United Nations Honours Woman With Trinidadian Roots

The UN International Women’s Day Committee in Canada will honor Vashti Doorga, who has Trinidadian roots, would be among 50 women being recognized.

Doorga was born to Trinidadian parents and lives in Montreal, Quebec.

She single-handedly took on charity work in Canada and Trinidad and unfolded several Indo-Caribbean events internationally.

Doorga started her charity work with the help of her parents Bissundai Lalla and Bishai Doorga at the age of five dancing with diyas when she performed for a fundraiser for a children’s eye hospital in India and in the same year made the front page of the Gazette Newspapers at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Her first television performance in Toronto, Canada was also at the age of five.

She performed at various fundraising events and temple shows, and then went on to win a scholarship to study in India at the age of nine for dance. However, she was unable to pursue the scholarship due to terror attacks in India at that time.

Doorga started teaching dance with her mom for the Hindu Devotional Society of Montreal at the age of 14. And she soon began singing as well.

Doorga graduated from Dawson College and went on to Concordia and Mcgill University, and taught English as a second language to French speaking professionals.

“But doing all of this, I still felt there was something more I could do,” she said.

Doorga was selected to perform before an audience of 20,000 at the Air Canada Center with Bollywood stars Aishwarya Rai and Anil Kapoor. She was also offered a position with Ram Mandir’s Canadian Hindu Heritage Center to teach dance where she developed a Bollywood, Chutney Soca exercise dance class for adults and seniors who never had an opportunity to dance when they were growing up, due to being married at a young age or very strict parents or some could not afford it.

“Seeing the joy and fulfilment of their souls made it all worthwhile. Seeing the little ones as young as two took patience, but experiencing their wonder and seeing them expressing themselves through movement was so satisfying,” she said.

Doorga soon became a household name and was offered radio programme at stations across the country. She moved from radio announcer to writing for a local newspaper. She was recognised for a documentary on Shakti Worship, a sect of Hinduism that was misunderstood, she said. “I travelled to India, Guyana, New York, Florida and Trinidad, to do research. I wanted there to be an understanding of these believers that were segregated from many groups and not respected for their way of worship and thought to be “crazy or possessed” and have a sense of inclusiveness. “Kali in Canada” and “Heaven on Earth” were produced privately and sold out as a fundraiser within weeks,” she said.

Doorga got the writing bug and never stopped. She became the editor of a newspaper and then started her own magazine. Together with her brother Amit Doorga, his wife Stephanie Dipnarine, and her mother she started Shuga Magazine. “It was my passion to spread knowledge and help the West Indian community, and there was nothing like it. I was able to cover the Summit of the Americas and was the only Indian women allowed in the Canadian Press conference because I was Canadian. I had artistes who sang about rum, writing about being sober, and prominent artistes talking about crime and things people were afraid to talk about, but wanted to know about,” she said.

But that project was shelved when she met Trinidadian journalist, Rene Cummings, who encouraged Doorga to return to her homeland, Trinidad. Doorga commanded the airwaves of Sangeet 106.1 FM. She also secured a job with then MP Winston Dookaran, to organize special events.

During her stint in Trinidad, Doorga developed a character called “Jalwa Rani” together with other members of the Sangeet team as she tried her hand at comedy. She was also a freelance writer with one of the daily newspaper.

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