In our previous episode I’d just seen a cow in a deer costume and my very first monkey! And now, today’s episode.
Thunder suddenly rolls across the sky and we look at each other. If there’s going to be a thunderstorm it seems like a bad idea to press on, so we leave the serenity of the park and re-enter the chaos of the streets. We walk back the way we came, past the solar panel, past the Tuburculosis and Respiratory Disease Clinic. The thunder is more and more ominous as we go, and we wonder if we should stop and wait at a bus shelter, but decide to press on and make it to Govardhan Vegetarian Restaurant. There are soldiers with guns standing outside the restaurant talking and laughing, looking more like University of Toronto students during a lunch break than anything else. A customer exiting the restaurant asks for a photo with them, and they all pose, smiling together.
Inside, I order Chili Paneer With Gravy, a Hakka dish – a combination of Chinese and Indian cuisine that I love to eat in Toronto. It arrives and immediately ruins all paneer for me forever, because good christ it is the creamiest, freshest, most perfectly grilled paneer I’ve ever had in my life. I rave so much when the waiter comes to get the bill that they ask me to write my comments down in a guestbook (A guestbook! An analog guestbook! With a pen!) and I do.
Outside, the thunder turns out to be what I call a Missouri Storm – very hot day, lots of thunder and lightning and promises of big rain, one dribble from the sky and then ha ha, it’s still a very hot day. After ten more minutes of walking, it’s time to cross the street. Though there are crosswalks, they’re more of a suggestion than a rule, and I’m still very nervous with my wonky ear. Todd crosses to the median but I’m waylaid by a five year old boy holding small Indian flags. He asks me to buy one. His seven year old sister stands five feet away, she’s also holding flags to sell. Their mom is on the other side of the street with Todd.
And I want to buy one. I really, really want to more than anything in the world. But the people who live here, who grew up here, say that there are better ways of helping (I’ll link to one at the bottom of this entry), that this will only perpetuate the problem. Their voices are loud in my head. So I shake my head and say I’m sorry, and I move to cross the street.
The little boy moves to block my path, and I move to the right, and he does too. We dance back and forth for a little while and even though it is unbearably sad it I can also see the humour in being absolutely outwitted by a five year old who already understands a lot more about sociology than I ever will. His sister calls over to him and shakes her head, gesturing for him to move away but he ignores her.
Then his mother calls from the other side of the street and he immediately moves to the side so that I can cross. I keep thinking – would it REALLY hurt if I just bought one damned flag? – but I can’t make those voices agree, so I don’t buy the flag.
A young man is also crossing, so I just stick to his side like glue until we make it. But now Todd and I are only halfway across. We wait, wait, wait. The young man turns to us and grins. “It’s okay,” he says, “Just cross with me. They’ll stop.” We step off the median with him, and immediately a van doesn’t stop and we all scramble out of its way and he says, “They usually stop!” and we laugh and make it safely to the other side and thank him.
If you would like to help, the Saksham – Center For Child Education & Women Empowerment has GLORIOUS clothes for sale made by the women they are helping. You can find them here: