Someone sent me a video showing the wedding invitation for an Indian tycoon’s daughter. 

It was a gift box inside which was a booklet containing the details of the wedding. Underneath sat four sequined caskets containing baubles for the invitee. 

Indian newspapers estimated the value of each invitation at 300,000 rupees (5500 Canadian dollars, approximately) – an amount of money that could feed thousands of hungry children. 

In fairness, it is believed that the charitable foundation set up by the grandfather provides some scholarships, sports sponsorships, some assistance to farmers and eyecare. 

And while the wedding invitation heralds indescribable splashes of wealth, India is not alone in this trend of ultra-lavish hedonism. 

From tax-fed western royal families to oil rich Saudis and American oil barons, international industrialists, ruthless dictators and drug lords to corrupt leaders of fledgling democracies, the parade of personal wealth is rampant.

What inspires such a flagrant display of obscene opulence? 

Why does a family need such huge amounts of money? 

Even with expensive meals, designer clothing, jewellery, airplanes, vacations, servants, entertainment… and I am stumped. 

I cannot tabulate what necessities would require such barrels of money. Not all the ultra-wealthy pay taxes and not all of them donate to needy causes. Some definitely do – we all know about the generosity of Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, Jeffery Skoll, Chuck Feeney, Alwaleed bin Talal, Azim Premji, the Tata and Agarwal trusts, and the top twenty lists of donors can easily be found. 

A family, even the wealthiest family, only needs a finite amount of money to live in luxury and to provide wealth for future generations. 

Shouldn’t a portion of their wealth earned from trading with the world’s general population go back into helping people of the planet survive and indeed the planet itself? 

This is a shared planet – when it dies everything dies including the super-rich. Water pumps are needed in continents like Africa to irrigate crops of food; housing is needed in the world’s slums and shanty towns; healthcare is needed by the world’s poorest families who earn pennies a day and cannot afford medical and dental care. 

The industrial emissions in countries like the USA, China, European Union, Russia, India etc., are causing harm to whole populations and the uber-rich mansions guzzle huge amounts of energy. With thoughtful conscience, a commitment to the health of our shared earth and a more equalized distribution of wealth, people can help people. A good source of information is the New Internationalist publication, The Equality Effect (see

Corporate social responsibility is a concept that needs to take hold. 

No reasonable person would advocate for the rich to hand out cheques unthinkingly. There needs to be thoughtful use of excess wealth to provide infrastructure to assist people to grow food, to use their talents to earn decent wages, shore up ecological sustainability, build housing for the poor, clean-up pollution, provide education for all children and allow all able-bodied people the dignity of work.

Consumerism habits need to change. The more we buy the more we throw out, the more garbage we create, the more landfills we pollute. 

We should not believe that the clothes we donate to charity are all recycled – only a tiny per cent is re-used or shredded to make other things like carpets (see CBC Marketplace, January 2018). 

The countries to which people thought their old clothing was being sent are refusing to take reject clothing – it is affecting their own manufacturing industries and putting their people out of work. So, your discarded clothes are mostly dumped into landfills. Think before you buy. 

I know that a reader has challenged me in the past when I wrote about the need for us to cut back on habits that pollute – like our excess use of plastics. I believe that thoughtful reader asked how can our small ecological efforts make a difference when big polluting nations don’t care. 

My answer is that all meaningful social justice waves start with small ripples. 

Your caring counts one step at a time.

Dr Vicki Bismilla is a retired Superintendent of Schools and retired college Vice-President, Academic, and Chief Learning Officer. She has authored two books.



 Dear Didi,

I’m writing to ask your help in settling a debate. My cousin in India says I have no right to comment on things in India as I don’t live there. That having left, I lost the right to say anything. I believe I retain every right to talk about anything that affects people anywhere, and specially so in a country I come from. Also, for the record, I wasn’t the one that left, my parents did, when I was a baby. I had no say in the decision. – Confounded

You have every right to comment; however, it doesn’t always mean you should. 

Often it is best to take a step back before you judge situations that you aren’t familiar with or can’t talk about first hand. I believe that’s what your cousin is getting at. 

Often we’re influenced by someone else’s views of places and countries that we haven’t visited but they have. We live vicariously through them and their experiences. 

There is also a big difference between being somewhere on vacation and living your life day in and day out in India, like your cousin. 

It’s a very North American perspective and fairly egotistical to feel we have the right to comment about another country that we don’t live in, especially since it’s a democracy where billions of people live. 

A few years ago, when a young girl was brutally gang raped on a bus and left for dead in India, I saw how overnight we heard from the masses demanding justice and increased safety for women. 

There was a movement on social media by women’s advocates criticizing the Indian justice system and highlighting the plight of women throughout the country. Yes, there were messages of support from around the world but in order to affect change, it had to be said and done in the country and by the people to make it happen. I started to follow these advocates and shared their posts and tweets with my followers, but I didn’t feel I had the right to comment on things and how they were progressing.

Like you, I was tucked away in the safety of my home and life, completely in control and with a different set of laws. These are not the same circumstances that your cousin is facing in India. Instead of commenting, you may want to listen to what she has to say about what is going on there and what her experience is. Offer her an ear to listen to her rant or rage or a supportive shoulder to cry on. Ask questions to see how you can help and support her. These are difficult times where those that haven’t felt the right to comment are starting to open their mouths and give voice to their views which may be something that hasn’t been supported before. They are the ones that will make change happen, if and when they stand up to be heard; however, if you are commenting on things you may take up a spot that isn’t yours to take which would be a shame. Like I said, just because you have the right to comment, doesn’t always mean you should. It’s the beauty of living thousands of kilometres away where you are at a safe distance. You have the ability to make a comment and then turn off your computer so you don’t have to face the consequences... but unless you are prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with your cousin, I respectfully would agree with her. 

I may be able to help! Is there something that you wish you could talk to someone about? Email me at or follow me on Twitter and Facebook at @DearDidi_KSC. Check out my blog on, subscribe to become part of the community and keep up to date with all the events. Hope to hear from you soon!


Honouring your parents


We just celebrated Family Day on Monday, February 18. This day got me thinking about how families can celebrate Family Day without children honouring their parents?

How can they have a good time together? The same applies for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. 

One of the Ten Commandments God gives in the Bible is Honour your father and your mother. To honour means to respect, to love, to obey. In many families, children obey their parents only out of fear; only because they are afraid.  They don’t obey out of love or from the heart.   

True, sometimes parents, especially fathers, abuse their authority. They demand respect but they have not won the love, the hearts, of their children. The same is true for parents who neglect their children or parents who have not nurtured their children to love and respect them. The hearts of the children are turned away from their parents. These are not excuses for children not to honour and obey, but it does happen and brings great sadness.

Parents weep, asking: “How come our son doesn’t love us or respect us? Look at all that we have done for him! What did we do wrong?”

It’s really important that God, His Word, be first and centre in our home and in our relationships. If we grow in our love and obedience to God, we may trust our children will grow to love, honor and obey us. Our children will also see our love and honour to our aged parents. 

If we don’t begin with God in our relationships, in our family, neither will our children. There will be no true respect and love for the teacher, or the boss at work or the police officer on the street. Violence, adultery, stealing, lying and discontentment will reign the day. 

This commandment, Honour your father and mother, is the first commandment with a promise, “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth”. That is, the quality of life is better and your life is not shortened by violence, alcohol or drugs.    

It all comes down to the heart of the matter: our hearts. How do we begin to love and obey our authorities from the heart? God gives the gift of a new heart to all who trust in Christ. It’s never too late. With Him, we can begin today and the change will speak volumes to our children and to our parent

 • Reverend Tony Zekveld can be reached at the Hope Centre at 416-740-0543 and tzekveld@primus,ca.

Why green signals good


The February cover story in Desi News, Vegetarians get the green signal,  was one I can totally identify with! My decision to be vegan is based partly on ethics and the belief that the widespread consumption of meat and dairy products is adding to climate changing/global warming. Also, the amount of land used to produce feed for cattle could be better used for crops, thereby feeding more people than meat from the cattle can.

Of course, vegetarian means different things to different people. Pastas and breads are vegetarian; so are gulab jamuns and jalebis. Some vegetarians consume milk, others do not.

It’s been two years since I went whole-food, plant-based. Completely for the first year, modified the second on the advice of my doctor. I work out 5-6 days a week. Two of those days are for weight training, and that led to muscle soreness. My doctor suggested that since I was vegan by choice and not due to faith reasons, I could have an egg and a piece of chicken a couple of times a week to speed up recovery after workouts. Yes, I know there are bodybuilders and athletes who are vegans; they likely have nutritionists on their staff who monitor their dietary needs.

I could cut back a bit on the exercise and eliminate the two eggs and chicken pieces a week, but I like to work out!

I also became a bit anaemic, but the vegan lifestyle is only partly the cause. For the past few years I donated blood 5-6 times a year, and the anaemia crept in after I turned vegan. The doc advised cutting the blood donations to a couple of times a year. Meat, particularly red meat, is good at replenishing haemoglobin levels. Whole food, plant-based meals are a healthier food choice than meat, but they are a bit slow at rebuilding haemoglobin levels. Since cutting the blood donations to twice a year, the haemoglobin levels have been fine.

In short, my (largely) whole food, plant-based lifestyle means lots of salads, smoothies, beans and fresh fruits, plus a handful of nuts every day. No added salts, no refined sugars, very little oil. We prefer home-made meals to restaurant food, so we rarely eat out. When I am a guest, I don't fuss about the ingredients.

Veganism means taking a vitamin B12 supplement. Most of us in North America, whatever our diet choices, need a vitamin D supplement as well, since we don’t get enough exposure to the sun.

The best part of being vegan: It makes you feel great physically and mentally (and morally!). Great digestion, tremendous reserves of energy. And blood test reports that will make your doc say “wow!”

• Mir Syed Ali is based in Florida.

Desi News