Kids Corner

Images: below, first from bottom, homepage and thumbnail: "Generations", depicting Sardar Gurumustuk Singh and his family - photo by Fiona Aboud.









During a short trip into Toronto one evening several summers ago, I found myself doing the very kind of thing I had fled from when I had found refuge in suburbia many years earlier.

I was late for a meeting and I desperately needed to zero in on a parking spot.

After several minutes of circling the block, the only space I could find available in the vicinity was in an adjacent church parking lot. Being mid-week, it was entirely empty.

Nobody would mind, I assured myself, since I'd be gone for only an hour or two. And nobody was using it anyway. So I left my car in one corner and rushed to my meeting next door.

The hors d'oeuvres were tastier than usual, so I spent the full two hours.

By the time I got back to my car, the parking lot was a sight to behold: a sea of cars!

Every spot had been taken. Parked willy-nilly, wherever there was space to fit a car. Pointing this way and that. In the laneways, in the exit ramps, behind other cars, in front of other cars. Leaving just enough room for people to make their way to the church.

My car was safe. Except that it was way out in this corner, against a fence, surrounded on three sides by vehicles at least six deep. And not a soul in sight.

I scold myself: Here's another fine mess you've got us into! That's what happens when you use a freebie parking spot. There's no such thing as a "free" parking space left in the world anymore. Penny wise and ....

I am ready to start fuming. My mind is already racing through all the legal remedies available to me - it's true, a lawyer's mind is a warped one - "If this happens ... if that happens ..."

Then I remember a story my father told me a long time ago. The moral of it was: if you have no reason to be in a hurry, don't hurry!

So, I ask myself, what do I have planned tonight?

Yes, I remember, I want to rush home so that I can get back to this great book I've been reading. But then I recall, the book is in my briefcase, in the car. Good. I can do right here, right now, exactly what I am going to do once I rush home.

My blood pressure comes down to normal instantly. I heave a sigh of relief. It's a beautiful evening: still light, warm, and a breeze is blowing the humidity away.

I pull out my book, hop onto the bumper, and quickly immerse myself into Richard Francis Burton's discovery of the source of the Nile.

Twenty minutes later, the church doors swing open with a clatter and hundreds of souls spill out into the lot.

Slowly, very slowly, inch by inch, they make their way to the cars.

They stop here to embrace, there to shake hands. Again, a few feet later, to exchange the latest tidbits.

It takes them another half an hour before the first ones arrive where I am.

They stand all around, chatting and laughing, Italians, all of them. It's obvious that no car can budge until and unless that first car, in some unknown spot, moves first, so as to make space for the next, and the next ...

I close my book and take in the sea of faces. And voices. Emotions and hand gestures. Rough, sun-burnt, time-worn, crinkled faces and gnarled hands. Young smiles and giggles, soft and manicured hands. Blunt, country accents. Sophisticated and cultured banter. Loud hails and gregarious postures. Reserved and coy whispers. Flirtations. Taunts. Greetings. Kisses, on the lips, on cheeks, and foreheads. Some on hands. And flying ones too, thrown across the cars.

A lot of holding and touching. Lingering, stolen glances. Children playing hide-and-seek everywhere, between bumpers.

On one side, two cars away, stands a cluster.

Four generations of a family. Young ones, like any other kids on this continent, oblivious of the babel of accents and dialects around them. Joking and teasing, in our "accent-free" English. Their mothers and aunts, flitting between fluent English and some old-country dialect. A middle-aged man and two women, conversing on a grave topic in Italian, punctuating each syllable with violent flicks of the hands.

Watching all of this stands a tall, erect figure.

In traditional black, white and lace. Weather-hewn face. Quiet, as if everything that needed to be said, she had said a long time ago. The matriarch.

The more I look at her, the more I see my Bey ji -- paternal grandmother -- in her.

In fact, as I look around, I see a scene enacted every Sunday outside a gurdwara. Any gurdwara.

In every gurdwara in this land, both north and south of the 49th parallel.

And, in every church and mosque and synagogue and community centre in the expanse we call Canada and America, albeit in a different language, accent, costume, tradition.

Standing there, all around me in the parking lot, I see a brave new world ... in evolution!


Happy Canada Day ! ... Wednesday, July 1

Republished on June 30, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Harinder Singh (Punjab), June 30, 2015, 9:49 PM.

Sikhs are the epitome of evolution ...

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