Every year after my fifth grade class reads the novel Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, I have them do a project in which they create their own imaginary worlds.  They design a map and a flag, a national animal and plant, write up the history of their world, etc.  It’s always fun to see the unique ideas they each come up with, but one of my favorite sections to grade is the one where they must create a list of laws to be followed (and consequences for breaking them).  It gives some interesting insights into their priorities and how their minds work!  Here are some of my favorite laws from this year’s projects.   In a few cases I’ve edited them for grammar and clarity.  In some cases, the odd phrasing was part of what made them amusing, so I’ve left it in!

All citizens need to own a soccer ball (if they cannot afford one, it will be provided).  Consequence for breaking this law: must watch soccer on TV for 24 hours straight.

No tearing other people down.  Consequence: write “no tearing other people down” 5,003 times.

No cars, airplanes, buses, subways, motorcycles, scooters, trucks, or any transportation, except for boats.

No speeding.  (This was from a world inhabited by turtles.)

Do not steal other turtles’ shells or you will be branded with a “T” on your shell and sent to Turtle Prison.

You are not allowed to try to take over the world.

You are not allowed to try to kill someone or everyone on this planet.

You can’t eat machine.  Consequence: you will be burned.

Exercise 30 minutes a day.  Consequence: have to exercise 2 hours a day.

Eat 30% of meat, 30% of vegetable, 30% of water, and 20% of rice each day, stay healthy.  Consequence: will eat and drink 2 times more each day.  (In my defense as this student’s teacher, we don’t actually learn percentages in fifth grade!)

Adults must go to work 4 hours a day.  Consequence: must go to work 60 hours a day (with breaks for only 5 minutes).

Freedom of speech.  Consequence: will be stoned to death.

All people must obey (student’s name); if not they will be sent to execution with no trial.

Never eat vegetable.  Consequence: jail for 14 hours.

Read a book every day.  Consequence: jail for 12 hours.

Eat 3 pounds of sugar every day.  Consequence: pay $800.

Do not do inappropriate stuff.  Consequence: will be put behind bars.

No loud music.

Don’t pee on statues.

Do not murder extincted animal because they are rare and special.

Summer vacation should be a vacation.  No summer schools!  Parents will get punished.

No getting married until you’re at least 26.  Consequence: will be divorced by government.

Men cook.

If you kill a person without a reason, you will be thrown down a mountain that is 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles long.

If you steal anything, you will be thrown into the boiling volcano. 

I realized I never got around to blogging about this project last year, so I’ll go ahead and include some laws from my previous class as well:

No one should have more than 8 weapons.

You can’t park your pebirimal (flying creature) anywhere.

No citizen is allowed to be a doctor without permission.  If you do, you’d have to go back to college to study for the doctor degree.

No one is allowed to use electricity for bad things; if you do, you might die of electricity shock.

No adultery or else you’ll get thrown into prison for life and get executed.

No usury allowed.  If you build one you will have to go to jail for 5 months to 1 year and have to pay $8,000 to $12,000.

No collecting taxes.

Don’t spit gum on the ground, or you will have to go through all the trash cans at the park and take out people’s chewed gum.

Every man at the age of 16 must be in the army or else they will get sentenced to death.

Everyone has to go to school by the age of 5 or they will have to work as an apprentice till they are 15 years old.

No swearing, or you will be put in an Anger Management Center for two months not leaving that place.

No being unkind.  If you be unkind for no reason at all, you will not be able to do anything fun inside and outside your house.

Kids are not allowed to go outside when they are 0-7 years old because they are too young to go out and play.

You are not allowed to marry until you are 23.  If you marry younger than 23 you will have to give your husband or your wife away from you and marry another person when you get to 23.

You cannot kidnap anyone unless it is the government doing so with a warrant.

You can’t call a pickle a pickle if it does not bounce, or you will have 1 hour of community service.

Bears cannot be con artists.

Do not build over 2 factories in one family or per person, because the air would get polluted.

Never spy on your own country.  Whoever breaks this law will be execute it.

Do not pick flowers; they are dangerously poisonous unless self-bred.

Trust no one; no one is trustworthy.

Do not make loud noises, or else the animals will come and eat you.

Every boy must go out of the village and live in the wilderness for twenty moons after the boy’s fourteenth birthday, so that he can be called a grown man.  If broken, that boy will not have another chance till he is eighteen.

Do not cause trouble among the people.  Punishment: 5 year imprisonment or death.

Do not steal, do not lie, do not murder.  Penalty: no breakfast for the next day.

Do not harm lions.  Consequence: you’ll be hurt by lions.

You must marry before 26 years old.  Consequence: you will go to jail until you get somebody to marry you.

Students must go to the school after 13 years old; they can have free time till 13.  Consequence: parents will have to go to school if they let their children go to school before 13 years old.

Everyone must eat candy 2 times a week.  If you don’t, you will be whipped.

You are not allowed to harm the national animals and plants.  If you do, you will work with animals for 1 year.

Want to read more unusual laws?  Click on the links below to read my posts about students’ imaginary world projects from other years:








Soni is a friend from India who I “met” (online) through my mom.  A fellow writer, she has recently published a children’s book featuring beautiful Indian-style art to go with each phrase of the Lord’s prayer (you can take a look at her book and buy it here if you like).  Soni and I arranged to do guest posts on each other’s blogs; hers is below, and you can read mine on her blog at http://jaajaabor.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/guest-post-annie-douglas-lima//.  Make sure you read or scroll all the way to the bottom, because both of us are holding giveaways!  You can win an actual, physical copy of a piece of Soni’s art or a copy of my eBook In the Enemy’s Service!


Ever since I started my blog, I have found virtual community and met people that would not have been possible otherwise – I find it amazing. Annie’s mother Cathy introduced us when I wrote to tell her about my self-published children’s book. It is called “Teach us to pray” is an illustrated book for young kids to teach them about the Lord’s Prayer. My illustrative style has been influenced by many folk arts of Indiaand to know how you can win a print please stay with me till the end of the post.


I have often likened immigration from the east to west to getting married and moving from your family to your husband’s family. As a woman that analogy makes sense to me, it may not make as much sense to you so let me explain.

Typically in India, when a woman gets married, she moves into a joint family with her in-laws and she is supposed to adhere and adjust to existing unwritten rules of the household. Even in nuclear families, the relationship with the mother-in-law is significant and often is subject to comparison with the mother. For all purposes she may have taken on her new identity but there is a part of her heart that belongs with her own parents and family. Same is the case with coming to live in a new country.

When I made my big move from Indiato Canada, I did not know what to expect. I had to go through a learning process which included new mannerisms, new cultural references etc.

No matter how much you read about a country in books or travel as a tourist, you get the real authentic flavour of a place only when you have lived there for an extended period of time. Over the course of time I have discovered newer things about Canadaand my expectations have become more grounded in reality. For example the winter in Canada- It was during my second winter in Canada that I really begun to  understand the passion behind skiing or ice hockey or for that matter the craziness in summer to soak it all in. After five years in Canada, I can say that I feel as much Canadian as I feel Indian.

I moved to Canadain the year that the hugely successful movie “Slum dog Millionaire” was released. So naturally, people were interested in finding out more about India and the movie became an ice-breaker in many instances. Even till date when I meet new people, Indiabecomes an instant topic of conversation.

India is a secular country with 28 states and 7 union-territories, and 14 official languages. Indiais such a big country that it is not possible to summarize it in a 5-minute social talk or even in a single blog post but I am glad to engage in a conversation. For today  I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about the most common topics I have been asked about India.

Food is the most talked about subject especially when you are gathering at events. I have often found extreme reactions to Indian food- they either love it or stay away from it, there is no middle ground.  It is true that our curries are often too spicy, our deserts too sweet and our portions too big. It is also true that it what is considered as Indian cuisine is not one style of cooking at all , it is a culmination of different regional cuisines and somehow the most popular ones got associated with Indian food. The most common curries you would find in any Indian restaurant in North America are spiced-down versions to the mughlai and Punjabi style of cooking in addition to some south-Indian favourites like Dosas, idlis, sambar etc. The actual Indian cooking is much diverse than that. Also what is served in restaurants is a feast fit for a big occasion but it is not how we normally eat at home. To get an authentic taste of Indian cooking, I always recommend eating at home with friends.

When asked for restaurant recommendations, I have to often apologise because when we go out to eat, we go out to try some new cuisines other than what I can make at home!


This style of physical and mental discipline may have originated in India but I will be honest; I never practised it except in school where it was a part of our physical education training. I would posit that yoga was almost declining from the daily life in India – limited only to spiritual retreats and ashrams (thanks to the dedicated ones who continued on with it )-  before it became popular in the west. Yoga has become such a huge thing in the west- much different from the yoga of my younger days.

Thanks to my friends who are into yoga, I now know about a few yoga retreats in North- India and some ayurvedic healing resorts in south of India- Something I would never have found out on my own (ironic , I know !).


Mainly referring to the Hindi film industry, Bollywood movies are characterised by their song and dance routines, a larger than life canvas and melodramatic performances. Hindi movies are flag bearers of traditions and language in one way. As an immigrant, watching Hindi movies is akin to creating a small oasis of Indiaaround me. I have met many second generation Canadian-Indian who feel connected to Indiaby the way of the movies.

Ever since dance shows like ‘so you think you can dance’ included Bollywood as a dance style in their roster Hindi movie songs have become better known internationally. Credit is also due to Hollywoodand international movie makers for shining the spotlight on India. As I mentioned earlier, in 2008 it was the movie “slum dog Millionaire” and in 2012 it was “life of Pi” that became a starting point of lot of conversations.


Indian clothing and fabrics have recently become fashionable. Thanks again to Hindi Movies and many Indian actors making appearances on red-carpets all over the world. Women’s wear like saris and kurtis are well known and have been worn by the likes of Oprah and Madonna. Some say there are as many ways of wearing a sari as there are regions in India.

Whenever I turn-up in church or a social gathering in an Indian ensemble, I am always complimented about the bright colours and rich embroideries or weaves. Even some of our simple designs are quite elaborate and you have to see some heavily embroidered and richly textured dresses to believe how much can be done on a piece of fabric. If you are interested please look up Banarasi, Kantha, kanjeevaram weaves on the net. Add to that all sorts of jewellery styles like kundan, temple jewellery from south etc. and you would never be short of things to talk about.

Arranged Marriages/Traditions 

Oh this is a big one! Every time someone asks me how I met my husband; they are almost dumbfounded that I met him only once before marriage or that our marriage was approved and blessed by our parents and pastors of both our churches. Wedding are a family affair in Indiaand are big on traditions. From finding a suitable match to making all the arrangements, the family is involved in all the aspects. The most popular version seen on the media is the north Indian Hindu marriage but there are lot of regional variations in traditions with in the Hindu belief system and there are local traditions associated with different religious groups as well. It is no wonder then that an immigrant from Indiais naturally inclined to look for local traditions and culture of the new place.

I always find it interesting to hear from people what they know or like to know about my culture and where I am from. It makes me feel welcomed and accepted. When people talk to me about life in Canada they make me feel like a part of this country. I am excited to be a part of this inter-cultural dialogue that is constantly shaping and diversifying the social environment in Canada.

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