Windy Cities

Wow, what a crazy week it’s been. Feels like nonstop from Wednesday till now. On Wednesday evening, I went to Toronto (road trip with my neighbour) for a Salesforce conference. The conference took place at the Beanfield Centre all day Thurday. It was pretty good – I networked, learned about how the software is used in universities, went to a session on Salesforce in healthcare, and learned a bit about their Artificial Intelligence module called Einstein. But I must say that the highlight of the day was winning Cody the Bear, a plush stuffed animal that I had to wait in line for 45 minutes for (!!), and also successfully complete a training module.


Thursday night I went to Scaddabush restaurant with my brother, and we were both very impressed by the quality of food. I had an amazingly yummy peach & mango belini that looked like a birthday cake.

Friday morning I went to my old-time favourite coffee shop, Balzac’s at Yonge & Bloor, and then spent some time reading at the Reference Library. It felt so good to be back in that place of peace and wisdom, leafing through new finds, and reading a chapter from one of my favourite books, “The Great Work of Your Life” by Stephen Cope. (a must-read if you haven’t read it already).

That afternoon I met up with my friend Cybele and we went to the OCAD design fair (showcasing student projects and artwork) and hung out in park… it was the perfect day to bask in the sun, lounge in the playground, and stroll through the park.  Around 5 PM we went to grab some nachos at Margarita’s on Baldwin, and that’s when the fun began. The wind picked up pace, objects started flying about, trees started to sway violently, and people started to get frantic. We walked towards Queen’s Park, feeling as though we were going to be blown away! We came across one tree that had fallen down onto the street, blocking traffic, and taking a hydro line with it. Luckily someone was already calling the police as we passed by, so we continued on.

Fallen tree & hydro line, Henry St.

We met up with Jasmine at Innis Town Hall, and watched the Finnish documentary “Entrepreneur”, about two very different businesses that are trying to scale up and become successful. One sells meat from a truck, and the other sells a popular meat replacement product which they call “pulled oats”.  We were not impressed at all (it was so slow moving and not at all engaging). After the movie, Cybele headed home, and Jasmine and I went back to her place for a fun evening getting sushi (late celebration of her bday!), watching movies, and catching up.

Saturday I went for a walk by the harbourfront and then caught my train home from Union. I met an amazing woman from Lebanon and we chatted for a lot of the trip. My parents and neighbour picked me up, and a few hours later we went to the International Fair at a local church, where we were dazzled by amazing entertainment, representing many different cultures, and sampled delicious food from across the globe.

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My favourite ladies, heading off to the International Fair

Today was Easwaramma Day at the Sai Centre, celebrating the birthday of Sathya Sai Baba’s mother. We got home in the afternoon and were totally spent!!

Hope you all had a wonderful week/weekend too!

You Can Do It

Monday’s walk seems so long ago. I think it’s week 29, which means I’m past the half-way mark for the year! [Update: It was actually week 24, so not quite halfway]. I finally finished reading The Underground Girls of Kabul, one of the best books I’ve ever read. Roshni stayed over for the weekend, and we had a big breakfast before I set off. I walked up University and past the rose bushes near Queen’s Park. What a lovely scent! I continued through the MARS centre and up Yonge and eventualy made it to the reference library where I ran into Robin. Robin facilitated my Laughing Like Crazy stand-up comedy group. She spent three months with us, helping us craft jokes and providing feedback and was the MC the night of the showcase. She is a feisty spirit and always has a smile on her face.

Me and Robin at the Toronto Reference Library

Then I went to Balzac’s where I tried to get some work on done on my writing assignment while I waited for Roshni. This week’s assignment was to write something light-hearted, which was a refreshing change from all the serious stories we’d been writing. I wrote about my experience rock-climbing in Thailand off the cliffs of Krabi with Amy and Neesha. I was scared to go to the top but with the encouragement of our little Thai instructor (“You can do it!!” I finally made it there).

Roshni came and showed me her new shoes that she’d bought from the Bay. She couldn’t stay long since she had a flight to catch, but there was enough time for a picture!

Me and Roshni at Balzac’s, Bloor & Yonge

I continued to work and overheard a conversation nearby that a woman was having with a German couple who were in town visiting. She told them that they absolutely had to check out the Swaminarayan Mandir, and that it was built from marble imported from Italy. They seemed intrigued, so I joined in the conversation and mentioned that my sister had gotten married there and showed them one of the most stunning pics from the wedding. The woman said “It is a beautiful temple, but an even more beautiful couple”.  How true! On my other side was a conversation between a young man and woman who were networking and discussing jobs in consulting. That’s what I love about the long table at Balzac’s – it is so easy to make friends and join in conversations.

In the evening I went to see Emma Straub speak at the Bluma Appel Salon. She is the author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers, which I haven’t read, but I think I might now that I’ve seen her speak. She was so funny and light-hearted, and brilliant too. She spoke about how she had an obsession with a couple who lived near her, and her obsession with them led her to write her book. I thought about my own obsessions and how they inspire my writing. She also talked about her writing process, and now that she has two kids and is very busy, she must write each day whenever she has a chance, there is no ‘waiting for the muse’ so to speak. I loved the story she shared about how hard it was to publish a book – for years she had tried to publish a novel and had gotten rejected every time, and then one day out of the blue when she was selling merchandise, somebody just came up to her and asked if she wanted to publish a novel. She had to go home and put together a manuscript, and it was a collection of short stories. She said she is so grateful that it’s out there because it never should’ve even existed. After the talk, I debated whether to buy her book but it was hardcover and pretty expensive so I think I’ll just get it at the library.

Emma Straub, Toronto Reference Library

On the way home I passed by this poster at Nathan Philips Square. It reminded me of a movie I watched recently with Roshni called “Arranged” about a friendship between a Muslim woman and an Orthodox Jewish woman who are both teachers and are struggling with racism as well as the pressures of getting married. It was a pretty ridiculous movie only because it seemed unrealistic for Brooklyn to have such ignorance where people are startled at the mere sight of a Muslim woman, but who knows. This poster was put out by OCASI, which is the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. I wonder if posters like these work – either way it caught my attention!


In My Heart Is A Song

It’s 11:14 PM and I’m finally sitting down to write. What a day! It started off much different than usual. My friend Terrence is a videographer and he wants to make short videos profiling people, that show what it’s like to be you – what is it like to walk a day in your shoes? So he asked if he could follow me around all day, and see what it’s like to live a day in the life of Mita. All day long it felt like there were paparazzi following me! I guess this is what celebrities feel like. Here is a pic of Gosia and Terrence at the reference library:


He also wanted me to do a voice-over for the video, so I picked a book off my shelf called “when you first called me radha”. It’s a book of poetry written by Swami Sivananda Radha, a woman from Germany who suffered great loss and then became enlightened. She devoted the rest of her life to God, yoga, and the divine. I found a poem that resonated with me called “In My Heart There Is A Song” – here is a portion of it:

My song answers Your flute,
Your call to come home
yet I have been a truant
wandering over the world
in search of You

Now Your maya has lost its
power over me
the pain of your teasing
is ended.
I am at the horizon waiting
for Your chariot to take me home

I walked my usual route, up University Avenue and stopped at the Starbucks where Gosia and Terrence took some footage. Then I continued on to my creative writing class. It was the last one! Kelli was away sick so there was a lovely woman, Sandra Campbell, filling in for her. We learned about the publishing process – what it takes to get your work published, and not to be disheartened by rejection. She said that learning how to live with rejection is an art that every writer must deal with. She had an encouraging message at the end of the class – that every person’s creative self is unique; it’s like a thumbprint. There is no one else like you, no one else that can offer to the world what you have to offer.

Following class, I stopped at the ROM gift store and saw a beautiful display of Indian film art and photography (picture above). Then I went to Balzac’s where I tried to do some work on my project management assignment. I’m taking Leading Projects in Organizations at U of T, and we have a presentation coming up on how to establish a PMO in your organization. Our group’s company is called Transform-A-Care, and it is a healthcare consulting company that works with healthcare providers to implement electronic solutions that improve efficiency and quality of care. Very similar to what I was doing in my old life. (soon to become new life I think?!).

While I was there I read an article in The Star about a woman from Bangladesh who was a victim of an acid attack. However this attack was even more gruesome than usual – her husband tricked her into drinking a cup full of acid, which she thought was water. It completely destroyed her esophagus and almost destroyed her voice. Because of a visit by a Canadian plastic surgeon, she has been given some hope in getting the help that she needs – the surgeons would remove part of her stomach and reconstruct her esophagus and voice box. “There are only a handful of experts who can do this kind of operation in the world and they happen to be in Toronto,” said Dr. Toni Zhong, who was on a medical mission in Dhaka to help women with severe burn injuries.

In the evening I went to see historian Margaret Macmillan speak at the Bluma Appel Salon. She was the keynote speaker for the annual Bluma Lecture. I somehow managed to sneak in even though I came late and didn’t have a ticket. I felt really honoured to be there. She is a phenomenal speaker, humorous, and insightful. She has written many books, including Women of the Raj, which I happen to have – I found it in the summer at a book sale at Victoria College. This is me after the lecture:

I went to Chapters after and then began what seemed like a long walk home. I love walking through Nathan Philips Square at night. Tonight it was deserted – no skaters, no music – I felt like I was the only one there and it was beautiful.


Wake Me Up Out Of My Slumber

11:48 PM. It was a bad idea to come home and do my body scan meditation before starting to write! I really should write while all the ideas are fresh in my head and I’m going off the energy and excitement of the day.

It was nice to sleep in and then walk to my creative writing class. We explored character and how important character is to a story; all other aspects – setting, plot, language – are attached to character. And what makes a great character is inner conflict – a person who is torn between two (or more) conflicting thoughts/ideas/emotions that cause them to act often irrationally, inconsistently, or at least explains their behaviour and the motivations behind it. It is important that the story reveals what the character really cares about in terms of long-term and short-term goals. And is what they say they want really what they want? We gave some examples of characters in movies/books that stood out for us. I thought of Lord Rama in the Ramayana, and how he battles with himself throughout the story. Especially in the seventh, often hidden book, where he decides to send Sita to live alone in the forest because society does not accept her after she has lived in another man’s home (Ravana’s). He is conflicted and torn, and whatever decision he makes is sure to lead to great pain. It sucks when both options are painful – sometimes you are likely to pick the less painful one, but really it gives you an opportunity to actually do the right thing, because either way it’s not going to be easy.

After class I walked to Balzac’s, where I read a few chapters of The Color of Grace. It is a beautiful story about a young woman who goes to Uganda to help children that have suffered greatly due to war. She is deeply affected by what she sees and through the depths of her soul, offers all that she has to her work, to God, to the children, and all those she encounters. It is unbelievable to read her diary entries and witness the depths of her own suffering and of the little souls she encounters, and to find beauty, hope, and resilience through incredible hardship and trauma. In one of her diaries, she references the great poet Khalil Gibran:

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls, the most massive characters are seared with scars.

Interesting… I’m just now noticing that the quote I chose actually links to the ‘character’ theme of today’s class – so cool! Today was actually a huge synchronistic day for me… I saw my number (69) probably at least 20 times. On license plates, signs, addresses of buildings… it was everywhere! I’ve gotten so used to it now that it no longer surprises me but is a constant reminder that the universe is alive and there is an underlying force that connects everything and everyone. It is comforting, sometimes scary, and always beautiful. I wish I could say that it was enough to wake me up out of my slumber, but it seems I’m taking my time – the conditions aren’t quite right and I get defeated easily still. But all that is changing and I have lots of hope for this year! I’m so behind on all my resolutions but I know I’ll get them all done because it’s just the way I am. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it.

Following Balzac’s I went to see Daniel Clowes speak at the reference library. I haven’t been there in awhile and it felt good to be back. It was an engaging discussion about his career and his process in creating the comics and how he sees comics making a comeback and becoming more popular in the future. Following that I walked all the way home! I’m proud of myself for completing the 10km today because I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it!


People That Read A Lot Are Never In Trouble

This evening I went to see Lawrence Hill speak at the Toronto Reference Library. I love going to author talks, and this fall the Eh List Series is featuring the most amazing writers, including Salman Rushdie, Geraldine Brooks, and Shilpi Somaya Gowda. He talked about his new book, The Illegal, that focuses on the plight of refugees. I haven’t read this one, but I did read The Book of Negroes years ago and I loved it. I’m always fascinated by men who have the ability to get into the mind, body, and emotions of a woman. Clearly they are in touch with their feminine side! Other authors who have done so beautifully are Khaled Hosseini (A Thousand Splendid Suns) and Wally Lamb (She’s Come Undone). It was a pleasure listening to him speak for an hour. He has a very serene presence. I was particularly moved by his description of his long-term humanitarian work. He has volunteered with an international women’s rights organization for over thirty-five years, and in the last few years, has been involved in creating book clubs in prisons across Canada.

When you’re reading books, you realize that the world’s not all about you. You’re not the only one going through these trials and tribulations. You get to have a little empathy for other people. The book club is a good way to meet the right sort of people. Because I find that the people that read a lot, they’re never in trouble.

– Inmate at Beaver Creek Institution

I know books have done that for me. Sometimes they are the only way for me to get out of my own head, to connect emotionally with the plight of another.

I love this picture (image above) that I found in a Globe and Mail article. The inmate is holding The Year of Wonders, written by Geraldine Brooks, about a woman trying to survive during the time of the plague and rise above the tragedy in order to help those around her. Can’t wait to see Geraldine speak next month!