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

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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)

Ingredients:

  • 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

Method

  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).
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Wait, it’s only September, but how is it that there’s Garba in Toronto already?

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garba dance

Saturday, Sept. 1

Event: Rahat Fateh Ali Concert

Details: Paramount (formerly Hershey) Centre, 5500 Rose Cherry Pl. Mississauga is the place to be with well-known singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. The Pakistani singer (nephew of Nusrat Ali Fateh and son of Farrukh Fateh Ali) is known for several chartbusters such as Jag Ghoomeya, Tere mast mast do naain and more. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: For tickets to Rahat Fateh Ali concert, visit here.

Sunday, Sept. 2

Event: Krishna Janmashtami Festival

Details: Celebrate Lord Krishna’s birthday at the Shree Jagannath Temple, 9893 Torbram Rd. Brampton at 6 p.m.
Contact: For more details on Janmashtami, visit here.

Sunday, Sept. 9

Event: Seerat Fashion Show + Expo

Details: A global fashion show + expo featuring Indian as well as international designers is taking place at the Galaxy Grand Convention Centre, 200 Advance Blvd. in Brampton from noon to 6 p.m. Highlight will be a special ramp walk endearing bijis (Grandmas) will walk with their granddaughters in threads by Dinesh Ramsay, Anshul Mathur, Kesaj Couture and more. The event is by Laadliyah.
Contact: For tickets to Seerat, visit here.

Saturday, Sept. 15

Event: SNA ONAM Celebrations

Details: Sree Narayana Association (SNA) Toronto will be hosting its annual multicultural event to support Kerala Relief Fund. Festivities will take place at Chinguacousy Secondary School, 1370 Williams Pkwy. At 5 p.m.
Contact: For tickets and more visit here.

Event: 6th Annual Arohi Festival

Details: Malhaar Group Toronto is hosting an evening of classical music and dance at 4 p.m. at the Salvation Army Meadowlands, 187 Church Rd. Ancaster.
Contact: For more details on the Arohi Festival, visit here

Sunday, Sept. 16

Event: Gujarati Jalso

Details: Swar Sadhana is hosting a jalso at Castlebrooke Secondary School, 10 Gardenbrooke trail, Brampton at 5 p.m. The event will feature Gujarati folk music, sugam sangeet as well as Navratri/Dandiya.
Contact: For tickets to the jalso, visit here

Saturday, Sept. 22

Event: Garba Dhamaal 2018

Details: Sur Prem Entertainers are taking over Brampton Soccer Centre, 1495 Sandalwood Pkwy. E. starting at 7:30 p.m. for the Garbaa Dhamaal 2018.
Contact: For tickets to the Garba Dhamaal, visit here.

Wednesday, Sept. 26

Event: South Asian Speed Dating

Details: Single in the City is hosting a speed dating event for South Asians at the Duke of Somerset, 655 Bay St. Toronto at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: For tickets and other information about the South Asian Speed Dating, visit here.

Sunday, Sept. 30

Event: Must Be Kismet wedding show

Details: Must Be Kismet, a South Asian wedding show is happening at the Universal EventSpace, 6250 Hwy. 7 in Vaughan from noon to 6 p.m.
Contact: For details about the wedding show, visit here.

The jazzed version of Sundar Viswanathan’s life is just as impressive

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Indo-jazz musician Sundar Viswanathan can chart the milestones of his illustrious career through his musical milieu. Supplied photo

A lot of folks– especially those within the desi diaspora– will identify with this story about identity crisis.

It’s about how “Sam” reconnected with his roots as “Sundar.” Music helped.

As young boy growing up in Sudbury Ont., a small mining town, Dr. Sundar Viswanathan, an Indo- jazz artist/composer (saxophone, flute) and a professor at York University, naively figured, Sam would have a better chance of fitting at school.

The shedding of his South Indian name did not however spare him from racism. Luckily for him, he had music.

“Music was an escape for me in high school,” he said adding he grew up listening, not just to western pop and rock, but also Bollywood and Kollywood (Tamil) music. “I was very introverted and music was my way of expressing myself.”

Sundar’s dad (Parameswara), also a professor, was a staunch Gandhian who believed in “turning-the-other-cheek.” He told his children to deal with discrimination and ignorance by being non-confrontational. Since retaliation wasn’t an option, the Viswanathan children, turned to their band and blasted music from the basement to alleviate some of the anger and angst of being picked on at school.

Parameswara and Shantha (Sundar’s mom) tried to nudge their son towards a career in medicine. When he remained adamant about music, they accepted his choice. In fact, had his dad not intervened at a critical moment in Sundar’s life, his musical aspirations would have been crushed by rejection.

Second chances:

As high school neared to an end, Sundar diligently create demo tapes and mailed them to prospective universities. Then he waited.

“I thought I was good, but I really wasn’t,” he said explaining he got rejected from all the schools.

One school- Wilfrid Laurier hadn’t gotten back, so a tiny flicker of hope remained. The music professor that heard the tape almost said a ‘no,’ but he decided to invite the wannabe composer for an audition.

Sundar flunked the test.

His dad–who had accompanied him to Wilfrid– realized rejection would crush his son, so, he sat down with the dean and pleaded with him to give his son a chance. The dean agreed.

Imagine how all our lives would be without those “second chances.”

For Sundar, the “yes” was a blessing. He proved to be a great student with impeccable work ethic. He excelled. By the end of his BA, he had several awards lined up on the mantle.

“That was it,” he recalled. “I was a musician. I went to the school for composition, not for performance, but I ended up playing so much classical saxophone that my teacher told me to learn jazz… The jazz thing just hit me…”

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Indo-jazz musician Sundar Viswanathan (third from left) seen here with his musical soul mates, members of Avataar

My name is Sundar

The undergrad degree led to a masters and finally a PhD in 2004.

Sundar, who grew up loving all sorts of music, by now felt a bit partial to jazz.

It was a pivotal time for a man who understood music, but was confused about his own identity.

“There was a bit of an inferiority thing that happened (during high school) because of all the racism,” he said. “At that time, I convinced myself, I am not brown, I am Canadian. While doing my MA in Boston, I took several conservatory courses (in non-western music), Turkish maquam and was influenced by Brazilian and African music. That’s when the shift slowly began. I kept hearing how artists like John Coltrane and The Beatles loved what was coming out of India and I realized, I should be proud of where am I from.”

One day it hit him: life’s not about fitting in, but it’s about being true to oneself.

Comfortable in his own skin today, the jazz artist who wears his distinctly Indian name proudly performs in Canada and around the world with his band–Avataar. The motley group includes several Juno-award winning musicians: Felicity Williams (vocals), Ravi Naimpally (tabla), Michael Occhipinti (guitar), Justin Gray (bass) and Giampaolo Scatozza (drums).

Sundar recently launched his third album Petal.

The impermanent truth

With Petal, Sundar dives into the fathoms of spirituality and surfaces with notes that appear to be distilled from his musical muses: Brazilian, jungle, Indian classical and jazz. Besides members of Avtaar, Petal showcases the artistry of award-winning pianist Robi Botos and acclaimed Hindustani singer Samidha Joglekar.

“I write very intuitively,” he says. “I’ll hear a simple melody in my head, then sing into a tape recorder, expand it on the piano. I think cinematically in big pictures, in landscapes. I feel out the nuances and colours in a way that’s really distinct from more academic practice.”

The album signals Sundar’s metamorphosis as a musician connected with the cosmos through spirituality.

“This album tells a story,” he said adding Petal was sponsored by the Ontario Arts Council. “For me, it was about connecting with my music and understanding the different threads that are inter-connected. My goal is not to entertain people. I would like to think, this album is more than music, it’s a message…”

Like the petals of a flower that appear resplendent, only to disappear into ether, Sundar says he now understands the truth: every moment is part of our journey, our reckoning.