A space to discuss issues and experiences unique to second generation millennials living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I want to tell untold stories that often are not documented, and through this, insert the perspectives of this unique demographic into the “mainstream” narratives about life, work, community, family, politics, culture…and everything else in between.
The perspective I offer is that of a South Asian (Canadian-Pakistani) millennial living and working in Toronto, Canada.
Online dating has become THE way to meet people, and along with that trend, many new apps have been developed to target niche demographics. I learned last year that there is basically a Muslim version of Tinder….and it’s called Minder. I was hanging out with a friend a little while ago and she was telling me about the dates she’s gone on through Minder and other apps like MuzMatch. I was in hysterics from laughing, and we decided to do a podcast episode sharing all of her hilarious dating stories. From the guy who wore the same outfit 5 dates in a row, to awkwardly running into a “Minder match” at a wedding...this episode covers it all. Enjoy!
This episode is an interview with my friend Adil Dhalla, who decided to visit India for the first time in his mid-30s, to learn more about his ancestry.
200 years ago, Adil’s ancestors left India (Gujrat), and went to Tanzania. About 50 years ago, they immigrated to Canada. Adil grew up here in Toronto, when asked where he’s from, Adil would always either say Canadian or Tanzanian. He never identified as Indian, despite a lineage of Indian ancestors.
After 6 years of working at the Centre for Social Innovation, including as the Executive Director, Adil took a huge leap and decided to “retire” from that work. He left his job and asked himself what he wanted to do.
The answer was: go to India. Adil bought a one way ticket and left for India in January 2019.
Our conversation touches on many aspects of Adil’s trip to India: yoga, meditation retreats and letting go of “fear based” existence, flirting with cows (seriously!), reconsidering eating meat, and witnessing a professional hugger who has hugged 30 million people (Adil says it was akin to watching Beyonce on stage). We also talk about the ongoing legacy of colonization that Adil witnessed in day-to-day life in India.
I loved hearing how Adil’s experiences in India transported him into a completely new mindset and perspective that we aren’t used to in Western culture. Adil closes by talking about how he’s already working to integrate the lessons he’s learned into his life, in both tangible ways like yoga and food, and the intangible things like building capacity for love.
In this episode, I sit down with Ritu Bhasin, a renowned diversity, inclusion and empowerment speaker, author, consultant, coach, strategist. Ritu and I talk about what drives her to do the work she does.
We start off the conversation about how the 1960s and 1970s saw a new wave of immigration to Canada, and how Ritu’s upbringing in Toronto and Unionville was shaped by the race-based bullying she experienced. Ritu shares stories of social isolation and feeling like an outsider growing up in Unionville, and how the intersection of race and class identity impacted her social acceptance as a young brown woman (ex. shopping at Biway when the other kids rocked Roots and Benetton). These experiences had a tremendous impact on Ritu and inform the work she does now in disrupting forms of supremacy. Ritu also explains the neuroscience of how trauma is kept in the body and can be passed down inter-generationally. We close the discussion by talking about the importance of listening to your body and using mind-body methods of healing.
If you haven’t heard of Ritu yet, check out her book, The Authenticity Principle. I personally found it to be a very useful roadmap to identify situations where I am not being my most “real” self, and how I can bring my true self forward. You can follow Ritu on Instagram, or check out her website that’s filled with free tools like blogs, videos, and free self-reflection worksheets to help you live your best!
This episode is an exclusive interview with Samra Zafar, author of A Good Wife, which has been a bestseller since the week it launched, receiving accolades from around the world.
In this special hour-long interview, Samra and I talk about how she left her abusive marriage, and discuss the difficult but cathartic process of writing A Good Wife. We spend a considerable amount of time discussing cultural stigma against divorce in the Pakistani community, Samra's current work in speaking up against abuse, and what’s next on the horizon for her. Samra also tells me how she chose the title and cover photo on the book...there's a touching and emotional story behind the cover photo in particular.
For those who haven't come across the book yet, A Good Wife is about Samra’s personal experience escaping a 10+ year abusive marriage, which began when she was forced into the marriage as a child bride. Samra has courageously shared her story with the world through this memoir which launched March 5, 2019, and has quickly became an inspirational figure of hope for those facing gender-based violence. Along with starting a non-profit called Brave Beginnings for survivors of abuse, Samra now speaks to audiences around the world about this issue.
Samra is the winner of countless awards for her tireless work on this issue, including the 2017 RBC Global Citizen Award, the CPACT Malala Yousafzai Women Empowerment Award, the Ascend Canada Mentor of The Year Award, and the John H Moss Scholarship at the University of Toronto (among many others!).
TRIGGER WARNING: The episode covers topics related to domestic and sexual abuse.
This episode focuses on Iqbal Halal Foods, a South Asian grocery store in Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood.
Thorncliffe Park is a neighborhood where almost 80% of the population is racialized (aka visible minority), and nearly three quarters of the population report English is NOT their mother tongue. The most common languages in the neighborhood are Urdu and Gujrati. The neighborhood is home to some of the best restaurant in Toronto in my humble opinion –Fayley’s, Hakka Garden, Bamiyan Kabob, and Kandahar Kabob to name a few. Along with East York Town Center, the local mosque, and now the Costco, a landmark of the neighborhood is Iqbal Halal Foods, a South Asian supermarket, which is the focus of our episode today.
In this episode, I talk about my experience of going grocery shopping at Iqbal Foods - the hustle bustle of the store, the diversity you see in the neighborhood, the awkwardness of me trying to buy spices I’ve only ever seen in my mother’s spice cupboard, and the lighthearted jokes from the staff that work there.
I then talk about the founder, Iqbal Malek and share his entrepreneurship journey, which started when he came to Canada in 1971 with $7 in his pocket. His story is barely documented anywhere online – I know because I scoured the internet for it. I came across his bio and story on the RBC Top Canadian Immigrant website, and wanted to recognize and honour his story through this podcast episode.
I close the episode by touching on the theme of immigrant entrepreneurship – how come immigrants are twice as likely to become entrepreneurs? I share info from studies from the Harvard Business Review and talk about some of the reasons behind this trend.
This episode touches on a topic that is often considered politically incorrect or awkward to discuss – religion and spirituality. In this episode, I wanted to explore Sufism – a side of Islam that is very different from the version of Islam often presented in mainstream media. Sufism is a philosophy and Islamic practice which is focused on inclusiveness, love-based faith, and looking within.
In the first part of the episode, I share my own experience learning about Islam as a child in Sunday School in a Scarborough and Vaughan mosque, and how in my early 20s I started exploring concepts of Sufi philosophy.
The majority of this episode is an interview with my friend Hamed Murad, who practices Sufism very actively and participates in meditative Sufi whirling (aka whirling dervishes) as a form of prayer. Hamed shares his experience of growing up in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, where religion was forced upon him, was heavily focused on rituals and was very intense. Hamed talks about leaving Afghanistan to study in Europe at age 17, going through periods of questioning his religion, and at one point thinking he’ll never enter a religious institution again. He shares his spiritual journey over the years and how he’s gotten to where he is now. Hamed and I also discuss the importance of soulful introspection and how to connect with the deeper part of yourself when living such hectic, busy lives living and working in a big city like Toronto.
In this episode, I sit down with Hazel Hunter, a young South Asian woman of Indian background. We met in my apartment and had a conversation about her experience of coming out to her Indian parents as a lesbian in her early 20s. In this episode, Hazel describes how she came out to her parents and how the dynamic between her and her parents has changed over the years. Hazel also talks about finding (and creating!) LGBTQ+ spaces for South Asians and allies in Toronto. Last but not least, we touch on themes around mental health, and Hazel shares her experience of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and how she has learned to fully embrace all aspects of her identity through things like yoga and mindfulness.
This episode is about the gentrification of what used to be Little India, or Gerrard India Bazaar in Toronto.
I share my experiences growing up in Toronto in the 1990s and 2000s, and how Gerrard India Bazaar was a central meeting space. The area was a dynamic, bustling enclave of shops that catered to South Asian immigrants living in Toronto, including the very first Bollywood theatre in all of North America – the Naaz Theatre. This neighbourhood was a central meeting space for South Asian immigrants who were craving a piece of home in a foreign environment. It was a place where friendships, love, and community was created.
The episode explores how the area has changed over the years due to gentrification and other factors, and shows the perspective of a local shopkeeper (owner of “Desi Burgers” store) who has run her family business in Little India for 24 years. We conclude with discussion about the increase in rent in Toronto, the impact it’s having on mom and pop shops like hers, and how Little India is slowly disappearing and disaggregating, along with the vibrant community it hosted for so many decades.
This is a story about how my first language was Urdu, and how I learned English as a 3 and a half year old…It’s also a story about how teaching me English backfired a little, and how my parents forced me to retain the ability to speak Urdu.
While growing up I resented getting in trouble for something as silly as not speaking Urdu at home, this relatively minor effort that my parents made gave me a gift that allows me to access a whole other world.