toronto by demystifying terms such as counselling, psychology, depression, physical health and its connection to mental health and more.

The two advocates—who live in Brampton—carve time from their hectic life to host workshops and events while managing full-time jobs and studying for their master’s degrees.

Maneet and Jasmeet, who are childhood BFFs, said SOCH was borne from the realization that even after being in the system for five, 10 or more years, many South Asians had no clue about the resources available to them or tools they needed to manage their symptoms. Worse still, there was no culturally relevant information available to family members, who helplessly watched their loved ones suffer.

“SOCH started because growing up both Maneet and I have seen mental health issues within our families and friends,” Jasmeet explained. “As teens and young adults, we struggled on how we could help people navigate the system. And when we became nurses, we thought about how we could help both individuals and families.”

“We wanted to use our knowledge to educate the community on the basics: what’s the difference between mental health and mental illness, how do you access the system? How can you get help? etc.”

The Brampton duo were the proud recipients of the Brampton Board of Trades’ 40 Under 40 for 2018 for their work.

Jasmeet Chagger and Maneet Chahal stand next to the signage.

In this photo, Maneet Chahal, 28, and Jasmeet Chagger, 28, (R) co-founders of SOCH celebrate Maneet getting a nursing research award for her thesis. SOCH (Supporting our Community’s Health)is an initiative that educates South Asians in the Greater Toronto Area about mental health through workshops and events. Photo courtesy SOCH.

So, what does SOCH do?

SOCH hosts monthly workshops in Punjabi at community centres and Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Brampton and surrounding areas.

When they first launched, they wanted the topics to resonate with the South Asians as well as the general population. With some help from LAB-B co-founder Harman Grewal, Maneet and Jasmeet found a physical address (LAB-B) from which they could host the information sessions.

The workshops are designed to be more facilitator- style than lectures.

In Feb. 2017, SOCH did its first South Asian-focused event and took the conversation into the Gurudwaras. Since then, the sessions are held in Punjabi/Hindi.

“Instead of presenting a deck, we try and get the audience engaged by asking questions, listening or having them discuss a topic or issue amongst themselves first and we fill in the gaps,” Maneet explained.

  • SOCH’s main mandate is to offer linguistically and culturally-appropriate information.
  • SOCH acts as a bridge or conduit connecting and educating individuals from the South Asian community to information and resources available in the community.
  • More importantly, SOCH has been instrumental in getting people (South Asians) to openly talk about mental health.

 “There’s a negative connotation with mental health,” Maneet explained. “Through SOCH we are trying to promote that everyone has a mental health and you can take steps to take care of your mental health and by practicing self-care, people can prevent themselves from reaching the rock-bottom.”

Some takeaways

Maneet and Jasmeet shared a few insights they had learned as mental health advocates.

“Change takes time and it’s not going to happen overnight,” Jasmeet said. “We noticed, the community does want to talk about mental health. For example, we did a One Brave Night initiative where we partnered with the Sikh Heritage Museum. We had over 100 South Asians. People were telling their stories, crying and supporting each other. The key thing to remember is people do want to talk about mental health, they just need a platform.”

One Brave Night, an initiative by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) happens during April. Participants stay up all night to experience what someone with mental health challenges is going through.