It has been an interesting few years with everything going on in the world. One of the things that I am personally loving is the ability for people to call out racism, sexism and intolerance more overtly. It has transformed people’s behaviour…. let’s be honest….to a degree.

However, the flip side to this is that I often hear comments within the corporate world, that those in a position of privilege, feel that they have had to curtail their communications with people, because they do not feel safe speaking openly… any longer.

I have to advise that this comment makes me laugh. It just does. It appears that there is a tool that many of those in a position of privilege have not had an opportunity to develop – the ability to edit! Candidly – those in a position of “not being privileged” have had to edit themselves on an ongoing basis for their entire lifetime and it has just been a skill required to succeed. So come on privileged individuals – you too can learn the ability to edit.

Now if you are new to the use of editing, let me explain what it is and how to use it.

Edit – a change or correction made as a result of editing.

to make changes to a text or filmdeciding what will be removed and what will be kept in, in order to prepare it for being printed or shown:

So basically, changing or correcting what you were about to say, before you say it! Does not sound that hard, but if you are used to saying whatever is on your mind, then this is a skill that will need to be developed and exercised.

Now I know that it must be challenging for those in privilege, because for a lifetime, the ability to say whatever you wanted without consequences, has been a right that has been used with impunity. However, the recipient of many of those consequences, have had to practice the tool of editing, in replying or not replying to these comments. For example, I was once on an elevator with a senior partner and he turned and asked me out of the blue, why there was such poverty for the South Asian community within the GTA (of which I am a member) and what was the basis for this? Now without my editing skills, I would have responded with a very abrasive response, likely leading to my immediate or eventual dismissal from the firm. However, understanding the repercussions of such a response, I responded using my tools of editing myself, by asking him where he was basing this information on and advising that this had not been my experience and then gracefully exiting on the next available floor cutting the conversation short – the power of being able to edit.

So here are some tools to assist in learning the power of editing:

  1. Not everything you think, needs to be shared vocally. Sometimes keeping your thoughts to yourself, so that you do not offend or antagonize, makes the world go round easier.
  2. The racist, sexist and offensive jokes of yore, do not need to be replayed today. Perhaps you felt fine making those comments in the past, in the environment you were in, but now, those jokes do not go over well. So if you are missing those days, the solution is to replay those moments in your mind and use your power of editing, not to reshare those moments – a win win for all.
  3. Lastly – the corporate world is not your home family room. Things that you might feel comfortable discussing or saying to family of friends, in the comfort of your home, do not need to be shared in the office environment, especially, if it is going to make those at work, uncomfortable, hurt or made to feel less than.

These are my tips for editing, to those not familiar with it. For many of us, the power to edit, has been engrained into us, since we were young i.e. not to respond whenever someone calls you a Paki, or not to turn hostile when you are told that South Asian women are just not as attractive as other races etc…

We have been taught how to diffuse a situation, not antagonize and use our ability to edit what we would actually like to say, into something that may educate, something that does not make the discussion confrontational or using the power of editing to keep quiet, and wait for another moment, to take bring a balance back to the situation.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Pretty Peonies

My mom was an amazing gardener. She had a green thumb. In our yard growing up, the previous owner had landscaped an English rock garden, which my mother made beautiful every Spring, Summer and Fall. She grew a variety of vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, spinach, hot peppers, zucchini etc..) But she had a gift for beautiful flowers and plants. Her roses were stunning. Her plants thrived. But my favourite flower were her peonies.

Every late Spring, we had an abundance of peonies in a variety of pinks. I used to walk home everyday for lunch when I was in elementary school and my mom would often send me back, after lunch, with some peonies in a bouquet for my teacher. A very idyllic childhood memory.

But she always saved some for me, because she knew how much I loved them. She would always pick a few for my bedroom and I would sleep with the sweet smell of peonies in my room – I loved that smell. If you have never smelled a peony, I urge you to find one and experience it. There is a sweetness to it that just makes you want to smile. And I loved the beauty of the colours of the peonies. We had some pale pinks, and then some vibrant pink and red ones – just stunning.

When I got married, I had hoped to have a bouquet of peonies, but they were not in season.

However, every Spring, while my mom lived in our house, she would send me home with bouquets of peonies. I enjoyed them until their delicate petals fell and they lost their smell.

I have always wanted to plant peonies when we moved to our house. However, we kept discussing doing some major landscaping and I did not want to plant and risk the peonies not transporting well.

However, the first pandemic Spring, my husband had peonies delivered for Mother’s Day and I was so excited for the kids to experience the smell and my love of peonies in the Spring. The kids would stand close to the bouquet to experience its beauty. Those closest to me know how much I love peonies. A friend for my birthday got me a peony smelling candle and I have been savouring it.

Late last Spring, I happened to be at a local garden centre and they were selling the pale pink peony flowering plant that my mom used to have, on clearance. And so on a whim, I bought one.

I cleared an area in our front, around a tree and I planted my peony. I babied that plant, willing it to bloom. And to my utter surprise, it bloomed. And I was so happy. It was like my mom had come to re-visit me, through the flower. It was one of the highlights of last summer.

And yesterday, when I was doing some yard work, I looked to my peony and saw that it had started growing. My peony knew that it is not Spring for me, without its appearance. And even though our Spring has been a mix of unseasonal hot days, followed by cool days and tornado winds, my peony will soon appear and it will provide me with the promise of happiness and stirring great memories of the past.

Peonies to me are the perfect way to welcome Spring.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Never gonna give you up!

I have been very blessed to have grown up with a variety of music. At home growing up, my parents played everything and anything. My dad made a point of playing Bengali and Hindi music. My mother grew up singing a lot of traditional English songs (a legacy from her colonial education) and her favourite was Danny Boy, which we played at her funeral.

At school, I was blessed to have teachers who made sure that we sang and heard great music – old R&B, classical, gospel, pop, country – you name it – we sang it or listened to it. And I have to say that I can still sing all of those songs – they became engrained and a part of you!

And that’s the beauty of music. It transports us in so many ways. It takes us back to a moment. It allows us to get lost in its beauty. It allows us to remember our first introduction to that song – it is a very intimate relationship.

But a song that has stood the test of time for me, is quite a startling revelation. When I was in Grade 8, our class went on a school trip to Quebec City. I was so excited to go because I had missed previous trips. I was rooming with my best friend and 2 close friends and was just so excited. My best friend really loved this song by Rick Astley called “Never Gonna Give You Up” and we sang it a lot on the bus ride to Quebec and while we were there. I even teased her about having a crush on Rick.

Fast forward many year’s later and I was watching season 2 of Ted Lasso, which has quickly become a favourite, especially throughout the pandemic. There is a funeral scene where the congregation sings this song, as it is meaningful for the bereaved family and even though it was a sad occasion, the song bonded everyone attending the funeral. It was such an odd, but perfect choice and the song quickly resurrected itself in my memories.

A couple of day’s ago, I was blow drying one of my daughter’s hair, after her shower. Whenever I blow dry, I sing to myself, as it keeps me occupied while dealing with their beautiful long hair. And so as I was blow drying, “Never Gonna Give You Up”, popped into my head and I started singing it. And without pause, my 10 ten year old daughter, joined along, singing with me, the entire song.

It was one of those utterly perfect moments; one where you are so happy and are able to share your joy with someone else that you love – there is nothing like it.

I had never played the song for my daughter and I was surprised that she knew all of the lyrics. When we finished our blow drying session and the song, I asked her how she knew the song, assuming she had heard another version from a Disney movie or show that she watches. She told me her teacher plays it every time it is someone’s birthday in her class and she has grown to love it.

Full circle moment. The gift of song. The power of music and the importance of music at school. I was happy on so many different levels. It will always be a special song to me, but now, even more so, because of the memory with my daughter. Looking forward to the next time this song pops into my life – you never know!

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

#Nevergonnagiveyouup #Powerofmusic #TedLasso

Farewell Blackberry

I held out as long as I could. And I kept waiting for this mythical new Blackberry that was scheduled to be released in 2021. But when I reached memory overload and spent each day emptying the cache for my various apps to be able to operate my phone, I knew that it was time. And so I made the plunge and bought a new phone, which was stressful because I did not know which one I would like, because none of them have a PHYSICAL KEYBOARD!!

But I purchased my phone. It looked pretty, but empty, like it was missing something….like a PHYSICAL KEYBOARD!

And so I called my cell phone provider to make the switch. A very nice woman answered and I explained to her what I wanted to do – make the switch. And since everyone else surrounding me have been mocking me for my Blackberry and asking me when I am going to make the change, this woman’s remarks were unexpected, to say the least.

She started with reviewing my history of phones and listed all of the various Blackberrys I have had. It was like a eulogy for my past relationship with Blackberry and I did not stop her. I listened and remembered all of the different incarnations of Blackberrys that I have had. She then asked what phone I was switching to and when I advised her, her response, again unexpected, was that I was not going to deal well with the switch and couldn’t I make my Blackberry work for me? My heart started racing – if even my cell phone provider was stating that this was a mistake, what was I doing????

Nope – I had to do this. I had been losing photographs and having issues receiving emails, so the change had to be made. And so, even with her voice in my ear (literally and figuratively) I made the change. And so began my smartphone relationship without a physical keyboard.

And that lasted about 1 week. And when I realized that a touch keyboard was not going to bode well for me when I had to type long and accurate messages, I bought a small keyboard that I can connect to my phone and provides me something similar to what I had before.

But I don’t use the keyboard all of the time and when I sent a message to a friend asking her how she and her son reacted to their COVID shots….the message she received as a result of autocorrect was “How are you doing after your sh#ts?”

I miss you Blackberry!!!

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Street gang; How we got to Sesame Street

Yesterday, I stumbled across the HBO documentary about Sesame Street and my heart was full. For those of you like me, who were born in the 70’s, Sesame Street was a huge part of my life. Watching the documentary about why it resonated and the purposeful manner in which it was created, added to my love of the show. Those characters, both real life and puppets, remain in my psyche today and it was so nice to revisit them in such a meaningful way. And the documentary really emphasizes something we are purposefully advocating today – representation matters.

Even though there were few South Asians on the show, there were many Black and Latino characters, and as a child, those were the characters I loved. Gordon, Maria, Susan, Luis – they were comforting to watch. People had accents, like in my world and there were different skin tones, just like in my family.

My childhood was pretty structured. There was a period of time, where my mom was going to school and my father was working nights. He took care of me during the day. As an engineer by training and in personality, our days were pretty regimented. We had 1 car growing up and my mom attended the Humber College campus on Lakeshore in Etobicoke and we lived in Mississauga. My dad and I would drop off my mom at school and then my dad would take me to a park – down by the lake, High Park, the forks of the Credit Valley – you name it, my dad took us. And it was a brisk walk – not play time only. Exercise would make me strong, was the belief. But when I tired out, my dad would prop me onto his shoulders and continue his walk. Unfortunately, I was pretty mischievous as a child and in the winter, while on his shoulders, I loved to pull his hat over his eyes. Caused me giggles. I never felt safer than when I was up on my dad’s shoulders. We would then return home for a big breakfast, and then the day proceeded to schedule. Bath time, Mr. Dress Up and Sesame Street on TV, lunch and then nap time. I was always learning something in the afternoon – drawing, math, English, music – you name it. Then it was time for the switch – mom came home and dad left for his job as a security guard. Like most immigrants, it took time for him to finally receive an engineering job.

And watching the documentary, took me back to that time in my life, where my dad was a big part of my life and where our bond really grew. He really took care of me and would do my hair (for the 70’s – a big deal) and introduced me to the world and expand my horizons. I am blessed to have those days and memories to look upon. And just as explained in the documentary, he would sometimes watch Sesame Street with me, and I enjoyed that the best, because it felt like another shared experience.

And now, with the 3 kids of my own, when they have down time, they love to chill out and hang out with my husband and I. Whether it is watching a movie, cooking or playing games – they like it better when it is with us and when I reflect on my childhood like I did last night, I appreciate why, even more.

And watching the Sesame Street documentary – I felt really fortunate that I had those role models on TV growing up – they made a difference to my life. Ask any of us from that era and we know the number counting song, can sing about Rubber Ducky and understand the pain of feeling different being “green”. Thank you Sesame Street for providing such a great foundation and example which has so positively influenced the world today and especially myself – it makes a difference!

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

#Sesame Street #HBO #representation matters

Look like a stewardess

I was recently taking yet again, another professional profile photo. The photographer was great – good attention to detail, provided good direction and overall stated, “present a professional and approachable image – one where a client would be interested in retaining you”. That worked for me.

But then another individual in the room piped up, “Look like a stewardess!”

I understand that this person was trying to condense the direction being provided by the photographer, but in this day and age, is that the direction we want to provide to our female lawyers, let alone our female partners? Because, and I know you know what I am going to say, the direction of looking like a stewardess would never be directed to any of the male lawyers taking the photo. In fact – I would be curious to determine what concise term was used. Was it, “look like a Boss!” or “look powerful”?

Seriously – why hasn’t there been an evolution in the business world? In order for someone like me to attract the attention of a client with my profile photo, I have to look a certain way? In fact, even the direction regarding how to dress for the photo was puzzling – no bare shoulders!!

Well – having just finished Marie Henein’s book, “Nothing but the truth”, where she ridicules such requests for photos, I decided to dress in the manner in which I was comfortable and in keeping with my brand. And in some of the photos, my bare shoulders were showing. But that’s ok, because in taking the photo, I decided to channel my inner Beyonce, Marie Henein and …..my mom. Because my mom would have been loud, confident, stylish and perfectly herself. And really, in the end, many times, we are a manifestation of our parents’ dreams. Especially for my mom, her life was decided for her because of her family dynamic and she really had no control about major decisions in her life. But she wanted a different life for me. One where I had control over my being and could make decisions for myself and direct my life.

And so I channeled that energy into my photo. Whenever I take a professional photo, I always wear a piece of jewelry given to me by my mom. This time – it was my earrings. It makes me feel like she is a part of the photo.

And as an aside, the look of the flight attendant in today’s modern world has been changing. Many airlines are now embracing a more comfortable uniform for their flight attendants and no longer do they have to look uniform but can represent a diversity of ages and backgrounds. So – perhaps that was what was meant with the direction, look like a stewardess? I like to give the benefit of the doubt.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Musicals and solo movie outtings

My dad used to go to the movies alone. He loved movies and when he needed a night to himself, going to see a movie was a nice outlet. I remember growing up, I had the opposite feeling. I always wanted to go to the movies with my friends. A group of us looking forward to a new release, buying tickets in advance – it was a lot of fun. But then I started having a few instances where I wished I had gone on my own. You know that feeling when you are sitting beside someone who is not loving the movie and in fact the opposite – is hating the movie and you can feel their negative energy affect your movie watching experience?

It happened during Moulin Rouge. Which is a musical – which I love, but for me Moulin Rouge was mind breaking and innovative and I was enthralled. But not my friend sitting beside me. She hated it. And she let her distaste be known with sighs and comments to the point where I wanted to move away from her because I was loving the movie and she was ruining my experience. I mean – I loved the movie so much that my other friends and I all bought the soundtrack and we would belt those songs out when driving somewhere or just hanging out, for months afterward. Who knew that Obi Wan could belt out the songs like he did!

And for me, that was the last straw. I never wanted to have someone else’s energy affecting me in the movie theatre. And so I embraced the movie attending solo experience. And especially after having kids, it was nice “me” time. I remember when I was pregnant the first time with my girls, a colleague told me to go to the movie theatre as many times possible because after kids, that was one experience that would disappear for a while.

In fact, I prefer going to see movies on my own. What is the point in going with another person? If I want to talk about the movie, I can speak to them after we have both seen it. I don’t like to talk to people during movies. And usually, if the movie runs late, you are not discussing the movie afterwards anyway.

And I remember I was so glad making this decision when I went to see Dreamgirls. And although it is not everyone’s cup of tea, I really enjoyed it. But again, sitting in the movie theatre, with both seats beside me empty, gave me the peace to just immerse myself in the movie, which I did. And don’t get me wrong – I have seen other movies on my own, such as Avengers End Game, Black Panther, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Jumping the Broom etc… it is not all musicals for me.

And going to the movies alone, is not being alone because the majority of the people in the theatre want to see the movie also and the enjoyment of laughing or being startled together, is a pretty uniting feature.

But musicals for me are a very personal experience. I love music and I love films and when a musical is done right – it is perfection. Watching The Sound of Music every Christmas season just adds to the holidays. I still remember the first I saw it (I was 5) and how enthralled I was with it. Or the first time I saw West Side Story and how I cry every time at the end, with Natalie Woods impassioned speech. Or the first time I saw Funny Girl and could not believe how talented and stylish Barbara Streisand was and is. I had the My Fair Lady soundtrack when I was younger, and again, thought the movie was perfect, especially with Audrey Hepburn, and those amazing dresses she wore – simply magical.

Musicals are comforting to me – a warm blanket of beautiful songs, singing and stories. I was so happy to see that the legacy continued with La La Land, which modernized the musical but stayed true to its roots – perfection. And musicals are probably comforting to me because most Hindi movies I watched as a child were full of beautiful songs and dancing – my appreciation of musicals is probably a part of my DNA.

And so, with the pandemic restrictions lifting, I am looking forward to my next solo movie experience. I am thinking the new West Side Story in December is calling my name…..

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

#musicals #solomovieouttings

Being late and other etiquette

I grew up in a family that did not tolerate being late. In fact, we were early to most events. We never had that feeling of missing an event or being disrespectful, by being late.

Before my mom passed, I would go over every Saturday to run errands with her. If I was 5 minutes late, I knew that my cell phone would start ringing because 5 minutes to my mom was like an hour. That’s who she was.

However, it made it challenging when I was in my teens. Teens are notorious for running late. Growing up as a girl, in a conservative South Asian household, the ability to go out with friends was rare and so in those instances when I could go out, I was ready and waiting to leave and have a night out. I remember one night when my friends were over an hour late. At that point, there was no point going out because my curfew was super early when I was in high school – a point which was made clear by my dad when my friends finally showed up and then promptly left without me.

However – it is true; the values that are instilled into us, remain a part of who we are. Even now, I hate being late. But I have accepted that it is a part of life, especially back when I had 3 toddlers, who often had other ideas on what was required to leave the house.

But given my work, being on time or being early is vital. Many important and game changing discussions happen during that being early time frame. Many final decisions regarding strategy happen in that early time frame.

However, what I have been finding lately, that the same consideration for my time, is not being met. I am often sitting on a Zoom call or Teams meeting, waiting for someone to appear and not knowing what is causing the delay. I have turned into my mom, because if 5 minutes has passed and no one attends, or has communicated to me a technical issue (because they happen), I have no patience for this and leave the call. As a courtesy, I will follow up to ensure that there was no miscommunication regarding timing or that everything is alright. And I have to advise in all of these instances, there have rarely been issues. It really has been about not appreciating my time or having respect for my time and I have to say, that always leave an uncomfortable feeling with me.

We are living in a time where we are dispensing with a lot of formalities. When I was articling (apprenticeship), I was advised on my first day, which lawyers I could refer to by their first name and which lawyers required me to call them Mr. So and so. When I articled, there were not many female lawyers of that vintage and the ones that were there, did not require the formality, probably as a result of the fight that they had had to go through in reaching the level of success during that time. But I digress. Fast forward to today’s firms and I don’t know any lawyer who requires such formal address.

However, that being said, often times the lack of formality leads younger lawyers and students, to feel that they can be informal, which can sometimes results in unprofessional behaviour or decisions.

Being yourself and being authentic, does not mean sacrificing professionalism.

And wanting people to feel invested in you and your success results in a reciprocal feeling of respect. And so those lessons which were drilled into us when we were young – still make an impact. Being polite, being on time and being professional – they signal that you are taking things seriously and that you want to be taken seriously.

Perhaps I am wrong and perhaps these qualities will start to erode, but the edict that continues to live on, especially in law, is that time is money. So take that for what its worth.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Very Superstitious……

I am pretty sure that my superstitious nature is directly from my mother. My entire West Indian side of the family is extremely superstitious. We check our horoscopes everyday, we pay attention to the messages in our dreams, we do not directly pass spicy condiments to another person, but lay them on the table, to be picked up – that kind of superstitious.

And for those of you who are not superstitious, you may think of this type of behaviour as odd and limiting, but for me, just the opposite. I find it comforting and passing down beliefs from previous generations. Just knowing that my mom, my grandmother and onwards carried out these same practices makes me feel like I am a part of something …..bigger!

But , superstitious behaviour is more than just having beliefs. Scientifically, superstitions allow people to explain events that otherwise seem random or inexplicable and to feel they have a measure of control over outcomes that would otherwise seem out of their hands. (www.sciencedirect.com).

But they also allow us to learn beliefs and practices from other cultures also.

From my Asian friends, I have learned about Chinese New Year and everyone in our household knows what year they were born under and what attributes they have. I also know what charms to buy for that year, to protect my family and myself. It makes you feel like you are actively aware of bad things, but instead of passively allowing them, you are doing something to avoid it.

From my Italian friends, I know that on New Year’s Eve, I am supposed to wear red underwear and eat lentils to usher in a good year.

These are but a few of the superstitions that we have incorporated into our lives and I know that our friends have incorporated some of our beliefs – and that’s great. It means that we do not always have to have a scientific explanation for everything – sometimes we just go on faith and belief and that provides a commonality between us, which is always a great thing!

Especially now – not everything can be explained. But it helps to be accepting and open to others and create different bonds of understanding.

And Stevie Wonder would not write one of the all time greatest songs about the concept, if there wasn’t something there, would he?

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

#superstitious #beliefs

Top 5 Albums by Female Singers

At a recent firm event, I asked the lawyers to spontaneously list their top 5 favourite albums of all time. The list was a mixture of male bands and male singers and I kept pointing out that no one was listing any female singers or groups, which upset me.

And I also found it interesting that no one asked me to provide my top 5 list. But in any event, I have decided to focus on my top 5 female albums, just to add it to the atmosphere.

I have said this pick before, but: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is still one of the most creative, inspiring and artistic albums of all time. I can listen to it on repeat and each time, I feel tingles. An album for the ages and although she has released other music which I adore, this album was just perfection!!

Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morisette – for my generation, this was the album that sustained me through university and still rings out now. It was edgy, it was beautiful and it spoke to us.

Frank – Amy Winehouse – I bought this CD when I was first practicing law and I was just in awe. Not many people knew of Amy Winehouse and she sounded like I wish I could sound. Her musicality and interpretation of her music was just awesomely cool. What a voice and what a loss.

21 – Adele – I love the women that come out of the UK – Dusty Springfield, Duffy, Joss Stone – the mix of soul and rawness and Adele incapsulates all of it and then her honesty brings us in. She knows what we have felt in heart ache and has us rolling in the deep.

Lovers Rock – Sade – This is my warm blanket. The CD that soothes me. Gives me peace and joy. Gives me light. I cannot say enough about this CD because this CD gave me clarity about love.

Honourable Mentions – Beyonce – Lemonade, Carole King – Tapestry, Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits….I have a lot to list.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.