Tag Archives: Toronto
June 29, 2014. Never expected the day to turn into such a big party. It was an experience of a lifetime. A celebration of life, love, and liberty as I have never seen before. Yes, I am talking of the final pride march, the concluding event at the ten-day Worldpride festival that took place in the last week of June in Toronto. As an ally and supporter, standing by the railings, cheering on, I felt truly proud. It was a spectacle of openness, doing what you like, and not caring a damn. Strong emphasis on the last point.
This was the event I have been waiting for since I heard of its popularity from my friends who had attended the pride parade the previous years. But the parade this year exceeded even their expectations. Way grander and bigger with a huge audience. And not just the marchers but the spectators were also an interesting crowd. I was walking around in open-mouthed wonder most of the time.
It was sheer excitement to see people, most exotically dressed in all imaginable costumes, performing for us. The drag queens looked drop-dead gorgeous. There was representation from human rights groups, affiliated with the Worldpride ideologies, as well as major Canadian for-profit organizations. I must admit though, the corporates do not make good entertainment material. It was slightly boring to watch them. Not so much the other groups who put in some thought into their costumes and exhibits in order to provide the most appealing display of their group’s mission and values.
The LGBT communities from different universities and sports clubs also put up a great show. It was interesting to note the firm statement put forth by communities originating in restrictive cultures like the (gaysi) The Gayi Desi and the Ismaili Queers. It was the spirit of solidarity that bound us all. Our cultural backgrounds, faiths, opinions, and orientation mattered no more. What mattered was that we were all there personifying unity in diversity and most importantly, having fun.
The authorities including the politicians and the police were there in tow providing their support. An estimated 12,000 people marched in the parade while more than a million supporters (I think!) grooved to the music played on the vans and vehicles carrying the floats and the people. The parade spanned across downtown Toronto, culminating at Yonge-Dundas Square, the most popular entertainment spot, for a musical evening of some great rock and pop music. This has been the best event I have attended in Toronto till date.
01 Jul 2014
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
Is it the end of the month already? Where did the whole month go? 🙂 This month’s guest post is by Cux, who talks about her foray into one of the very interesting cities of Canada.
Toronto is a great city… spectacular architecture, a great array of lovely restaurants and a buzzling arts and cultural scene… all add to its charm. But it is the classic international city! Very multicultural and diversified, it somehow lacks a unique identity. Having lived here for a while, I was determined to get around and explore other Canadian cities.
When a couple of my friends from the Czech Republic turned up in Toronto, it was the ideal opportunity to go visit Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. These cities were so different in their architecture, culture, signature food, and the outlook of their inhabitants that it was a real pleasure to be there. It was fascinating, to say the least.
Ottawa, the main center of the Canadian government, is a quiet, introspective city which mesmerized me with its colonial buildings and Victorian structures. The many walking trails that weave around the city gives one the opportunity to investigate its varied environments. Whether it is the Discovery walk that begins at the Canadian Museum of Civilization on the banks of the Ottawa River, and ends at Parliament Hill, or the walking trails around the Provincial Parks, all of them provide unique experiences.
My tour companions were seasoned walkers and helped me keep up my enthusiasm for walking throughout the trip.
The beautiful Alexandria bridge that connects Ottawa to Quebec is a beautiful sight. Ottawa has the most well-kempt parks and gardens. Also, it is home to the Canadian Tulip festival.
We saw the Rideau Canal which totally freezes over and becomes the world’s largest skating rink in the winter. The canal was opened in 1832 and is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The National Gallery of Canada houses the most creative art that I have seen in Canada till date including a landmark sculpture of a spider in front of the building. The sculpture, named Maman by the artist Louise Bourgeois, is among the world’s largest sculptures, measuring over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide. It is made of bronze, stainless steel, and marble.
We sat in for a parliament session as well… it was interesting to watch the proceedings in the House of Commons though we were more taken in by the stained glass paintings and the intricate architecture of the hall! Do take a look…
The Byward market is the happening place in town, lined with posh cafes and shops. Interestingly enough, adjacent to it, was an old old farmers market. This, I thought, was a perfect blend of tradition and modernity. I found the best cookie shop in this market where I tasted cookies designed as Canadian flags.
The friend in Ottawa who hosted us was a good cook and lived in a lovely house in a great locality. He introduced us to homemade maple butter, the next best thing to chocolate. Since then, I am hooked on it.
At some distance from the city, on the way to Montreal, we checked in on Plaisance National Park, which has a beautiful lake and some scenic wetlands, spread across the Ottawa river.
That was the best hiking trail of the trip.
It felt like walking in the wilderness of a natural forest. Protected by forest range officers, this huge park is good for camping. I hope I can go back there with my family sometime in the future.
And my photographer friend captured splendid shots of the floating gardens, open fields, flora and fauna including deer, squirrels, ducks, and beavers.
More about Montreal and Quebec City later…
31 Mar 2014