Masala! Mehndi! Masti! festival founded by York grad attracts thousands

When Abhishek Mathur (BBA Spec. Hons. ’94, MBA ’98), raised in the United Kingdom and educated in India, came to York University, he encountered a sort of reverse culture shock, reported the Toronto Star July 23. One day back in 1990, he overheard some South Asian students on campus planning festivities to celebrate India.

"They were talking about having a display about farming, as if that was the principal form of livelihood," he says. Mathur couldn’t help but interrupt to enlighten them about contemporary India. "I realized that these kids, whose parents had come here in the 1960s, were living in a time warp."

Only in Canada did the young man ever get asked questions about his religion or caste or be expected to speak Hindi. "I didn’t join any of the clubs on campus," he says.

At York, he met a like-minded student, Jyoti Rana, now an IT professional and Mathur’s life partner. They hatched a vision for a festival that would bring to the broader public the idea that it’s cool to be South Asian.

Now in its ninth year, the Masala! Mehndi! Masti! festival is the largest North American event celebrating South Asian culture – at its peak attracting as many as 100,000 visitors. It opens at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds Friday evening. The three-day festival is free and encompasses food, music, fashion, comedy, dance, film, song, seminars and even a session on laughter yoga.

Mathur is confident the time will come when M!M!M! (the words refer to spices, henna and fun or mischief) is no longer necessary because South Asian culture will be just one of many aspects of mainstream Canadian life. In the meantime, he feels the festival has done its part to bring a 5,000-year-old culture up to the present and to show that whatever else they may be, people of South Asian heritage are "Canadians first".

Music student jazzes up the Lawn Chair Luminata

The Omar Gittens Jazz Group has been entertaining this summer as part of the Lawn Chair Luminata series in Heritage Park, wrote the Barrie Advance July 22.

"It’s a great opportunity to get some exposure," said Omar Gittens, who is scheduled to play two more concerts. He performs jazz standards with fellow York music student and bass player Chris Adriaanse and keyboardist Amanda MacLeod.

Gittens recently completed his second year in music at York University with a concentration in jazz performance. This fall, the musician is off to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. He will be working towards his bachelor of music majoring in contemporary writing and production.

York student parlays love of cheering into summer company

Sam Thomas, 21, a Collingwood resident, is the owner of Cheer-Core – a competitive cheerleading camp and team that kicked off this summer as part of the Summer Company program, reported the Collingwood Connection July 22.

Summer Company is operated by the Greater Collingwood Small Business Enterprise Centre and sees secondary and postsecondary students receive $1,500 in seed money to start a business.

Thomas has been cheering since Grade 10 and is member of the York University cheer squad, an all-star cheer team in Pickering and is the coach of the Jean Vanier Catholic High School cheerleading team. She is a certified coach with the United States All Star Federation.

Sun cites York in editorial about ending Toronto strike

In a July 23 editorial about the pros and cons of legislating Toronto’s striking municipal employees back to work, The Toronto Sun wrote that even Canadian Federation of Independent Business President Catherine Swift’s suggestion to instruct the arbitrator to take into account the city’s ability to pay – as Premier Dalton McGuinty did in ordering an end to the strike by York University teaching assistants – is much less than it appears. The problem is that determining any public employer’s ability to pay is open to interpretation by arbitrators.

On air

  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York’s Schulich School Of Business, discusses GM’s plans to come out with a men’s cologne called Cadillac for Men, on "The Rutherford Show” on CHQR-AM in Calgary July 22. He also talked about customer complaints that they are being ripped off by frequent flyer programs, in an interview aired on “Global News” in Toronto and Calgary the same day.
  • Bee specialist Laurence Packer, a biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, and York graduate student Sheila Colla discussed declining bee populations on Discovery Television’s “Daily Planet” July 22.  
  • Michael Riddell, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, talked about running a unique sports camp at York for children aged 8 to 17 with Type 1 diabetes, on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” in Toronto July 22.