Monday, October 25, 2010

Tennis anyone?

Capturing minds

Killing a cat: My worst nightmare

Flying through the sky

Almost time to announce the essay winners :)

Lets see what they say

Speaking to students about diversity issues

Multicultural Season in the Valley

The results are in

The moment has arrived: We are announcing the winning essays for The Times 2010 Building an Inclusive, Diverse Community contest.

I find it perfectly fitting to include the six top contest finishers as part of this Diwali feature. Don’t forget to come out and celebrate Diwali tomorrow at Mission’s Clarke Theatre from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Personally, it’s been an educational two-month journey promoting this worthy writing contest.

One thing became obviously clear after listening to and meeting so many great people in Abbotsford and Mission: There is much work to be done to build an inclusive, diverse community. The “culture divide” here is unfortunately growing and a strong response is needed.
When I started this event four years ago, I wanted to create a broader community discussion with the public. This region is one of the most diverse in the country and many challenges still exist.

Main contest goal is to empower people and give opportunities for writers to engage in a creative, dynamic discussion.

Too often talented minds don’t get an opportunity to be discovered. One of the simplest ways that I discovered (as a veteran columnist of 15 years) to create an inclusive society is to constantly write about it. The message itself creates awareness.
The six-member judging panel led by Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce director Rick Rake was asked to look for creativity and fresh ideas.

This diverse group of community-minded individuals spent hours carefully evaluating the entries.

“I was happy to support Ken in this endeavor because I was there when it all started four years ago. I believe in encouraging and building harmony amongst the cultures and faith groups in Abbotsford and Mission. The judging panel knew the issues and were adept at pinpointing contestants with the best ideas from this amazing collection of essays,” said Rake.
This year’s question was: How do we create an opportunity for different cultures to work together towards a harmonized, inclusive, multicultural community?

We received some 100 entries in our youth and adult categories. Many of the writers touched on similar themes like: multicultural festivals, saying “hello” and sharing foods as some of the common solutions for bridging our cultural gaps.
Hailey Connor, a Grade 9 student at Mouat Secondary finished on top of our youth category. In her essay, she wrote about the need for different cultures to interact with each other.

“We need to continue our efforts at increasing people’s awareness and understanding of cultures other than their own,” she wrote.

I totally agree, Hailey. Congratulations.

Hailey’s mother told me her daughter looked daily in her email box to see if she had won. That really touched me. Hailey’s mom also shared that her daughter is an avid reader of newspapers.

The two honorable mentions in this category were: Andy Lee from Yale Secondary and Nimret Dosanjh from Dasmesh Punjabi School. Congratulations Andy and Nimret. You can view their essays on the Times website.
In our adult category, Wendy Lindquist-Pronick finished first.

Wendy was one of the people who last year suggested we should open an adult section for this contest.

When I contacted her to tell her she had won, she simply couldn’t believe it. We both chuckled.

She wrote about breaking language barriers and having monthly potlucks. Bravo! Wendy.

The two honorable mentions for this category were: Sharon Nijjar of Abbotsford and Rita Dyer of Mission. Way to go, Sharon and Rita. To view these two beautifully written essays, go to the Times website.
I would like to praise Times Publisher Fred Armstrong and editor Darren McDonald for allowing me to engage in this important and educational writing contest. I believe we are a better community because of it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Almost time to announce the essay winners

Almost time to announce the winners

By Ken Herar, The Times October 22, 2010 8:05 AM

The judges have met and spoken. We will announce the recipients of the Times Building an Inclusive, Diverse Community essay contest very soon, likely with our Diwali special on Nov. 2.

I am super excited to introduce the winners of the adult and youth categories. There will be one winner and two honourable mentions for each category.

The winners will get his/her essay published in our diversity supplement and the two honourable mentions will have their essays published on the Times website.

All three selected winners for each category will have their faces published also.

Well, what can I say, it's been a fun and exciting two months promoting this event. I have met so many inspiring folks in our communities, who believe in the message we've been promoting.

Diversity will not work effectively if we're building isolated communities. In order to see the realization of our multicultural societies become a reality, there has to be an equal partnership and a genuine acceptance of our unique differences. This contest has not only become a local event, but is also getting international attention. I have received at least a dozen responses from writers in different countries.

Unfortunately, I advised them this was only for Abbotsford/Mission residents. I hope we don't have an international crisis on our hands. I may be hearing from Ottawa shortly. But, it's nice to see our message being heard far and wide and putting Canada on the map.

In the past eight weeks, I have visited local schools and had an opportunity to speak at the University of the Fraser Valley to the Sociology 101 class.

I faced many interesting questions. A university student stated during my presentation, "you are promoting two different goals: diversity and inclusiveness. That is simply, not achievable. We should all be the same."

I said, "I understand your concerns, but diversity exists everywhere around the globe and right here in this classroom.

"By keeping your religious beliefs and cultures this only makes our community stronger. It would be extremely dangerous if we took that all away. As an example, we don't have to look very far into Canadian history and see the destructive decisions made by past governments toward the First Nations communities, removing them from their homes."

The heart of this contest is to give people of all ages an opportunity to share in a positive discussion and discover ways to make our community more inclusive.

Going through the many essays the future looks bright. If you don't mind, I have to make some phone calls and notify the winners. Thank you.

n Ken Herar is a columnist with the Abbotsford-Mission Times. Contact him at

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Is the "Cultural Divide" growing in the Fraser Valley?

Let's see what they say

The Abbotsford/Mission Times essay contest, entitled Building an Inclusive, Diverse Community, officially closed last week.

After going through the submitted entries, I am surprised at the volume we received for the adults (over age 16) section.

I am looking forward to submitting these thoughts to our five esteemed judges. Winners will be appearing on these pages later this month.

A guy stopped me the other day after seeing a photograph of me in the Times recently, speaking to students from Dashmesh Punjabi School about our contest. He asked me why would I promote multiculturalism in an all-East Indian school?

Good point, I thought, and replied: "The main reason that brought me to this fine school was not only to promote multiculturalism and this contest, but to share in a discussion with some bright minds on finding ways the South Asian community could be more inclusive with mainstream society."

I told the class that the "culture divide" in Abbotsford is growing quickly and we all have a responsibility to be part of the larger community when we leave through these school doors each day. I shared examples of how to make it happen, like inviting kids from outside our own ethnicity to their homes for events like birthday parties. Festivals and parades or even writing contests for that matter are fantastic ways of interacting and getting people to mingle.

Lastly, I told them they have a special role and part of the equation in creating an inclusive, diverse society. I concluded with this thought: "We all have it within us. We just have to discover it."

Since we're on the topic of integration, another person shared some unfortunate news. She said her family went back to Montreal for a few weeks in the summer and found the city to be very integrated and friendly. Much more than here, she noted.

"People are very separate from each other in the West," she said, adding that her daughter came home crying one day because at school South Asian kids wouldn't play with her. For as much as I don't like to admit it. I know these examples are real. Honestly, it hurts every time I hear this. The general public does not openly discuss this because they don't want to be perceived as racist. But, they're certainly talking behind closed doors.

As someone shared with me a few years ago: "Ken, when I come to Abbotsford, I can feel racism."

This is the exact reason why I took my message to the South Asian community.

I am not trying to pick on South Asians, but there needs to be more of a community effort and not just from the same few.

I have said it before and I will say it again: South Asians can be equally racist just as any other group. South Asian leaders need to rise up and address these concerns.

We must remember the concept of diversity wasn't strictly created to cater to South Asians. Is it time we change how we practice diversity or is it too late?

Let's see what Times essay contest winners have to say.

- Ken Herar is a columnist for the Abbotsford-Mission Times. Contact him at:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Uncovering the sticky sheets and exposing the untold story of South Asian "John's" and "Escorts" in Greater Vancouver

By R.Paul Dhillon & Ken Herar

Sex in the city has never been hotter and sweeter only if you got a big fat wallet, cause it’s going to cost you.

But who buys sex, especially from the local South Asian community? Well a lot of men like Harjinder Singh, call him Harry as he likes to be called. So why pay for sex when you can have it for free by getting a girlfriend or in Harjinder’s case, just asking his wife – he’s quick to reply that girlfriends and mistresses, especially for married men, are expensive and the wife is for times when there is no alternative.
“All of these assholes out there who think that having a girlfriend or keeping a mistress on the side is cheaper than buying sex – they are the biggest SUCKERS in the world,” Harjinder told DESI. “If you do the math on what it takes to keep a girlfriend or a mistress – it’s a lot believe me as I have done that – you’ll see that paying for sex is much cheaper and less headache when the relationship goes sours and the shit hits the fan and causes all kinds of family problems and divorces.”
Harjinder gives one example of his friend who bragged about how many beautiful young girlfriends he had but proved to be SUCKER when one of the girlfriends blackmailed him into giving her $100,000 and another ran up big debt on his credit card. And when the wife found out, well she took him to the cleaners.
“This SUCKER ended up with a final tab way over $ 1million dollars and then I had the final laugh cause I’d rather pay $300 to $400 dollars for my favorite girl for an hour or two – which is plenty of time for me with her – and then go home to my family without any attachments,” Harjinder said.
What about the moral and social implications of such sinful acts of deception to his wife and to his family and Harjinder has an usual answer. He said after many years of marriage – there isn’t any spark with the wife and the man in order to keep his “mojo” intact he needs some outside action (sex).
“When two people have been married 15, 20 years – there just isn’t much spark in the bedroom. So you need to realize some fantasies outside the marriage in order to keep your manliness,” Harjinder said.
“This is nothing new as men have been doing this for centuries, and some women too, but our conservative community has always seen this as something sinful and bad. But this has just driven the problem underground with so-called upstanding people saying that extra marital sex or pornography is bad and condemning it while these are the same people who are having call girls and watching porno films on the new illegal satellites they just hooked up for the family to watch Indian channels or Bollywood films. Just like the White community, we need to get over this phony moral nonsense and be honest that man is a weak animal when it comes to sex!”
Harjinder’s views, although radical when it comes to talking about sex in the South Asian community, have a basis in reality as DESI’s investigation into the escort and sex-for-hire industry reveals that there is a huge appetite for paid sex by young and largely middle aged men.
Going through local newspaper or online classified sex ads (Craig’s list), there is not only a large South Asian clients paying for sex in Vancouver’s burgeoning sex trade industry but also that more and more young South Asian women are becoming part of the sex-service industry with names like Arya, Chandi, Nisha, Ishmira and many more described as “East Indian goddess” or “Brown beauties”.
And you don’t have to look underneath a table or on bathroom walls to find their numbers to fulfill all your sexual fantasies. Many ads are in big bold print with some of the women fully exposed and engaged in sex acts.
To what does the community owe this new phenomenon of young South Asian women entering the sex trade, which majority of the community sees as extremely shameful behavior. Perhaps the phenomenon can be explained by the rise of South Asian porn stars in North America, which includes a sweet Indo-Canadian girl Sunny Leone, aka Karen Malhotra, and Priya Rai.
Men like Harjinder who often watch porn films featuring these girls then try to live out their fantasies and desires with these brown beauties in their own home town.
For the most part ‘sexuality’ is still considered to be a taboo discussion in South Asian households. Most families rarely speak to their children about ‘sex’ or other topics relating to it. Some view it as shameful, harmful, disgusting or a sinful act. Call it what you want, but at the end of the day we all have sexual urges.
Where do we draw the line drawn between good/deviant sex or desire for pleasure? What happens if sexual acts are taking place outside the comforts of your home, or without your partner’s consent? Well, these are definitely warning signs your relationship maybe in trouble.
We must also make clear that solicitation of sex in Canada is illegal and could carry a possible jail sentence for offenders, who are arrested. Over the years, there have been many police stings in cities like Abbotsford and Surrey, where a majority of Johns/Solicitors tended to be young married South Asian men.
But the reality is that the South Asian ‘meat market’ offers some of the best cliental for female escorts, who are ready to provide any and all x-rated services. Escorts like Arya, who DESI discovered from Craig’s list, often travel coast to coast, servicing their huge cliental base. It’s a lucrative business where hundreds, if not thousands, can be made in a just a few days of work.
DESI got a taste of how it all works from Aria, a half Indian and half white well-spoken petite bombshell, who solicits many of her South Asians and non-South Asian clients with several postings on Craigslist, including a few pictures.
She shared her insights into the industry with us as on what really takes place behind closed doors.
Aria’s bold and descriptive ad reads as follows: “Mouth-watering with your oh so friendly flexible five’ two” 115 lb. 100% e. Indian (half Punjabi, half-rasmalai) yoga girl. Independent, elegant & educated with beautiful King George, in call by Skytrain. I offer an extensive menu including G F E, couples, overnights, dance, fetish, massage, more …”
Aria, offers her clients an outcall service to most destinations, including their homes or any hotels throughout the lower mainland. Speaking with her, via phone and reaching her voicemail several times, you’ll soon discover, she speaks both English and Punjabi for her clients. One important point she leaves on her message, “no blocked calls will be answered.”
Born and raised in Vancouver, Aria has been working in the industry for about a year and a half. She explains: “I like the freedom of picking my own working days. I enjoy meeting new people and successful men.”
In our conversation, she quickly points out that she is doing this by choice and no one is forcing her. She receives around 40-60 calls a day from potential clients. “For every hour I work, I usually spend 2-3 hrs discussing appointments with talkative clients. A client may call 5-6 times before he decides to book.”
Clients have often praised her for her looks, she says
“My looks have drawn comparisons to Vidya Balan, Kareena Kapoor, Miss Pooja, Katrina Kaif, Menakshi Shashadri, Michelle Rodgrguez, and Paula Abdul,” Aria professes. “ When I first started in the industry, I was surprised at the number of good-looking guys that would call someone like me.”
She says this could be the result of many South Asian wives or girlfriends who often tend to be ‘sexually conservative’ in there married relationship and not satisfying there partner sexual needs.
Working in Surrey, it’s not hard to imagine a large portion of her clients is South Asian. She figures that 60% of her clients are new immigrants from India, who can barely speak English. She explains that when she worked in Vancouver it was a much greater mix of people coming through her door, not just brown.
Clients often ask: “why is such a nice girl like you doing in this business”? Her response “ the money is good”. Clients later ask: Do you enjoy this? Aria responds, “of course, but not always”.
The bad side of this business is some of her clients are often disrespectful and it’s the constant lies she dislikes.
“I have been ripped off with fake money and had some of my personal belongings stolen from my apartment. I always try to be fair and honest with my clients and care about the level I offer them,” she says.
Aria’s rates vary depending on the session you’re requesting. They are half an hour and hour sessions for her time. She also offers an overnight special, which gets a bit pricey.
Aria also performs at stag parties. Safety is practiced and condoms are always used. Asked to describe the difference between an escort agency and independent work like she does – Aria says: “it may be better to work for an agency because someone else handles reception. Although the pay portion on each client may be less, agency pay may work out to be higher overall because a paid receptionist handles the phone game.”
From our 30-minute conversation, we gathered from her voice that South Asians could be some of the best and worst clients for sex-trade workers.
“East Indians have a bad reputation as clients, because they can be very demanding, even when they are given special rates for service,” she said.
But, on the flipside, she likes South Asians, because they will usually tell their friends or relatives, bringing her more clients. One of the biggest challenges, she explains is dealing with guys who want be your friend or boyfriend. These guys call repeatedly just to hear your voice.
“Sometimes I may get temporarily emotional over a client too. I then come to my senses and realize a relationship won’t occur,” Aria explains.
At the end of our discussion, we ask her if her family knows what she is doing and she replies: “My family does not know I am in the business.”
Aria ends with this thought: “this is often a short-lived career, and she is planning on leaving soon, at some point.”
Ishq escorts located in Vancouver is owned and operated by a well-spoken South Asian female. “Ishq” comes from an Arabic word, meaning love or divine love. With a colorful glowing website describing the luxurious location located on East Hastings, which has a backdoor entrance for clients seeking discretion. They offer both in call and outcall service to most locations.
Many of the women who work at Ishq look stunningly beautiful from what we can see on their website. Their profile shows Ishq to be a place where clients can feel right at home in a clean and safe environment with top-quality professionals.