New Gujarati newspaper in Windsor-Essex serves 'huge need' to reach generations
The Prerna, 'inspiration' in English, launched in Windsor area, believed to be 1st of its kind outside GTA
At first glance, the difference between the regular daily newspaper that drops at your doorstep and The Prerna may be obvious — the latter is written in Gujarati, a South Asian language with origins in the Indian state of Gujarat.
But for the people behind The Prerna, the publication serves as a way to keep the language alive across generations.
The Prerna launched Friday at nine locations, mostly in Windsor-Essex in southwestern Ontario, and will publish biweekly.
Editor and publisher Ashish Patel said he was inspired to start a Gujarati-language newspaper in 2018 after his mother's death in India three years ago.
This year, he brought the idea to community members Dhaval Petrolwala and Binish Shah — who both expressed interest in launching the newspaper.
"The whole idea of our project, this Gujarati newspaper, is to serve the seniors who are living with us in our community and give them a reason to stay in Essex County, rather than going back home," said Patel.
He said the newspaper will also help older Gujarati-speaking people to teach their grandchildren how to read and write in their mother tongue.
It was Petrolwala's childhood that sparked his passion to join this newspaper project.
He said his grandfather would receive three newspapers at home, all written in Gujarati. Whenever Petrolwala's grandfather saw anyone with the first name Dhaval mentioned in one of those publications, he'd use it as a teachable moment for his grandchild.
"He would call me and show me, 'Your name is here in the newspaper.' By looking at that, I learned how to read my name even before going to school," said Petrolwala, editor and public relations manager for The Prerna.
"I want to get that impact in our community. I would say if five per cent of the kids at least learn to read their name in Gujarati, we have achieved our goal."
For Shah, editor and digital media specialist for The Prerna, the COVID-19 pandemic made the need for a Gujarati newspaper hit close to home. He lives in the same home as his parents and in-laws — all four consider Gujarati their first language.
Additionally, introducing a Gujarati newspaper to Windsor-Essex is a way of replicating his experiences of visiting India.
"Every time we had a morning tea, we'd always grab the physical newspaper and read. If we can replicate that here and provide that alternative for people to get their news, it would be fantastic," said Shah.
GTA's Gujarati papers
The Prerna is now believed to be the only Gujarati-language newspaper outside the Greater Toronto Area.
Others in the GTA include:
- Gujarat Abroad (Brampton).
- Gujarat Newsline (Ajax).
- Gujarat Weekly (Mississauga).
- Swadesh (Markham).
"Having a reference to your culture is extremely important. That's why I think it's a huge need to to put something out there on families' desks so generations can pick up [Gujarati] and try to understand it," said Shah.
Petrolwala said he's noticed the Gujarati population growing "exponentially" in Windsor over the past 10 years. Along with Shah and Patel, the three are directly associated with the Gujarati Samaj of Windsor — a non-profit that hosts cultural events and festivals to connect the Gujarati community in Windsor-Essex.
"Many more students and many more families are coming because Windsor is a good community to grow the family, so we are hoping that many more people will be coming to Windsor in the next couple of years," said Petrolwala.
Prerna translates to 'inspiration'
The paper features news from the state of Gujarat, Windsor-Essex and major stories across Canada, all written in Gujarati. But there will also be a section for the public — particularly, Gujarati-speaking youth in Windsor-Essex — to share their life experiences with the broader community.
"We have lots of good talent within our community, but there is no platform for them to bring it out ... Somebody who can write well, somebody who can draw, somebody who has different artistic skills that just never had a platform," said Shah.
Having a reference to your culture is extremely important. That's why I think it's a huge need to to put something out there on families' desks so generations can pick up [Gujarati] and try to understand it."- Binish Shah, editor and digital media coordinator for The Prerna
"Kids can now run around and say, 'Hey, my writing is up in the local newspaper' and keep it for reference for the future. That's what we are trying to achieve."
For Patel, however, The Prerna — which translates to "inspiration" in English as it aims to inspire younger generations to stay in touch with their Gujarati language — will also give older people the opportunity to forward inspirational messages to youth.
A hard copy of The Prerna's first edition is available to pick up at the following locations:
- India Grocers, 1249 Grand Marais Rd. W.
- Bhullar's Indian Grocery, 2120 Dougall Ave.
- Bhullar's Plaza, 275 Wyandotte St. W.
- V-Desi Superstore, 1695 University Ave. W.
- Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre of Windsor, 7007 Enterprise Way
- India Food Marker, 3393 County Road 42, Unit #4.
- Chawpati Indian Restaurant, 950 Wyandotte St. W.
- Sun Parlor Motel, 135 Talbot St. W. (Leamington)
- Richmond Pharmacy, 141 Richmond St. (Chatham)