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Asian Star – Shreela Chakrabartty

Shreela_Color_RGBNative village/Country, parents’ background
I was born and raised in Edmonton by pioneer Bengali parents, who came to North America in the early 60s and settled permanently in Edmonton in 1965. My father worked for the Alberta Research Council as a research scientist and my mother held various jobs and volunteer positions as my brothers and I completed our education at the University of Alberta. Long since retired, they remain connected and snowbird to their winter home in Kolkata.

Your early education
I completed grade school at St. Francis Xavier in the West End, which was walking distance from my other schools and home, where our family continues to live since 1969. It was the starting place of the Edmonton Bengali Association and Bengali heritage language instruction. From schools to bible and music classes, neighbours, to home schooling, we received an education of high academic standards, religion, culture, music and sports that provided a well balanced approach to life.

Why did you visit India?
My relationship with India began in 1974 where every alternate year I had a chance to visit relatives in different states of India, getting to know about them, other interesting people, places and about India’s history.

What you did for initial survival?
As a second generation Canadian with parents who are settled and established in two countries, I am able to explore my creative, entrepreneurial interests. I am able to travel the world, knowing that my home is in Edmonton and Kolkata. The biggest responsibility I have is to be fully immersed in my interests so that something good can come out of it

Your career advancement initiatives and present occupation
Having dedicated myself to the risky art of filmmaking, I found opportunities to work for highly esteemed award winning film companies and institutions. In this field of applied art and commerce, I try to stay attuned to human interests and the markets that engage them. Working for others in the field of sound opened the pathway to becoming a movie director. I’m preparing to direct three more features. In the mean time, I am working on contract with the Provincial Archives of Alberta with a rare window of opportunity to gather documents that tell the history of Albertans of South Asian origin through old photos, videos, recordings and materials from cultural organizations.

Your regret in life
Regret is ignoring your inner voice. I sincerely try to remain a good listener.

Pick any one of your the best achievements
To see a Hollywood style movie, made in Edmonton and premiered on a big screen in a modern Cineplex in Mumbai, that introduced Shreela to the world as the movie director half of Shreela & Kash films, is what I hope to look back upon six films from now, to say: this is how it all began…

Were you ever discriminated against?
Discrimination happens through ignorance and short sightedness. When it happens, the thing to remember is we are all One and we must not become judgmental. It is knowledge and know-how that helps you progress towards a good life. A few years ago, some school kids painted swastikas around our house. It happened to be on our Bengali New Year’s Day. I shared with the police and the local schools and school boards about this occurrence and also about the history of this auspicious symbol and how unknowingly these children wished us wellness and good fortune. We had a good laugh and teachers were able to learn and hopefully share this information with their students.

What is missing in Canada?
Nothing is missing actually – well maybe Boroline! Seriously though, Canada does lack a forum for people to speak freely without fear of judgment and punishment. A society that criminalizes too easily, forces political correctness to a point of choking and resentment.

Are you happy in Canada?
Happiness comes from the pursuit of goodness – anywhere, anytime. Canada offers a kind of solace that we should never take for granted.

Why?
The peace and good health that we are graced with in this country can take us a long way.

Any comments on Canada’s weather
Where else can you enjoy so much blue sky and sunshine? An aboriginal elder once told me to figure out how to listen to the wind – through it the Spirit speaks.

Any comments on Canada’s culture
Biodiversity is our greatest strength and weakness because it makes us genetically stronger but puts us in a position of having to constantly define and redefine ourselves.

What brought you success in Canada?
Staying anchored in a single place while interconnecting with as much of the rest of the world and its people as possible.

Are you willing to help new immigrants?
New immigrants do not need help as such because they come well equipped and educated, maybe just a crash course in local ways of doing and saying things.

How?
Fresh perspectives and energy with better resources can be brought into our existing functions. I think it’s more the case that we can work together to move things forward. We have become a plug and play universe.

Your message for South Asians of Canada
Having the background of tolerance, universality and inclusion, we know from the heart what Canada’s values stand for. We have settled with families for over a hundred years. Yet, if a person did a genealogical search, we would have a hard time finding our history. It is imperative as we reach our third, fourth and fifth generations to make sure in whatever city we settle, that records of our families, businesses and associations be permanently preserved in the appropriate archives so that a future family member or researcher can time travel back to see what kind of lives we led and continue to circulate our stories…Legends of the Twenty First Century Canadians!

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