Category Archives: Cities I love

Why we love Toronto

I can add a few to the list.  And some things on the list, I’ll have to Google to understand.  But I’m just glad someone listed the reasons we love Toronto.  Happy 175th birthday my dear centre-of-Canada!



Nuit blanche this year (or what I saw of it) was for the most part disappointing.  Of course with contemporary art, one always expects that some displays (or installations as they’re ‘artfully’ called) may not resonate with every person.  However, if it were that the statements were too broad or abstract or not meaningful to some, execution would still have gotten some marks.  Just like one can admire a well-presented point of view while disagreeing with it, so can one appreciate an artist’s creativity and expression even if the message isn’t aligned with one’s own opinion or passion.  The artist’s effort respects the others’ (audience’s or viewers’) time and intellect, which in turn begets respect.

A small number of installations, such as Stereoscope at Toronto’s city hall or A dream of pastures near OCAD merited such respect (at least from the tired owners of feet-about-to-fall-off after a few hours of walking with little to show for it).  Conversation # 2 was another such noteworthy piece.  The genius of simplicity and creativity in these displays, not to mention the considerable effort (e.g. installing lights behind each of the 960 windows in city hall building, or crafting the intricately timed and positioned interplay of lights, gears, bicycle, and participants) drew the few moments of excitement and admiration in the night.

That is, if we don’t count the people who were just happy that for one Saturday night the city of Toronto wasn’t entirely asleep by 10 pm!  It seemed “people on the road” was more of a mentionable this time around on Nuit Blanche.

Or the other “happy” crowd (which yours truly is still trying to figure out) was the kind that arrived at a bar before they started the tour and were anticipating drinking so much (and made good on that expectation) that they handed a credit card to the bar tender before they started drinking, in case they later were not in full control of their signing hands (or remember which one was the signing hand!)  Last I heard it was still legal to drink on any night (not just Nuit Blanche) so no reason to go “all out” on the booze, and how ‘interesting’ did they expect the art to be, to have to be drunk to appreciate it! Or maybe…. this was actually an interactive art installation, and I totally didn’t get it (this lack of comprehension has been known to happen – or at least admitted to – about as frequently as the planets of our solar system coming in a straight line, sending fears of doomsday rippling through the faint-hearted!)

Since the next similar planetary alignment is not until 2438 (CNN and NASA say so, and I trust this time the measurement / calculation was in the correct units), I can continue to “get it” as I see fit and therefore hold firm on my pedestrian (pun totally intended) opinions on this year’s “art” displays in Nuit Blanche, both on and off the streets of Toronto.

Spaced out

Toronto covers approx. 1,655 square kilometres, earning it the 36th place by land (and 97th by density).  So in short, we’re doing OK for space.  Yet the city for some reason extended its land on the east-ish end.  And they called it Leslie Spit.  No joke.  While for the most part, the road/ paved trail is fairly consistent in its landscape, the view of the city is quite enchanting, especially on a cloudy day!

View from Leslie Spit

View from Leslie Spit

Romancing the police

Prepare for the not-news: Canada’s ageing population (the proportion of seniors increasing more rapidly than all other age groups) and declining birth rates are making immigration an important part of our world here.  This is a much discussed topic.  So what trails, in this road well-travelled by, can yours truly be hoping to tread, you wonder (or maybe you don’t wonder because you have a life, but then, you are here so perhaps the jury is still out on the you having a life part!) 

Enter the police, and specifically the Toronto Police.  This interesting engaging city that owns bragging rights to low crime rates (considering its population and big city status) and highest per capita movie theatres (perhaps second only to Mumbai – citations needed :p), is also requiring the police to boldly go where they’ve never gone before… like forming music groups and jamming with youth in trouble-prone areas, or becoming the “adult friend” in schools.

This soft-and-fuzzy relationship is new even in the mild embracing climes of Toronto.  Diversity training, bonding, and other such topics are studied in the rooms (metaphorically speaking) next to control techniques, explosives detection and interrogation strategies. 

Education is two sided.  Immigrants coming in (and herein lie dangerous waters of generalization, in which I daringly plunge without regard for my lack of swimming skills) generally are used to a different relationship with police “back home”.  Laws, behaviours, perceptions, everything is different to a significant extent.  (I say as I bow my head for being crowned the queen of understatement.)  For the police to successfully achieve this romance, the befriending is not just with the troubled youth at the schools, it’s also and just as importantly with their parents, and family at large. 

Then we’ll all hear the spontaneous music that we so like to see but disbelieve in indian films, and can sing and dance together around the ample greenery in Toronto.  And the police officers will then happily and gracefully ride off into the sunset on their gorgeous horses.  In slow motion of course.


A wolf and a deer confined in a white-cube gallery space, in a poignant display of natural tension and fear.

A collection of “footprints” of visitors, as they pass through the gallery, to symbolize the human footprint on earth and environment.

A story that organically grows as some of the passing-by audience contribute to it, and is simultaneously translated into various languages.

A luxury hotel created – literally – from trash, including “stay” in the suite and a relaxing massage, reminding everyone to rethink what we consider ‘waste’.

A giant locust pegged down a la Gulliver, depicting “disproportionately enlarged” human fears.

A brave few of passing-by audience trying their hand at over-sized origami using corrugated cardboard sheets.

For one sleepless “white night“, Toronto was transformed by artists. Shakespeare would have been proud of us. The world truly was an extended theatre, where the audience were themselves “works of art and curiosity” at times, and in many cases integrally a part of the displays they were witnessing.

If only there were more street-side tikka and chat stalls, I’d have felt both my beloved cities – Lahore and Toronto – merge together under one bright starry sky. Ah the crazy heart that continues to wish for everything.

On the other hand, it distinctly felt like Lahore in moments where all 5 million of Torontonians were walking from one exhibit to another, spilling on to the streets, causing traffic jams and gridlocks at 4 AM. So much for the dedicated shuttle bus service. It was faster on foot. Thank humans for the global warming and delayed Toronto winter; the weather was perfect.

But I missed my tikka and chat. Did I mention that?