During visit to Canada, it’s not just the spectacular natural beauty that dazzles the eyes but also its diverse communities that beautifully mingle with each other. And Canada, certainly views this as one of its biggest strengths, with love for it in its every corner. Hence, even as a tourist, you feel as if you belong there. Interestingly, today being Canada Day, here are some of my experiences from my visits there which not only made me feel so welcome but also understand why it’s often labeled as ‘world’s cultural hotspot’:
Love for turbans
On one Canada Day itself, I was in Canada –in Calgary to be precise, where I was stunned to see people from various communities having come together to celebrate the day in its famed Prince’s Island Park. Intriguingly, at every turn, I encountered many locals, including women in colourful turbans and suddenly I saw a long queue waiting to get the turban tied from Sikh volunteers. They were happy to be photographed by many around. “We have many Sikhs in Canada, and I have always loved their turbans. So I thought, why not try it? I also learnt today that it is not any ordinary piece of cloth, rather a symbol of faith for every Sikh,” said a Calgary born elderly man, proudly pointing along his red coloured turban.
If you happen to be in Edmonton in the first week of August, it’s worth being part of its annual Heritage Fest –one of Canada’s biggest cultural events marked for three days through food, dance, music and exhibitions. Again, like Canada day celebrations across the country, all communities share the same place, and put up their best shows. To me, it felt like a world tour, where everyone comes dressed in traditional attires –a ritual followed every year. The food tastings and so much more took me everywhere but best was one when I heard speeches of locals’ having migrated to Canada several decades ago, unfolding their tales of migration and how this country changed their lives, and what they learnt.
When I was in Richmond –Vancouver’s neighbour, it was inspiring to pass through its Road 5, more commonly known as the ‘Church Street’ or ‘Highway to Heaven’. Thanks to religious sites of almost every religion here, priests of which hold monthly meetings together, open up parking spaces on special days of each other and are a magnet for anyone doing research on religious studies. One Sunday morning, I paid obeisance at all sites, passing through internal passages, connecting them beautifully. I began with gurdwara, and then went on with its neighbouring mosque, Hindu temple, Buddhist shrine and so on.
With a large number of Punjabis living and working in Canada, Sat Sri Akal has truly become common, rolled out with warmth also by the white skinned. I can recall many such scenes but of all, I fondly remember an elderly guide Mary’s ‘Sat Sri Akal’ at the State Legislature of Alberta in Edmonton and the pride she took in handing over me Punjabi guide of the legislature. “Feel at home”, she said with a big smile adding the more visitors come from other countries, the more proud and enthusiastic Canada feels. My Canon couldn’t hold itself from taking Mary’s picture while she was showing me a brochure in my mother tongue and it turned out to be so inspiring!
Similarly, at several restaurants, not just Indian and at many other places including sports centres and libraries, I saw ‘jee aayan nu’ scribbled next to the entry point, besides welcome word in several other languages.
And Punjabi’s prominence was felt everywhere, be it on certain brochures, at any library, considering Punjabi sections or public places, especially road signs that carry Punjabi. On food and drinks packs too, I caught Punjabi, including on Canada’s very popular Canada Dry.
Models from everywhere
Then in Toronto, when I was at the Roots store–a Canadian brand of clothing, a poster became a cynosure for me. After all, every model on it was different from each other which included a turbaned Sikh, a black, a Chinese and a white man and all wearing the same style of jacket of Roots. Yes, a symbol of diversity in the nation which was on a proud display and noticing it, my canon too turned euphoric –taking the best shots of it but while I was still clicking, I noticed an elderly gentleman taking a note of with a smile and he comments: ‘Seems you are catching the international faces’ and my tongue happily conceded: ‘Absolutely, that’ the beauty of this land.’
Actions speak louder
The most fascinating experience was when I was in the library of a small town called Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta, where one morning several magazines underlining the multicultural spirit had kept me engrossed. But as I was still combing through them, my ears suddenly caught music emanating nearby. Curious, I followed it and ended up standing before a huge band outside in action. I learnt that the town along with the library was celebrating the multi –cultural day, where near me were participants from the town, all traditionally dressed to showcase their talent through music or dance. For hours, the event kept me glued and at the end, a big cake was cut with greetings written in various languages of the world. I enjoyed it with friendly locals, many having migrated from several Asian and African nations too. I got a clear proof of what I was reading inside; weaving for me one the most memorable library visits and most surprising Canadian memory.
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