That was precisely how I felt when I entered Nathan Philips Square, the huge atrium surrounding Toronto City Hall to watch the 29th Khalsa Day Parade. The parade is organized by the Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwaras Council (OSGC) every year to celebrate Vaisakhi, the New Year in the Sikh community.
It is an expression of solidarity within the Canadian Sikh community, who invite everybody to come out and share the day with them. Around 85,000-100,000 people were estimated to have attended the event. Beginning at Exhibition Place at 1 pm, the parade reached Toronto City Hall via Lakeshore Blvd. Marching to drumbeats, the procession included school bands and carriages with posters of Sikh history and culture, intermingled with Canadian culture. Following them were spectators in their thousands, some of them singing in the true spirit of participation.
Delving into history, we find that Sikhism, as a religion, originated in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent in the 15th century. Toronto boasts of one of the largest Sikh communities in the world next to Surrey in Vancouver. ‘Khalsa’ is the name ascribed to the Sikh community. Canadian Sikhs form 1.4% of the population in Canada and 28% among the South Asians, according to Wikipedia, our everyday resort for facts of these kinds. Giving these a once-over, we can now move to the more interesting part, the food.
I was amazed by the awesome variety of free food available at the event. There were at least 20 food stalls serving different types of Indian food and beverage. And it was all for free! The whole day! Also, did I mention that it was extremely tasty?!! Frankly speaking, we were doing the rounds of the food counters most of the time, pigging out on savory and sweet stuff, drinking tea, smoothies, juice, etc. Even in the procession, volunteers were distributing pizza and juice.
Actually, I saw people making up doggie bags to take food home. What was best about this was that there were people from different cultures from all corners of the world. Everybody was welcome to the delicious food. People were there lining up, ready to snack on the readymade food. Well, that was another thing, the huge line-ups! The food stalls were overcrowded and there was some shoving and pushing. But it was all in good spirit!
Many top politicians and dignitaries also graced the occasion to pay their respects to the huge gathering. And probably to remind us to vote for them! Some of them stood out, donning traditional Indian clothing. This added a touch of novelty to the event, in the minds of people like me. There were also small-time fun activities for kids such as face painting and games. All in all, it was a day well-spent!
06 May 2014