Friday, October 27, 2006


Star: It's hip to be brown now, a desi

South Asian youth rebrand for new era
Toronto Star - Oct. 27, 2006

To be brown in a white world post-9/11 is fraught with complexity.

Do you become a coconut (brown outside, white inside) to survive or do you reinvent yourself, complete with a cool new brand - desi? [Pronounced "day-see." From Sanskrit for "countryman."]

The Indian diaspora seems to be chucking the coconut for a whole new subculture in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., according to writer Gautam Malkani, who was in Toronto this week for the Harbourfront Festival of Authors. [Malkani the Cambridge-educated, editor of Financial Times.]

His debut novel, Londonstani, which sparked a bidding frenzy and fuelled ongoing debates about race, identity and patriotism, is a provocative look at this transformation of South Asian culture that resonates in the Greater Toronto Area, where Canadian-born desi kids are putting Bollywood ring tones on their phones and gabbing with peers in their parents' mother tongue.

Malkani's novel revolves around a gang of desi rude boys who are prone to cellphone scams, beating up white kids who call them "Paki," and obsessed with bling, bodybuilding and girls. As second-generation Brits from India and Pakistan who struggle for a unique identity, separate from their immigrant parents and white Britons, the book opens with them in phase 1 of the process: voluntary segregation and assertive ethnicity.

"Previously we were all studious, conscientious, almost subservient. Then in the early '90s ...

[Full story at: ... a useful and informative analysis at this time.

[In addition: "Can you hear the nightbird call?" by Anita Rau Badami, is a book recommended recently on The Tyee. The story moves between West Punjabi villages of India and Vancouver giving it an immediacy as well as other-
worldliness. As we await, trying to understand the crises in the lives of Basi, Virk, Basi which affected every British Columbian, these might provide calming preparation for the trials ahead.

- BC Mary.]

Indo-Canadian studies centre opens
at the University College of the Fraser Valley
Michael Scott
Vancouver Sun
Saturday, October 28, 2006

ABBOTSFORD -- Construction dust is sifting on to tabletops and shelves, and painters are cursing a blue streak in a corner office, but Satwinder Bains sits unperturbed, her navy-blue suit still immaculate.

This suite of half-painted offices and meeting rooms on the campus of University College of the Fraser Valley, in Abbotsford, had to be ready by this morning to receive its first guests as the new Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies.
... snip ...
There are 10,000 students at UCFV, about one-quarter of them of Indian descent, which is slightly higher than the community population in Abbotsford, according to Bains. The UCFV's research department has found that the Fraser Valley has the highest proportion of Indo-Canadians of any metropolitan area in Canada.

The favoured field is trade development ...
.......snip ...
"The question for us is how to use the social capital of immigrants," Sandhu says. "How should they be settled here to Canada's advantage."

Bains stresses the key goal of stimulating trade between Canada and India.

"It is an important part of our mission here to build bridges in terms of India-Canada trade," she says. "Canada is far behind in its trade with India.
......... snip ..........
"Everything we do now to build bridges to that future economy is going to bring enormous benefits," he said.

"That is our future market, sitting there. This is our chance to introduce ourselves."

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