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  • Writer's picturePat Browne

Meet the Premjis

One thing I love about this neighbourhood is how incredibly proud people are of their kids and the Premji’s are no exception with good reason.

I sat down to talk with Anil, Tazima, Shaila and Noah Premji and what quickly came out is how incredibly proud Anil and Tazima are of their children. Noah will finish his Bachelor of Business Administration at Wilfrid Laurier in June. Shaila holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology, and is currently working towards completing a Masters in law, business, or maybe even both!

Shaila is particularly interested in the democratization of law. From working at Axess Law, a firm that established itself inside a Walmart, she quickly realized how liberating it is for people to be able to reach out for legal help in the environment they know.

“I want to be part of modernizing the legal industry in Canada,” says Shaila. “I’m looking at a wide array of programs that embodies my goal, ideally merging my interests in the legal and operational aspects of the industry. Providing legal services, especially at a time right now, forces us all to creatively think about new ways to grow in our industries.”

“I am grateful to be part of a program that enables me to diversify my knowledge across all specializations”, says Noah, currently finishing up his degree at Laurier’s prestige business program. Noah is evaluating his next steps. His co-op experiences at CIBC, leading digital onboarding initiatives and his leadership involvements in the Ismaili community intrigued his desire to further improve his management skills.

Noah’s current role as a Project Management Officer for the youth economic well-being, sparks a further interest in organizational behaviour (a particular soft spot for me as I studied Org Behaviour many years ago at Simon Fraser University). Noah’s goal is to continue his education in the business industry. Although his options are open, his current aspirations lead to becoming a designated project manager and human capital expert. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for these two!

The Premjis have watched their children grow up in our neighbourhood. If you don’t know them, you’ve probably seen them playing in the park. Anil is a hands-on soccer dad (he continues to play himself). He set up training programs for Noah in our little park, running drills and hosting weekend soccer matches. Noah continues to play as a striker and is an ardent Manchester City fan.

Shaila loves to dance. At thirteen she started to train professionally as a Bollywood dancer and now loves to teach and develop choreography for new dance programs. Check out the video link below. Shaila has her own YouTube channel of original content. Watching Shaila dance is a dream. She moves fluidly through the various forms that compose the Bollywood genre (everything from semi-classical contemporary, Kathak, Indian folk, western popular and “modern”, jazz).

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg for this family. They are people of their time who actively embrace new technology, family activities and social consciousness. The current COVID pandemic has only strengthened their family bonds. A ping pong table in the basement has seen many heated table tennis tournaments. Uno and Monopoly Deal are games of choice for quieter times (quiet is debatable as things are competitive with this family). Anil has even learned how to cook with his time at home – butter chicken is everyone’s favourite.

Both Anil (an accountant with Votorantim Cimentos - St Mary’s Cement) and Tazima (a Budgeting Assistant with the School of Community Health Studies at Centennial College) have been working from home during this pandemic. Along with their work commitments, both Anil and Tazima are highly active in the Ismaili community. During the pandemic, they have been active members bringing virtual programming to shut-in Ontario seniors; everything from educational, health and entertainment programs. As former ministers of the East York Jamatkhana on Bartley Drive, Anil and Tazima’s drive for helping others in the community is truly admirable. The community is being recognized for its contribution to society during the pandemic including hosting vaccine clinics where Anil and Tazima both assisted.

Like many of the people you’ve already met through this blog, Anil and Tazima’s families are from East Africa. Tazima’s family came from Uganda in 1972. Anil’s family were in Tanzania. Tazima’s family were part of the exodus from Uganda when Idi Amin declared "Africa was for Africans". His expulsion order affected at least 80,000 people who had lived in Uganda for generations. Anil’s brother emigrated to Canada first and was able to bring the rest of his family in 1982.

As refugees, the family was brought to Canada as part of the humanitarian efforts of the then Trudeau government. Over 7,000 individuals were accepted by Canada in 1972. The family originally settled in East York and that’s where Tazima met Anil (at East York Collegiate).

Now as Anil tells the story, Tazima chased him. Whichever way the story goes, they were married after they finished school. They stayed in East York until they moved into our neighbourhood in 2006. Drawn here by the peace and tranquility of our little enclave; “I feel safe,” says Tazima. “We love diversity and acceptance. I don’t think there is anywhere else that is truly as welcoming as this neighbourhood.”

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