& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, July 07, 2019

A decade in Toronto - 32

All photos in this post are with my relatives and friends clicked during my 2017 visit to Bombay

In 2017, I went to India for the third time since I immigrated to Canada. Unlike the previous occasions, when Mahrukh and Che accompanied me, I was alone. Durga joined me a little later because she wasn’t sure her 55-year-old son could take care of himself.

I've lived a lifetime in Bombay - 46 years to be precise - and I thought I've had enough when I decided to abandon it for Toronto in 2008. I've yearned for it almost constantly during the last decade that I've made Toronto my home. Every time I've returned for a brief visit, I've felt besieged, assaulted by the unending chaos that the city has always been. But I've always wanted to return, and have been sad that I couldn't return sooner and more frequently.

In 2017, for the first time, as I bid farewell to my home and return to another home, I felt relieved, happy to be back with Mahrukh and Che. In the last nine years, Bombay had changed, and so had I. My city and its people, while familiar, were less relevant to my life. To my friends, I was a person from their past. They had to extract time from their present to reacquaint themselves with their past. 

That didn’t just require an adjustment of their calendar, it required a mental adjustment that wasn’t always easy.

I met a number of friends, acquaintances, associates and relatives – many of them after many years, and some whom I probably won’t meet ever again. These encounters evoke a warm feeling of nostalgia but only briefly; often the overwhelming feeling is of a sense of loss mixed (strangely) with relief. Perhaps, this has to do with my inability to build lasting relationships or perhaps it has to do with my high expectations that these encounters with people from my past would be more meaningful.  

On every trip that I have made to Bombay, I remember Salman Rushdie’s essay Imaginary Homelands (in Imaginary homelands, Essays and Criticism 1981-1991, published in 1992). Although he is describing the angst of a writer, its every Indian in the diaspora’s emotion when returning home.

Rushdie observes, “Writers in my position, exiles or emigrants or expatriates are haunted by some sense of loss, some urge to reclaim, to look back, even at the risk of being mutated into pillars of salt. But if we do look back, we must also do so in the knowledge – which gives rise to profound uncertainties – that our physical alienation from India almost inevitably means that we will not be capable of reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost; that we will, in short, create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind.”


Creativity is subjective and it constantly changes. In 2017, I was fortunate to see creativity at its peak in diverse fields – theatre, arts, cinema, literature. In retrospect, I realise that 2017 was the last year when I was able to actively take part (always as a member of the audience) in such creative endeavours. My kidney disorder began to impede in my desire to be everywhere. Although there were no physical manifestations of my illness; it sure was mentally debilitating.

One the most awe-inspiring art performances was ‘Breaking the Waves’ by Daisuke Takeya, the -Canadian artist of Japanese descent that my friend Yoko Morgenstern introduced me on one of her visits to Toronto. I interviewed Daisuke on my show on TAG TV (it was one of the last interviews that I did).

Daisuke invited me to the concluding performance of Breaking the Waves at the Christopher Cutts Gallery. I admit that I’m not educated in contemporary art, but the concluding performance of Breaking the Waves was spectacular; I hadn’t seen anything like it ever before (or for that matter, since).

To read about Daisuke’s exhibition, click here: Breaking the Waves.

Another avant garde performance was Sharada Eswar’s The Draupadi Project, a contemporary retelling of the tragedy that was Draupadi’s life. Sharada’s solo performance brought alive the desolation of the character. The Theatre Centre-imposed limitation on audience numbers ensured the actor’s proximity to the audience, and the back projection added to the effect of claustrophobia that the woman (Panchali) experiences inside the prison. (Read the blogpost here: The Draupadi Project)

Shakespeare in the Park began in New York more than six decades ago. Since we came to Toronto and I learnt that Toronto had its own version of community theatre experience, I was keen to experience it firsthand. However, circumstances prioritize life, and we couldn’t find time to go to Toronto’s High Park to see a Shakespeare play. Finally, after determination and planning, I managed to reserve tickets for King Lear (actually, Queen Lear; read about it here: Shakespeare in the Park). I was pleasantly surprised to see my friend Joyce Wayne’s daughter Hannah was enacting the role of one of the daughters – Regan.

In 2017, Shakespeare in the Park in Toronto was celebrating 35 years. And looking at the number of people in the audience, it is obviously popular among Torontonians. The informal format makes Shakespeare accessible to everyone and the presence of fine actors makes the experience remarkable. The trees, the slowly darkening sky and the occasional sound of a bird’s chirping creates an ambience that is completely different from a regular theatre experience inside an auditorium. Sitting on the grass for two hours is a bit hard on one’s posterior; except for this minor discomfort, it is an experience that one should have annually.


By 2017, our lives had stabilized. Both Mahrukh and I were holding on to steady jobs and Che was also working. Stability breeds dissatisfaction and disaffection with life in general. In an immigrant’s life, stability is a sign that nearly all the basic lifegoals – livelihood, shelter, food, entertainment – have been taken care of. When that happens, the newcomer begins to examine his / her life minutely to see what can possibly be changed. And throughout my life, stability leads to exploring career options that’d be more satisfying. That process began once again when I became increasingly dissatisfied with the limited avenues available to me in my present job. I’d accepted the position because I didn’t have a job, but after three years, I was looking for an opportunity to return to bilateral trade promotion, and marketing and communications.

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