Toronto is turning 182 years old this weekend. Even though I have been living here for only 6-months, I have developed a strong affinity for this city. It offers the perfect balance between a civilized society and an uncivilized one. Coming from a largely uncouth country like Pakistan, I feel Toronto is helping me ease into the system without experiencing ‘civilization shock’.
The streets are dirty and you have to be vigilant enough to navigate yourself through sporadic dog shit. You get generously pushed around on subway stations. There are beggars asking for change here and there. The newspaper reports random street crime and killings almost twice a week. The car drivers are often impatient and rude during rush hour. Finding a parking spot is tantamount to achieving self-actualization. Homelessness is rampant and the average person can barely afford to live a decent life. All this makes me feel right at home. The city reminds me of Karachi without the bomb blasts, frequent street riots, power failures, inhuman treatment of animals, and men touching themselves in public.
The lack of decent street food and the often broken down public transport system is compensated by the ample availability of recreation and entertainment options for every budget. The absence of feeling as a result of living fast-paced mechanical lives is indemnified by (very) frequent utterings of ‘sorry’s’ and ‘thank you’s’. The lack of depth in art is made up by abundant support available for artists.
The old creaky street cars packed with tired people staring mindlessly at their mobile phones is a sight I genuinely look forward to every evening. I imagine their life stories and try to predict their personalities. I see faces (and bodies) from all over the world, struggling to keep up with life, and I feel I belong. As I cross the streets of downtown in large packs of silent humans, I feel like an animal in a herd. A friend suggests I should try mooing next time.
I think I am falling in love with the city.
Happy Birthday Toronto. Thanks for being my new home.