Kids Corner

Travel

Postcards From The Road:
Toronto, Canada

DYA SINGH

 

 

 

 

 

Just because the Toronto area or Canada’s Province of Ontario is home to sikhchic.com and its editor Sardar T. Sher Singh is no reason for me not to write a postcard from there and post it here on sikhchic.com.

After all, for me Toronto is a foreign destination and some might even say exotic, all the way from sunny Australia - especially from wintry Melbourne.

I was invited to conduct an Anand Kaaraj of a close friend's son.

First, the usual frustration of landing in Los Angeles just to catch another flight out to Canada. I am still mystified why I need to have a visa for USA when I am only passing through an airport, in transit, to Canada.

Then, the USA authorities insist that you check out your bags, go through Immigration and Customs, then walk about one mile to the next terminal, hand in your checked-in luggage and catch the flight out. Someone must have had to think very hard to plan that one! But then, USA has never been a favourite destination of mine, for various reasons, least of all the rather terse, sometimes downright rude officials, that you have to negotiate your way through.

Come to Australia! Here our officials can make passing through Customs and Immigration hell too. But they do it with broad smiles on their faces and with immense politeness. Canadian officials too are almost as pleasant, but USA  officialdom ... they want to let you know that you are not welcome right from the start.

My hosts, Anand Preet (‘Raj’) Singh, Jasmeet Kaur, their boys Aiksimar Singh  and Harjas Singh, and daughter Amrita Kaur, are the kind of family one hopes to have as dear friends. They have parkash of Guru Sahib, the children are well entrenched in Sikhi, all of which engenders a happy home atmosphere.

A lively Australian sheepdog, Sunny, checks you out and either accepts you or gives the family constant reminders that that particular person is not welcome! I just bribed him with some 'sakar paaray' (Punjabi sweets) and we were friends right from the start.

The Anand Kaaraj was tastefully organised with guests coming from all over the world. It was heart-warming to see the number of guests, Sikh and non-Sikh, who had taken the trouble to come and bless the couple. I had my part to play, to ensure that it was a memorable 'bilingual' Anand Kaaraj.

The one negative aspect of any Anand Kaaraj I have not been able to overcome is dealing with the granthis and the recently-off-the-boat visiting raagis from India, many of whom sometimes take on the role of ‘raagis-in-residence‘. Though, I must make mention that in some gurdwaras they have become good friends and I look forward to my visits.

It was no different in Toronto. I have had similar experiences in Vancouver too - the only other Canadian city that I have conducted an Anand Karaj in.

The second negative aspect is the usual miscommunication between Anand Kaaraj organisers and gurdwara committees, with the granthi/raagi fraternity normally expecting to do their own thing regardless of all that is going on around them.

I was supposed to start kirtan by 9:30 am. I duly presented myself with my accompanists -- world-renowned Canadian tabla percussionist Gurpreet Singh Chana and a young violinist, at 9 am. The in-house staff had other ideas. Kirtan by an in-house jatha was ongoing and at 9.30, an aged 'vidhvan' (exegete) did katha (interpretation) of a section of Japji. Yet again, at 10 am, contrary to the scheduled program, another resident raagi jatha took over the stage and I, despite being invited all the way from Australia specifically fo this, had no choice but to drastically cut down my kirtan program to the bare-bone laavan.

As Sher Singh ji commented to me after the ceremony - ‘What happened? Why the truncated version?“

I spent a beautiful evening on Toronto's Harbour Front. The company was T. Sher Singh ji, a dear friend Dr. Birinder Singh Ahluwalia who is a well-known Toronto personality and one not known to shy away from supporting any good cause, especially for the community, and my dear hosts Raj and Jasmeet.

Toronto has a beautiful waterfront with clear water, small ships, water ferries, cruisers, and boats on the water and boardwalks, restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating. I also visited the outdoor amphitheatre on the waterfront where my music group performed a gurbani concert a dozen years ago as part of Toronto's ‘Mehndi, Masti, Masala’ Festival.

The weather this time of the year - late summer -- is just about perfect. Yes, there could just as well be similar spots in most cities in Australia, or New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, but this is uniquely Toronto.

The other special visit close by has to be the magnificent Niagara Falls, but my time was limited and after almost 12 years’ absence from Toronto, it was more important to spend time with my dear friends than sight-see.

Prominent amongst the latter is S. Kanwal Singh Kohli whose son Indresh's wedding I had come to conduct. I was also honoured to conduct his other son, Puneet's wedding about two years ago in Vancouver.

I have been promised some other 'special' places to visit in and around Toronto the next time I come back. Toronto Island sounds fascinating with a unique colony of old small homes, narrow paths with no land vehicles at all, and a huge natural park for picnics and children to play in.

For me, any place is special due to the lovely people that I know, who live there. For that, and that alone, Toronto is special to me.

I also had the privilege of doing kirtan one evening at my hosts' residence, and a morning consisting of a dialogue session with youth from nearby Scarborough.

All in all, it was a very pleasurable trip.


September 2, 2015
 

Conversation about this article

1: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, USA), September 02, 2015, 2:40 PM.

A long time ago (may be more than 10-15 years), Washington, DC area Sikhs were fortunate to have Bhai Dya Singh and listen to kirtan in his inimitable style in various gurdwaras. After reading this postcard, I realize why he is not visiting USA much nowadays. Please arrange your visa before landing, you will then not see any problem. Hope to see you here in the future.

2: Anandpreet (Raj) Singh (Canada), September 02, 2015, 7:34 PM.

Dya Veer ji, it was a pleasure hosting you. We enjoyed every moment of it. We, along with our children, learned a lot from you. We especially enjoyed the kirtan at home. We look forward to your next visit.

3: Sangat Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), September 05, 2015, 5:59 AM.

It is becoming difficult to keep track of your wanderlust. That is, if it is Tuesday it must be Rome. Glad that sikhchic.com keeps a journal of your trips. Wonder when it would be Malaysia's turn ... perhaps during the Durian season. Looks like your Cochin massage centre is presently on the back burner.

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Toronto, Canada"









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