So let's begin at the beginning. I was raised in a small town called Ajax, Ontario (a suburb of Toronto). Life was busy, very busy. Mom and Dad made sure that I spent every waking moment in a constructive manner. Not only was I compelled to do my best in school (that meant nothing less than 90%), but I was also enrolled in every activity possible. Dance, drama, modeling, debating, public speaking, swimming... you name it and I was learning it. Even though money didn't grow on trees for Mom and Dad, they made sure that every cent went towards me and my future.
In terms of dance, I studied ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance from the Toronto branch of The Royal Academy of Dance, London. I have given dance exams up to Level 4, which is to dance what a bachelor's degree is to education. My parents also taught me Indian dance informally at home.
At school, I was involved in all sorts of extra-curricular activities: The Library Club, The French Club, The Stock Exchange Club, The Debating Club, The Peer Counselling Club. All of these activities taught me about life... information that was not available in the classroom.
Outside school, my family and I were involved in a lot of community activities. Being Indians at heart, we made it a point to keep in touch with our culture and heritage through extensive involvement with community organizations like The Association of Women Of India in Canada (AWIC), Arya Samaj, Hindi Parishad, Hindu Parishad... and various other temples and socio-cultural organizations. We used to organize functions for Diwali, Holi, Independence Day, Republic Day etc... all of which kept us in touch with (and in love with!) our country, our culture and our history.
I remember when I was 8 years old, my mother was teaching me how to read and write Hindi. "UU, AAHH, II, EEEE, OO, OOOO..." I couldn't believe it!! I said, "Why do I need to know how to read and write Hindi?? I am going to live in Canada all my life, and besides, no other kid has to do all this during their holidays!" But today, I am so fortunate that I can read and write Hindi, because it is of tremendous professional and personal use in Bombay.
I was also involved in Canadian community activities, primarily politics. When I was 16 years old, I was selected Youth Delegate to the Liberal Leadership Convention held in Calgary, Alberta. (In leadership conventions, one can vote at 16... otherwise the age is 18). It was there that I cast my vote for Mr. Jean Chretien, who happens to be the Prime Minister today! It was a unique opportunity for me, something I will never forget.
There, I also had the honor of meeting Mr. Pierre Trudeau, one of the greatest leaders Canada has ever had. One of the highlights of my teenage years is that when I met him... he kissed me on my cheek! Wow! It was the Kiss of Success.
Being part of the democratic political process is something I truly believe in, and I encourage every young person to get up and get involved. Don't be disheartened by the way it is... YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! That is the beauty of democracy.
I owe my entire childhood to my parents. Their dedication to child-rearing has set an example for me. If it wasn't for them, I would never be the person I am today. Thanks, Mom and Dad.