Monthly Archives: October 2010

All Work and No Play Makes Me a Grad Student

An edited version was published by South Asian Generation Next on 4th November 2010.

I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. But I have been busy. With grad school. 

Life as a graduate student is overrated. For one, you are always over exhausted. 

Remember that day when you received that acceptance letter in the mail? That absolute joy that filled you when you realised that you would be joining the world of academic elites, something you had deemed impossible? Remember that smugness you experienced when you announced proudly to all those waiting in the wings to judge you by your future prospects? Remember? 

Well, this “joy” is short-lived. It is squashed out of you through over work.

“Now, what is a little over work when a degree with a coveted Master or Doctorate next to your name on an official sheet of paper awaits you at the end of your journey?” you ask belligerently.

I would say nothing, except for the fact that I:

  1. Plan my life around naps: Yes, naps. An undisturbed all night’s sleep is out of the question when you are a grad student. Sleep is an inconvenience. There is just always too much to read, too much to write, too much to do!
  2. Read books with names like Dangerous Liaisons*, except they are books on feminist theory on gender and politics.
  3. Live from weekend to weekend: Weekends mean longer naps.
  4. Dream of the day when I could wake up and go back to being a carefree undergrad student: Sometimes, these dreams can become nightmares when you wake up and realise that they are nothing but dreams.
  5. Want to kill myself when I have to read endless badly written first year papers: You conveniently forget that you used to be one of them.
  6. Marvel at the lack of creativity of excuses on the part of first year students: Yes, you have been there and done ALL of that. So, when a student comes to you and says he couldn’t hand in an essay on time because he accidentally hit a deer on the way to school and then his car broke down, after which he lost his way to the university from the car repair store, you raise a sceptical eyebrow and go “Huh! Really?”
  7. Wish that I had a life beyond naps and endless reading, and then remind myself that I should be lucky to be in grad school, and then wish I had a life… all over again.
  8. Silently plot to kill my students when they hand in unstapled papers and justify themselves by saying, “but I folded the corners”. No shit.
  9. Attend 8:30 morning lectures of first year classes that I don’t belong to, but I am a TA (teaching assistant) for: You have forgotten what 8:30 classes used to be like, especially after you vowed in your first year never to take one again. Karma can be quite a bitch, huh?
  10. Nap in my office in between classes: How else do you think I get through the day?

 Ok, back to my books now.

*Dangerous Liaisons is a 1997 collection of essays on politics of gender, race and identity, edited by Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti and Ella Shohat.


Filed under rant

Revelation or Repetition?: Sugar Sammy at South Asia Stand-Up at York University

Posting an article that I wrote last year in November after my encounter with South Asian stand-up comic, Sugar Sammy. It was published by South Asian Generation Next on 26th November 2009.

Going to a stand up comedy show for my twenty fourth birthday, I was très excited. I have been to Yuk Yuk’s several times, and have even caught a show of The Second City. However, this was going to be different. It was a desi show. The headliner was Sugar Sammy, an Indo-Canadian from Montreal, whose face I had seen plastered all over York University for the past month. A good looking insolent visage challenging the viewer to come catch his show. Very cheeky and in your face.


Organized by USAY (United South Asians at York), the show on 17th November was packed and nearly sold out. Expectations were high. I wasn’t surprised to see many women there, especially since famous gorgeous guys draw girls like flies to garbage, and in this case, it was very sexy comedian. Good looks and a sense of humour. You get the picture.

I was also waiting breathlessly for Sugar Sammy to appear. I had heard much praise from my sister who had caught bits of his act on YouTube. But since he was the headliner for the evening, his appearance was reserved for the last part of the show.

The show started later than its scheduled time, but the acts following up to Sugar Sammy more than made up for the delay. First to come was Dave Meherje, followed by Vidur Kapur and Massimo. All of them had their distinct style ands their shockingly funny acts added more to the anticipation of the upcoming headliner. 

Finally, it was time for THE Sugar Sammy, who arrived late and made the MC, Peter Kash, sweat a little since he ran out of his poorly timed jokes.

What a disappointment. Not the MC, but the headliner.

I expected more from this good looking “funny” guy whose claim to fame is his ability to reach out to audiences in four different languages- English, French, Punjabi and Hindi. Most of his jokes were to do with the audience. They might have been funny if we had been able to hear him properly. In his eagerness to pick on others, he kept putting the mike away from his face. His jokes- the few he cracked- were outdated and predictable. He seemed more of a Russell Peters rip off, even though he declares to draw inspiration from Dave Chappelle, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock. The building up of expectation that the former comedians had worked at fizzled out little by little as my disappointment with Sugar Sammy set in. I was bored and kept looking at the watch. I found him gimmicky and just a good looking poster boy who was good at strutting on the stage and killing time.

But what went wrong? Surely, he was having a bad day. His past successes point at a comedian who is not only talented but in high demand all over the world. After all, he just won the 2009 COCA (Canadian Organization for College Activities) Award for Best Comedian AND has a huge fan following all over the world. So, what really went wrong? My guess: either he has let too much fame get to his head (like our very own Sonu Nigam) or he just tailors his show according to his audience. Perhaps, he felt York University didn’t deserve a good show. Or, maybe, the standards of taste have really gone down within the past year. What ever it is, that’s the last time I pay $10 to go watch Sugar Sammy.


Filed under anecdote, event

Nuit Blanche 2010: Nothing Artsy about being Artless

Auto Lamp, Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

The idea of hanging out all night at an arts fest that takes place only under the cover of darkness inspires novelty. Or, so it would appear. However, Nuit Blanche only seems to get progressively worse each year and inspires nothing but insipid interest for what passes for art these days.

A good excuse to get-together with friends and to give in to the colourful character that lives under your skin, Nuit Blanche brought forth crowds of people, perhaps more than last year, on  October 2nd right after sundown. I hit the party in Zone A near the Royal Ontario Museum with friends and friends of friends- as is often the case- close to eight-thirty. The long lines and half an hour waiting time for many of the commissioned (in other words, usually the exhibits worth catching) works discouraged us from moving forward. Yet, exhibits like the “Monument to Smile” by Agnes Winter on the Holt Renfrew store on Bloor Street did not require line-ups and attendees like yours truly could click from a safe distance. A giant projection of faces of Torontonians clicked by OCAD students, this exhibit had people milling in front of it, pointing out funny faces.

Monument to Smile, Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

However, many of the “art” on display were disappointing, like the LED light activated by movement and stillness- “Ning Ning” – on Bond Street. It was frustratingly similar to an exhibit that had been done in the past.

Part of the Bus House Collective, Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

A defaced bus stop near the old city hall- part of the “Bus House Collective”- garnered criticism from Torontonians. As overheard: “Destroying public property is no excuse for art!” The comment may have been discouraging for an increasing disillusionment of an event that I had looked forward to all year if it hadn’t been for the concert in Nathan Phillips Square. The loud rock music, coupled with multiple giant screens with projections of the performance, transformed the space into a haven for music lovers who wanted nothing more than to relax; and in some cases, smoke up (yes, there was a pot party too. In fact, several ones.), make out, and enjoy the music in the process. The magic in the air was palpable and only the urgency to catch more exhibits (and possibly discover similar gems) pulled my senses in another direction.

Later that Night at the Drive-In, Nathan Phillips Square, Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

Our walk took us to a swinging guitar coupled with loud gongs amidst huge screens of moving images. Playing a guitar that was non-static garnered attention for its unusual idea. Although, I have to admit the gongs were quite annoying.

Next, a huge bonfire in a corner of Dundas Square was a gratifying testimony to our inner selves who are quietly mourning the summer gone by. The crowd around the bonfire re-enacted what can be said of summer camping trips with group singing around the fire. Marshmallows were absent.

Just because you can feel it, doesn't mean it's there, Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

On another corner of Dundas Square, there was an open air opera that should be applauded for its attempt at theatre in the middle of sniggering crowds. Walking further south along Yonge Street, a perforated white van- “Auto Lamp”- lit from within by multiple bulbs greeted my group. As one of my friends put it, it was “pretty”, if not fresh. And that, in the long night of artless art, is a compliment.

The night ended with us walking further into Zone C at Yonge and King and catching the eerily blown up clown faces caught between two buildings on Yonge Street. Aptly named “Coulrophobia”, or fear of clowns, the images tapped into my horrific memories of Stephen King’s “It” at age ten, and at the same time, made my night worthwhile. If it wasn’t for the clowns, I would be planning to stay at home next year.

Endgame (Coulrophobia), Nuit Blanche 2010, Toronto

Photographs: Copyright Sanchari Sur

An edited version was published in South Asian Generation Next on 6th October 2010.


Filed under event